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Twitter's Value

What it doesn't do tells us more than what it does do

Twitter has captured the imagination of those who are looking for a way to have a presence and communicate.  It is the current hot story in social media, but what the discussion around Twitter does not seem to highlight is the unfulfilled need.

There is a great deal of dialogue around and on Twitter these days.  In a recent report from Hubspot, it was shown that Twitter's users may not be actively using the micro-blogging or distributed instant message service.  Nielsen Online said the same thing in April of 2009 showing that 60% of the users abandoned the site after one month.  At this point, Twitter is solid market research for what communication utility users want, but can the company quickly get it to the next level of general usefulness?  It has brought to the forefront an unfulfilled user need.  That's the market research takeaway and the real value at this point.  Congratulations to Twitter for finding that part out, but who will capitalize?

There is a thirst for the promise of what a service like Twitter could be.  But either Twitter or a new provider will need to come up with a solution that more creatively addresses this need.  Users come to an application service because it holds some type of promise.  They lose interest in an application if there is not an obvious road to success with a known process integrated into the use of the tool.  Twitter needs to move quickly to craft that process.  It's the same reason so many CRM solutions projects fail to meet expectations even though the intent was right.  There simply was a poor adoption of the process by the necessary users to give it sustainable traction.

In addition to this lack of a known path to success through Twitter is the seemingly infinite number of get rich quick people trolling the site.  They keep sending other users links to the same "get more followers" or "how to make money" sites.  These busy self-marketers can be blocked or ignored, but they are very active.  This unwanted noise takes way from the experience for those of us who take our time seriously.  Smart filtering going forward is a worthy product goal.  There are several good 3rd party Twitter add-on solutions being promoted right now that give the user better leverage within Twitter and help manage Twitter such as TweetDeck.  But as many as there are, it just feels like there is something missing in the experience.

Twitter does some interesting things and users will connect with other people they might not have ever met.  Additionally, there are some very smart business people using Twitter.  However, the service needs to quickly figure out how a business user will be successful there and what features will need to become part of the experience.  If not, it just spent the last few months alerting some very big players how to get an Internet user's attention.  There must be some very smart and hungry product managers right now giving this some thought.  That product manager could be at Twitter.  But they could also be at Google, Microsoft or somewhere else who knows how to move markets with a rich user experience once another company has validated a need.  Google Wave may be the tsunami Twitter did not want to see.

More Stories By John Ryan

John is an experienced leader with a strong background of defining and executing company strategies. He is especially skilled in channel management, market analysis, brand marketing and selling technology products and services. He has successfully served in a number of executive positions and has been in management for 20 years. John is currently writing a book on increasing revenue generation. He has been a co-author of a comprehensive marketing methodology for high tech companies and has helped venture capitalists and private equity firms gauge their technology investments. In 2004, John served as Vice President of Marketing for the NA arm of the $6B IT Services division of Siemens, AG. John served on the board of directors at WebTrends, purchased by NetIQ (NTIQ) for $1 billion in 2001. WebTrends was highly successful dominating the web site analysis and reporting space. Prior to WebTrends, John was the Vice President of Marketing for Tivoli Systems. John has worked as a contracted consultant for established companies, start ups and top analyst firms. John can be reached at [email protected] or you can follow him on Twitter @buyersteps