What Caused Twitter's User Exodus?

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What Caused Twitter's User Exodus?

Media outlets are abuzz this week with talk of a potential Twitter sale. Google, Salesforce, and even Disney have been considered as potential suitors. Many have asked why Twitter’s growth has stalled, warranting an acquisition.

I have heard some “experts” say that the Twitter user exodus is a result of niche audiences, a lack of new and interesting features, and a stifling character limit, just to name a few.

While many of these may have something to do with the exodus, they miss the most significant shift that has led to the downfall of Twitter.

Most of us tend to think of Twitter as a quick commentary and public sharing tool, tweeting out our quips to an audience of hundreds or thousands of people, often during live events.

But there’s more to the story.

It’s All About 140

Twitter has a limit of 140 characters for one particular reason: it’s the maximum length of a text message.

Remember those occasional stories you would hear on the news about a teenager who sent 50,000 text messages in a month, costing their parents thousands of dollars in additional cell service fees? Twitter made those stories disappear.

For millions of Twitter users, the platform was used as a cheaper alternative for text messaging. Users could send 140-character messages to friends using small amounts of their mobile data plans, instead of burning through expensive text message plans.

The P2P Migration

But most people don’t use Twitter for this purpose anymore. Their focus has turned to P2P messaging services like WhatsApp, SnapChat, Facebook Messenger, and Apple’s iMessage, which specialize in 1-on-1, private conversations.

Twitter has tried to expand the use of its direct message feature by adding group functionality. Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late.

A Necessary Transformation

It’s time for Twitter to transform into its next iteration. The company recently invested in adding a social layer to live events. A key milestone for this was its partnership with the NFL to stream Thursday Night Football through Twitter.

While Disney may seem like an odd candidate to acquire Twitter, it may make the most sense of any widely discussed option. From sporting events (ESPN) to broadcast and film programming (ABC, Marvel, Disney) to entertainment experiences (theme parks and cruises), Disney could provide Twitter with a slew of opportunities to add a social layer to its live events and content.

And that leaves us to wonder… Where will Twitter go next?

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