Edited excerpt from my article Thoughts On Twitter’s Growth Problem, And Why It’s Losing To Facebook:
Twitter’s problem is that it has low user engagement, measured by the ratio of daily active users to monthly active users (DAUs/MAUs). What’s the cause of Twitter’s low engagement problem?
The key to user engagement for Twitter is that the product must combine high liquidity of content with a high signal-to-noise ratio.
Twitter excels in content liquidity. When you follow enough people, you get a ton of frequently updated content. But signal to noise ratio is a big problem for Twitter, in contrast to Facebook.
To understand why there’s so much noise on TWTR, you need to look at what Twitter users are incentivized to do. The most visible measure of success on Twitter is number of followers. So how do you maximize the number of followers you have? Here’s what Twitter marketing experts say: Tweet frequently. Tweet aphorisms. Always use images. Use software to retweet at optimal times. Follow as many people as you can. “Favorite” as many tweets as you can. Auto-follow anyone who follows you.
The problem is that none of these activities are aimed at generating genuine value. By not incentivizing individual users to maximize signal to noise ratio, Twitter incentivizes its users to generate noise. That leads to low signal to noise ratio in the user experience, makes Twitter a less addictive product, and lowers Twitter’s user engagement.
(1) High content liquidity is related to frequency of habit. If something changes frequently and is important, you’ll check it every day, and possibly multiple times per day.
(2) This isn’t applicable only to B2C products. Even SaaS products sold to enterprises need to have a core user experience which generates addictive use.
(3) Cf. (i) How valuable is your product? Google’s “toothbrush test”, and (ii) The best products satisfy a frequent user need with minimum friction.