Twitter – growth, safety and simplicity

Bruce Daisley ()

Bruce Daisley describes his appointment to Twitter’s top job in Europe as ‘a serious of good accidents’, having joined the social media site as UK manager back in 2012 after three years as a director at YouTube. He’s had ample time to settle into his new job and reflect on Twitter’s rise from ‘humble beginnings’ in the UK to one of the leading media forces in the European market. And the business keeps growing, he confirms.

Daisley disputes talk that Twitter engagement is slowing. This, he says is not accurate. The reality is that Twitter has around 320 million constant (or daily) users and around 820 million monthly (occasional) users. While there are few businesses that can claim such staggering numbers in online traffic, the challenge now is to narrow the gap between regular and occasional users. 

To do this Daisley and his team are working on ways to simplify the Twitter experience. He says research has shown that the average time for an app to demonstrate its worth to a user after download is only one minute. Twitter has set itself the challenge to make the Twitter experience more universally and instantly understandable. “We’re always thinking about what is the essence of Twitter. The real promise of Twitter is to tell you what is happening right now…we want to bring more of what is happening right now to more people.”

This is also what makes Twitter as social media channel rather unique.  Twitter is not a ‘look at me’ network, says Daisley, it’s a ‘look at that’ network. As Twitter has evolved in recent times it has become a serious of links to articles, photographs, captions, shows, songs and interests users love.

That is why the Periscope app has grown to be such an important part of Twitter’s growth. It extends the ‘what’s happening?’ experience by allowing you to see what is happening in other parts of the world through the mobile phone lens of other Twitter users. It is currently the number one app in France. “The promise of Periscope is similar to teleportation. It gives you the ability to be anywhere in the world and view it through somebody else’s eyes.”

People’s urge to know what is happening right now has made it relatively easy to monetise Twitter, says Daisley. “We grew 58 per cent in the last financial year. We first introduced advertising and promoted (paid for) tweets when people started asking for it.” Here he references local restaurants and small businesses who were already gaining customers through Twitter. These were the people contacting Twitter and asking how they could gain even more custom by paying for promoted tweets. By responding to these requests Twitter built a business model that evolved as a result of user requests. Today even police units will use promoted tweets to ask for information to solve cases. “That is what Twitter is really good for. It has become a public broadcaster.”

As far as challenges go, Paisley concedes that there are people who are concerned and affected by online trolls and ‘unpleasant people’ on Twitter, although this affects only around one percent of users.

He says ‘responsible online citizenship’ has not received enough attention. Many people are taken aback by online comments, which at times come across much harsher than originally intended. “The more we can teach digital citizenship in schools, the more we can encourage a default benign pattern of behaviour. Yet, I don’t think we will ever resolve all of these things and a business like Twitter will look at ways to give users as many tools as possible to deal with it.”

He says existing tools like the ‘block’ button and the ‘mute’ button are valuable tools but users must also continuously be informed how to use it to be able to control their online experiences. At times ‘mute’ are better than ‘block’ because blocking a troll can encourage troll-like behaviour. A dedicated safety team is constantly working to increase safety on the site.  

So was limiting tweets to 140 characters a Twitter mistake? Not so, says Daisley although he concedes there are hordes of people who are desperate to be able to say more on Twitter. The amount of images on Twitter, which is in fact text captures are testament to this. “They are hacking the way Twitter works but while there is a recognition that we want to allow this, brevity is at the core of the Twitter brand. We want to ensure that we keep the mojo of Twitter the same.”

If he needs to admit to a Twitter flaw, it’s the fact that many people still battle to fully understand Twitter. “Our biggest future challenge is to make Twitter more simple.”

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