With so many conflicting posts written about Twitter this week, I’d like to focus on the one that surprised me the most, stating that 44% of registered Twitter users who have never tweeted. Nothing. Not a hello world, not a reply, not a Facebook like status. Nothing.
It boggles the mind and leads me to think that many new users just don’t get Twitter. Sure, they’ve heard about it on TV or from their friends and they’re guessing it has to do with social something, but they don’t get it. They don’t get curating interesting people to follow, how to engage, and that entire 140 character thing.
I decided to try signing up as a new user on Twitter and check what kind of welcome mat they’re putting out. Here are a few observations and two ideas.
The first welcome screen says:
“Welcome to Twitter. Start a conversation, explore your interests, and be in the know.”
None of those three actions really explain what Twitter is. They’re very vague as to what it is the user actually does. But let’s go on.
Second step, choosing my user name. At this point in Twitter’s life it seems like so many of the handles with simple names or even under 7 characters are taken. It takes a while to land upon an available name and may frustrate users, but let’s assume they get past that stage.
Third step, “making connections” is maybe the most important step and I think it would be crucial to future engagement on Twitter. The first suggestion is to let Twitter go through your email account and add friends. This is not necessarily a bad idea but in my experience the people who are in my contacts and the people who I follow on Twitter are almost entirely different groups. Also, the people in my contacts are not the ones who are the best engagers on Twitter. But let’s say it’s a good start.
Twitter then follows up with curated lists of accounts to follow in different categories of interest, such as Music, Sports, Photography, News, Fashion, Entertainment, Technology and even Funny. These seem like a great way to instantly find accounts to follow and a good way to quickly follow a lot of people. What I also like about this format is that it allows new users to see how others use Twitter and what actual tweets look like.
After I picked a few accounts to follow, I clicked on “continue to timeline.” Twitter stopped me by saying “Are you sure? You could go to your timeline now, but it will be a lot better if you follow more people first.”
This is a well-timed pop-up, and one with good advice. After I picked a few more users to follow Twitter told me that I could click “home” and be taken to my timeline. And there I was, with still no idea of what to do.
So, how can those first tweets be encouraged? I have two ideas: one is easier to try, the other harder to implement and build up.
1. The straightforward, brute force idea: focus on the new tweet box as the last part of the onboarding process. A spotlight on the tweet box and a “write your first tweet!” encouragement. This is also fairly easy to try and see where and how it works best. Perhaps after the second login without a tweet? Perhaps the tenth? Perhaps after reading a tweet and its replies?
2. The long-term community building idea: right now the recommended follow lists are comprised mostly of very active and very popular Twitter users, most with hundreds of thousands of followers. Yes, it gives Twitter credibility when so many instantly recognizable brand names and sports and entertainment stars are using it, but these are the kind of accounts that tweet in one direction: they broadcast and don’t usually engage. Twitter needs to come up with a list of engagers, not necessarily pop stars. Those that already reply, favorite and retweet other’s content. It may be very worth while to build up a team of engagers, a sort of welcoming committee to new Twitter users. This group, whether they’re Twitter employees or just selected active users, can “welcome” users that Twitter deems are in need of handholding. This engagement could serve as the critical step between creating a list of people to follow and engaging with those people.
Before you ask “is this worth it?” consider that with 44% of users having never tweeted, and with Twitter’s revenue dependent on adoption and use, almost anything is worth trying.