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Twitter’s Curation Challenge: Consumers Or Marketers First?

By , on August 8, 2011 at 5:25 pm

On Friday, John Battelle published a thoughtful post on Twitter and the challenges that it faces at this point in its evolution:

Can Twitter solve its signal to noise problem? Many observers have commented on how noisy Twitter is: That once you follow more than about fifty or so folks, your feed becomes unmanageable. If you follow hundreds, like I do, it’s simply impossible to extract value from your stream in any structured or consistent fashion (see image from my stream at left). Twitter’s answers to this issue has been anemic….On average, my feed gets a few hundred new tweets every ten minutes. No way can I make sense of that unassisted. But I know there’s great stuff in there, if only the service could surface it in a way that made sense to me. You know – in a way that feels magic, the way Google was the first time I used it.

Twitter’s curation problem — and the fact that they’ve created an ad product to address it — is something we’ve covered here before. Still, Battelle’s post brings up some interesting questions about the sort of challenges that Twitter must address for both consumers and marketers. For consumers, the challenge is simple: Twitter must help us all to easily find what’s most interesting in the stream — without all of us having to manually curate lists. For marketers, the challenge is a bit more subtle, but potentially very lucrative: how to help marketers surround the right moments in conversations with relevant and valuable ad opportunities. 

It’s clear that Twitter has some work to do for both consumers and marketers; the bigger question then becomes, as Twitter, which do you tackle first? And, by implication, which are you more willing to cede to partners and the larger ecosystem to solve? 

From my perspective, the priority for Twitter has to be the consumer scenario. Yes, as of March, Twitter was seeing 140 million Tweets run through its service each day. But at the same time, a much smaller percentage of users (7%) interact with Twitter every day, especially when compared to Facebook (just under half of all US internet users). The folks who like Twitter like it a lot; the challenge is making Twitter a more easily consumed mainstream product. And while Twitter does need to focus on building revenue-generating advertising products, the bigger priority needs to be making sure there’s a scaled audience available for advertisers to buy.

That is, Twitter should focus on building the best product possible for consumers right now — without that product, the concerns about ad products and revenue models just aren’t as meaningful.

In the meantime, they can be sure that more and more ecosystem partners will take the opportunity to drive innovation for marketers against the Twitter platform. This will take a number of forms — from ads that surround the stream to better tools to help marketers drive additional clicks from their participation in Twitter to using real-time data to inform better ad placement decisions outside the social stream.

For marketers and other partners, this will mean a ton of opportunity and a lot of experimentation — and it should make for a lot of excitement in and around the industry. We’re certainly looking forward to it. 

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