Twitter trying to find itself is a story that's unfolded before, in some ways. From a casual social network, to a high-powered place for celebrities and business rockstars to connect with fans, to everything in between, Twitter's place in the circle of social networking has been changed a good few times. The defining factor, of course, has always been its users. When Twitter first began, it was full of students and casual users, much like Facebook. As it took off, more and more celebrities and high-powered businesspeople like CEOs and famous video game developers jumped on board, making Twitter the defining place to connect to them directly, rather than writing an email to their PR team and hoping it reached them. Many companies, such as T-Mobile, have even begun running customer service via Twitter and on the usual channels, to provide an alternative to customers calling in to their customer care lines for minor issues. All of these revolutions and re-inventions, for the most part, have not involved Twitter itself. That changed, albeit in a minor way, on Thursday. On the Apple App Store, but curiously not on Google Play, Twitter changed its category to "News", rather than "Social Networking".
While that move could have just been aimed at grabbing an advantage in the charts to garner more users, since they would no longer share a category with the Facebook juggernaut, or with third-party Twitter apps, which they're only now beginning to warm up to, it would seem, there's still the possibility that this move could be the herald of change for Twitter. While the move is open to interpretation for many reasons and may end up meaning very little, the evidence that this could be the start of a total revamp for Twitter is quite clear. For starters, competitor Facebook has already taken the initiative to expand beyond a simple social media forum and into a full-on platform, complete with its own APIs, developer support, and tools for users, like A.I.-based chat bots. Twitter is still popular, but could lose that edge to relatively smaller opponents like Kik if they don't take action soon. While what action they plan to take is unclear, the possible actions they could take to correct this and offer a richer gamut of services while differentiating from the competition is nearly infinite. Let's have a look at one of the possible paths that Twitter could take.
Rather than take on Facebook and its somewhat successful competitors and imitators head to head, Twitter could go in a different direction entirely. While becoming a full-service platform is one path, it's been done to death in the tech world and it seems like newcomers are hitting that space at an alarming rate, leaving little room for experimentation and differentiation in a user utility arms race. Calling a cab, getting some grub, checking out nearby businesses and searching the web can all be accomplished with these "gateway" apps, as can checking out traditional news sites, blogs and the like. So, where in the "news" category could Twitter fit? In this writer's opinion, a social and interactive replacement for the average RSS reader or magazine app like Flipboard seems most fitting.
The apps mentioned above let you passively follow the news you care about in almost any web-based format, as well as providing curated news. With the way Twitter works right now, users who don't want to follow their friends, coworkers and the like can forego the social media aspect of Twitter entirely and follow companies, prominent figures and news outlets to turn their Twitter feed into a central hub for literally all of the news they care about. Rather than just passively checking out said news, though, users of Twitter can see the buzz on stories and topics and, in most cases, speak directly with politicians, CEOs, musicians and the like. This is an extremely unique talent for Twitter and something that could definitely be leveraged with this identity shift. While troll accounts for celebrities abound, Twitter's "verified account" solution is a big help with finding the real deal.
In stepping down from being identified as a social network and becoming a place to reach the people who make the news that users care about, Twitter may well become the one social feed that almost all celebrities take care of themselves, rather than having their people or a fan club maintain it. That alone would take it out of direct competition with Facebook, much in the same way that SoundCloud is a musical social network and LinkedIn is a professional social network. Neither of those ever draw comparisons to Facebook, avoiding being eclipsed by it. If Twitter can accomplish this, they could easily become the biggest hand-curated news site and app out there, with the most tailored content; after all, users curate their own feed by choosing who to follow. Thus, while adding features and courting users away from competitors may be the order of the day for most "social networking" apps, broad as that definition is becoming these days, Twitter could be looking at a shift in a completely different direction that would ensure they're not mentioned in the same breath as Facebook anymore, but rather as the app that users tell their friends to check out for the latest trailers of in-development movies or Q & A sessions with hot authors, rockstar CEOs and writers for major media outlets and big news websites.