If you’re looking for reactions to Sunday night’s Oscars broadcast, the place to find them isn’t Facebook or Instagram or even Tumblr. It’s Twitter. You know, that social network that’s stock price keeps dropping because it can’t attract new users because it’s too hard to figure out or something like that. Not only was Twitter the place that hosted all the #OscarsSoWhite commentary in advance of the show but it created some of the most robust conversations during and after as well. Twitter released its own data and Union Metrics has numbers too. It’s where people pointed out it’s not just African Americans who are underrepresented in Hollywood. Where people reacted to everything from Chris Rock’s opening monologue to the misfiring Stacey Dash moment to Leonardo DiCaprio’s long-awaited award winning.
So if everyone is using Twitter to react to, literally, everything, how come it has such a hard time making a value proposition to both the media and new users?
I think, in essence, that the narrative in the media is wrong. Twitter isn’t hard to use. It’s easy to use but it’s hard to explain. Specifically it’s hard to explain because it is so fundamentally different from Facebook that trying to make sense of it to someone who’s already shoulder-deep on Facebook is pretty difficult. While the two certainly have similarities there are also enough differences to make one a bit confusing to the someone who’s used to the other.
More than that, though, I worry that Twitter doesn’t do a very good job of touting anything that isn’t a feature it has either created or coopted. So it wants Moments to succeed because it’s something it controls, but the way people have been using Storify, for instance, isn’t of interest to them because it’s not theirs. Similarly the conversations cited above are all just kind of there. They don’t use any of the things that Twitter wants to show off to investors, they just use basic Twitter functionality.
That’s missing a good chunk of the user-generated value, though. The next time Twitter is asked to prove how valuable it is and show some examples I would say it should just take the conversations above – and there are countless more like them – and plop them down in front of the questioner and say “Because these conversations aren’t happening on Facebook, that’s why Twitter is valuable.”