Why Are People Leaving Twitter?

Dead End

Yes, that seems to be the flavor of the recent times. It has become fashionable to have a twitter handle, but that being said, after signing up and looking around, people are just leaving twitter. There might be many reasons to attribute this to, here are a few that I think are the possible reasons

Dead End

Negativity and Abuse. This is the topmost problem that the platform is grappling with. Despite their best efforts, they are still seen as catching up with other platforms. Everyone from celebrities to the common man is mercilessly abused and disparaged by an army of anonymous hate mongers who hide under anonymity and sometimes effect permanent damage to people’s life. There have been instances of high profile users quitting the platform owing to abuse. Want to see if it is really a big problem? Try taking sides on any contemporary topic that is in the news. There have been recent steps taken by the platform to get this under control, but the users are still seeing it as inadequate.

Not as intuitive to use as the other platforms. This is one of the things that I hear most of the deserters say. They contend that they are excited when they sign on, and stay that way for a few days. After that, they are lost. Until recently, there wasn’t an easy way to find out if anyone you knew was on twitter and connect with them fast. Also, the flurry of changes to the UI that are almost too many to count, leave the user stumped! Take that and compare it with say, Pinterest or Instagram and you will understand what I mean. Even when you tweet a picture and are not using twitter’s pic.twitter.com to share it, the image does not preview automatically. That’s how visual twitter is! This is letting a lot of people down

Too much noise vs actual information. This is a big big part of the problem. And this is not entirely twitter’s fault though, the people on twitter are to blame here too. You see, there is a lot of useful and actionable information on twitter. The problem is that it is almost totally overshadowed by noise. Once you get in and start tweeting and sharing, there is a band of people who want to whiten your teeth, show you a money tree, help you make $4500 a week and yes, the guys who want show you an embarrassing picture of yourself! All this din effectively silences the real sources of useful information and forces a user out

Broken messaging platform. Twitter’s DM system is it’s biggest Achilles’ Heel. It’s whatever a messaging system shouldn’t be! Simple things like “Delete All” are not possible. The functions that are there, like “Mark all Read” do not work reliably all the time. There are far too many instances of messages not getting delivered or lost!

Secretive Limits. Twitter has a right to throttle and control the load on it’s servers, but that has to be done properly and with care. You see, I have been on twitter for a long time now and I am yet to figure why the number of people you can follow in a day varies from person to person. There is also the proverbial “Twitter Jail” for those who overload the permitted number of tweets in rapid succession! I was live tweeting a sporting event for a client when that hit me, needless to say, I lost the game and the client. Twitter support is one of the coldest and distant bunch of people I have ever met, second only to Facebook support that exists or seems to exist but does nothing. Try raising three different issues on the same day and you will see what I mean

Ecosystem Damage. A while ago, twitter clamped down heavily on third party apps in an ill planned attempt to assert platform control. This severely limited what the user could extract from third party apps. Things like buying a brilliant app called TweetDeck and making mundane after buying it were also detrimental, today, the columns and groups are the only advantage of using TweetDeck. Twitter has no equivalent of Google+ circles, yes there are lists, but there are limits there too, number of people and so forth.

And When I spoke to users who created a handle and then never came back to twitter, here are the main reasons they gave me for doing that

I was getting information from somewhere else

This seems to be the biggest reason why people leave twitter. The point in discussion being the fact that there is a multitude of information sources at the disposal of a user who is looking for information. Take for example someone looking to get a query answered, he/she  would much rather go to Quora than twitter as the discussions are serious and there is less noise there compared to twitter.

There was no useful information on twitter

This has more to do with the noise to data ratio on twitter. To understand this better, try to search for a hashtag on twitter, you will see that more often than not, you will find unusable or senseless tweets about what you are looking for. This is because people have the liberty to tag anything as anything. So to get effective results, you need a bit of NLP to be built into the search to weed out the negatives and noisy updates.

There were too many tweets and they were not sorted or filtered

The messages—tweets— can be as frequent or as infrequent as you like. They can be about anything you like. Over 80% of mine are replies to other users. Only a tiny handful answer What are you doing? If my tweets answer anything, it’s What do you want to say? Yet, virtually all the articles quote What are you doing? to sum up what Twitter is for and why it’s not worth bothering with. This is a natural progression from the previous reason, suppose that I do succeed at finding relevant tweets about what I want, it is extremely laborious to wade through the deluge of tweets and get what I need. This is again a deterrent that forces users off the platform

I signed up for twitter and forgot about it

This I hear very often from people around me. The signing up process is relatively bland and flat. What I mean is, after you signup you are at a bit of a loss to understand where to go next and who to follow. In most cases the new user sees a blank timeline, with just his/her tweets, they can do that with a blackboard! Why twitter then?

I switched to another Social Network

This is the next step to the previous condition, they signup, they get bored, they leave and go to other services. Take Pinterest for example, there a newbie user is likely to find more visually engaging content and useful information immediately after signup and a visual network is any day better than a bland textual network.

I was annoyed with the spammy hashtags on twitter

There isn’t much to say here, the topic pretty much says it. There needs to be innovation in the placement and visibility of ads. Twitter should be mindful of the fact that they get ads due to their user base and not vice versa. A re-think in that department will do them a world of good.

There are no photos like other social networks

We have to admit, the photo sharing service on twitter is pretty rudimentary and almost lacklustre and till the recent past, you couldn’t tag folks on photos. Good thing to see is that twitter has made changes in this area and is looking at a pipeline of changes to make image sharing prominent and easy for users

I am getting multiple tweets on the same topic

This is a slightly biased reason if you ask me, but I would like to look at it positively and say that when the user base is as big as twitter, repetition is unavoidable, may be an efficient curating service can alleviate this issue.

I don’t find anyone I know on twitter

Yes, this can get you flustered. It is extremely difficult to find a person on twitter unless you know what their exact twitter handle is. Otherwise you will get lost in a maze of search results that lead to nowhere. Twitter is addressing this with a contact import tool. That will help sort this out.

I wasn’t able to message anyone on twitter

Again a problem that has been carried along from the inception on twitter. Most folks are not aware of how to DM someone on twitter. What makes this more painful is the fact that bots and spammers know exactly how to annoy you by sending messages to you!

The product was confusing to sign up

This is another problem that has existed since the inception of twitter. The sign up process is not friendly. Not many people can describe themselves in 140 characters. Also the process of customizing your avatar and profile design have UIs that are not exactly friendly to use. I hope twitter fixes this soon. This is what builds the first impression about twitter in the minds of a new user and hence is very critical.

I am a huge fan and evangelist of twitter, it is sad to see the current state of this wonderful medium that can touch and change lives of millions of people and brands. I hope they get better and get back to their right place in the ecosystem. Scale up and buck up twitter! Do let me know what you think about this.

About Shakthi

I am a Tech Blogger, Disability Activist, Keynote Speaker, Startup Mentor and Digital Branding Consultant. Also a McKinsey Executive Panel Member. Also known as @v_shakthi on twitter. Been around Tech for two decades now.

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