Twitter Loses Its Voice-of-the-Customer Hearing

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Twitter listened to their customers, like all successful companies do, and their customers gave them candid and direct feedback. They did not want Twitter messing with their streams. The company proposed pushing tweets that Twitter thinks people most want to see to the top of their timelines beginning with the most recent first. The idea didn’t go over well with Twitter’s most loyal users and advocates. But Twitter decided to roll it out anyway.

Twitter wants to depart from the user-controlled chronology of tweets and move to an algorithm-based approach that displays tweets Twitter thinks you want to see first, similar to how Facebook operates. Aside from major departure of approach to how users will get their information, the move was a clear ‘talk to the hand’ moment to its 320 million active users. The most vocal, power-tweeters simply don’t want it.

How loudly did users object to the move? Quickly after the news was announced last weekend, the #RIPTwitter hashtag started to trend and barely let up 2 days later. And Quitter.se, a Twitter alternative and a place for people “who are tired of private companies controlling your conversations and contacts and selling them for profit” popped up seemingly out of nowhere. Then, and it may be unrelated, the company’s earnings came out and even though revenue was up 48% over the same quarter last year, user growth had flat lined.

The thing Twitter failed to realize, or chose to ignore, is that the Twitter we know today has been largely built by its users. It was average Tweeter and early adopter Chris Messina who suggested the idea of the hashtag, now ubiquitous in every tweetstream and essential for subject parsing and news/event consolidation. Without user ingenuity there would be no #FollowFriday introducing people to other interesting people, or URL shorteners, or Throwback Thursdays. Without users we’d never know to celebrate National Pancake Day or post a puppy pick on #WoofWednesday. WoofWednesday

So it seems fitting to look back two years ago when Aspect spoke about the relationship revolution and how consumers have taken control of the customer-company conversation, and are more demanding, more vocal, and less tolerant than ever before. With Twitter, users flourished and innovated under the empowerment they were given to make their own experiences. They took control of conversations so the broad brushback on the Twitter news is understandable when users feel that control is being taken away.

The Twitter saga is a great lesson on the opportunities companies have to produce customer-created experiences that excite the consumer and bring long-term loyalty. Allowing them to engage with you on their terms, on their time will produce more fulfilling interactions for them and more rewarding results for companies.