Why Twitter’s Biggest Problem is a Branding Issue

Since I launched my first Twitter account back in 2008 (even before I got on Facebook!) I’ve been a SUPER FAN, advocating it’s value to both clients and friends alike. You might say, Twitter was my “gateway drug” to a career in social media marketing!

6 years and 1 IPO later, Twitter has yet to prove to Wall St, businesses and consumers alike that it’s a high-value social media platform, capable of delivering influence and efficacy well beyond what FACEBOOK can deliver. In fact, comparing the two communities is truly an apples vs oranges dilemma. Yet Twitter continues to suffer from poor public perception. Case in point, just read the exchange I had with a fellow Tweeter this morning…

screen shot of twitter conversation

Twitter’s biggest problem is, at its core, a Branding Issue.


Before the platform became the SMS based service we now know today as Twitter, co-founder Evan Williams admitted to the ambiguity surrounding its definition:

“With Twitter, it wasn’t clear what it was. They called it a social network, they called it microblogging, but it was hard to define, because it didn’t replace anything. There was this path of discovery with something like that, where over time you figure out what it is. Twitter actually changed from what we thought it was in the beginning, which we described as status updates and a social utility. It is that, in part, but the insight we eventually came to was Twitter was really more of an information network than it is a social network.” [WIKIPEDIA]

In fact, many of the common engagement practices, such as the creation and use of #hashtags, were practices generated by its user base – not Twitter. Despite its proven popularity and broad-based use today, I feel that Twitter still struggles internally about what Twitter really is (definition by Twitter):

Twitter definition


5 days a week I’m actively engaged on Twitter for my business. It’s the most valuable news and information gathering tool I have in my entire media quiver. Why? Because I follow all media, influencers, and peers that are relevant to my business and actively posting articles, commentary, etc in REAL TIME. Yes, that’s right, I’m receiving the news as it’s occurring – live, all the way live.

So you might say, Twitter is a real-time news gathering platform, right? Well yes, that’s true. Yet, with the proliferation of visual media posts (pictures, Vines, video, etc) and the fact that Twitter is making significant investments in rich-media content (why just today it was announced that Twitter bought image search startup Madbits), Twitter is even more than that. Since rich media content sparks increased user engagement (pictures tell 1000 words), it follows that—

Twitter is a real-time MEDIA platform! That’s right MEDIA!

Think about it, every time I turn on CNBC (my daily TV news feed) Twitter is integrated into programming e.g. @StreetSignsCNBC, @PowerLunch, etc. So if I wish to interact with the news broadcast, I can! Same goes for many primetime programs such as my new guilty pleasure – America’s Got Talent (#AGT) – where viewers are encouraged to vote for their favorite acts via Twitter. Then you’ve got the cast of Scandal – encouraged by the show producers – to regularly tweet about the show during production.

Twitter engagement + Entertainment programming—this is the NEW NORMAL Wall St!


1.) Produce Original Programming: So if Twitter is now positioned as a real-time MEDIA platform, I’d be talking to the best content producers in NYC and LA about how I could create some proprietary media properties and rename the company TWITTER MEDIA INC. Netflix and Amazon have already shown success with the production of proprietary programming on their networks, why not Twitter? Even though Twitter is essentially a platform for the delivery of Other People’s News, there’s still plenty of room in the media space for more original programming.

2.) Curate News Content: LinkedIn has been very successful at content curation for publication (via Pulse) across its platform and Twitter should do the same. I know my business clients would thrill at having their blog posts featured in key business verticals the same way LinkedIn allows Influencer Publishing. In fact, this could be a revenue generator if Twitter includes advertising integration as well.

3.) Create Easier Paths to Entry: Let’s face it, of all the major social media platforms at play, Twitter is by far the most confusing medium for newbies and this is a huge obstacle for adoption and growth. Currently unregistered users can in essence ‘passively engage’ by reading tweets, but the real money is in active users who can post tweets. So Twitter needs to make this experience easier for the average Joe. @Twitter, are you listening?

I could go on here but I’m curious to know what you think – Tweet me your thoughts @arqucreative !