Why the trolls are eating away at Twitter’s bottom line

Twitter has to do something to stop sinking. Here's one idea.

twitter logo shattered glass
Credit: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

Twitter really needs to regain focus.

Lately, the famous social networking company has been clinging to nothing but their fame and battling online abuse, but there’s no sign of actually doing anything innovative or novel. Here’s a good example.

Twitter has clung to a tired and worn-out strategy. They are all about smart messaging, but the world has moved on to voicebots like Amazon Alexa. Is there a reason Twitter doesn’t have a voicebot that lets you speak your tweets out loud? Not really. I should be able to talk to a Twitterbot, made by Twitter itself, and even hear about my latest retweets. This is partly an effort in analytics (the bot would know about influencers and engagement), it’s partly an effort in speech recognition, and it’s partly a hardware push. A Twitterbot for the home and office makes perfect sense because we tend to tweet in the moment. We’d say things like:

“Twitter, post this message: I’m trying to figure out how to make souffle, please send recipes…”

or

"Twitter, read the latest news headlines..."

Maybe the bot would also alert us when we’ve been tagged, it could automatically remove messages that we don’t normally like to read, and could connect to gadgets in the home as a side bonus. We’d talk to the Twitterbot before we talk to Alexa.

One reason that hasn’t happened? My guess is that Twitter doesn’t have people who think outside of the small 140-character box they’ve put themselves into. They’re not very good at partnering with other companies -- that’s something even Microsoft has figured out now that Harman Kardon is making a Surface speaker. I should be able to talk to a Twitterbot on my phone as well. Maybe this A.I. assistant could warn me if a post sounds particularly insulting, correct my spelling (or know that I always use the word “cuz” in my tweets), and offer to schedule my tweets to space them out.

This bot would also talk to other bots. Maybe I could talk to the Twitterbot and ask it to find and follow all of the influencers who have tweeted more than 10 times per day for the past week. (If you want to do that manually, good luck.) A Twitterbot -- either as an app or as a hardware device -- could be a game-changer for the billions of people who have not signed up for an account yet or who dropped out of the Twitterverse long ago. One reason Alexa is so popular is that a third-grader can use it. Google Home is right there on your table, why not use it? For now, the best the social net has been able to muster is a few partnerships with companies like Nissan so you can tweet form the car.

Twitter is falling to obsolescence. It’s used today mostly by celebrities, journalists, and techie people but the real reason the company has failed to produce a winning formula for financial success is that the average person doesn’t understand the value of Twitter and knows too much about online harassment and trolls who make your life miserable, so they don’t bother.

Twitter needs to make the value incredibly obvious. We all know about President Trump tweeting, but what about your kid’s teacher? Your auto mechanic? The service has invaded pop culture and politics but has not become as viable for everyday folks in their daily lives. Until that happens, we’ll keep watching the Twitter ship sinking into the depths.

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