The micro-blogging site launched two major mobile features this week. First, users can now tag up to ten people in a photo without denting into the precious 140 character limit. Once tagged, a message will notify users and they will also have the option to set who can tag you in settings.
So far, so Facebook. And it doesn’t end there because the other feature allows users to share up to four photos in what Twitter describes as a “collage”. The changes follow tweaks to the site’s homepage to bring it more in-line with its mobile app, which borrows heavily from the layout of Facebook.
And let’s not forget reports that Twitter is toying with the idea of killing off its retweet button in favour of a Facebook-like Share button.
There are early signs that some users are not impressed. A rudimentary search of the platform reveals frustrations from some.
One tweeter posted: “Why does this twitter update look like Facebook? @twitter be original and go back to the old layout #hater”. Another read: “Facebook looks more like twitter..& twitter will look more like Facebook..soon…hooray for tumblr…”
The updates are all part of Twitter’s master plan to drive up ad costs by becoming a more social forum for people. The platform suffered slow user growth last year, which was compounded by successive quarters of declining time spent on its timeline. At the time Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo said the riposte to the decline would need to “bridge that gap between awareness of Twitter and deep engagement on the platform”.
The latest changes attempt to cross that divide but it feels like a step too far. Part of Twitter’s charm was that it felt like a completely different forum to its larger rival. While Facebook has been the de-facto place to share personal videos and photos, Twitter has always been much more about sharing information. It is an easy distinction to make, which is what advertisers need when deciding how to spread out their media budgets.
To be clear, Twitter has always defined itself as an information rather than a social network. However, this isn’t to say it is not envious of its larger rival’s growing engagement stats, which continue to show quarterly rises. If people are staying on the site longer, then it can charge more for the average cost of ads, which continued to decline in the last quarter.
Twitter’s problem is that it needs to be better at communicating it is more than just a platform for telling the world what you had for breakfast. Becoming more like Facebook is not the answer, particularly given the growth experienced by fledgling social networks such as Snapchat.