Twitter has been in a bit of a lull lately. That’s not exactly breaking news, right? Despite being one of the largest social networks with just over 300 million users, and having a highly engaged base of power users, Twitter needs more growth.
After a more than three-month search, Twitter announced this morning that co-founder Jack Dorsey will formally assume the CEO role permanently. So what’s next? Well, perhaps the last few months under Dorsey’s watch as interim CEO will serve as a good indicator. For starters, the pace of Twitter’s new features has increased significantly. Among them:
"Buy Now" Button – Allows any U.S. retailer, big or small, to be able to sell physical products, digital goods or services all within a tweet. Twitter has already integrated with four major eCommerce providers, including Shopify, Bigcommerce and Demandware. Merchants can also list their products on Stripe Relay to share and sell inventory.
Promoted Video – Streamlines video playback and brings a one-tap viewing experience into users’ timelines. According to Twitter, "These tests have shown that Tweets containing native Twitter video generate better engagement and more video views than before." In conjunction, Twitter’s also offering advertisers the ability to run ads with a new cost-per-view (CPV) ad buying model. This means advertisers only get charged when a user starts playing the video.
Quote Tweet – In the past, hitting this button on your Twitter app simply put quote marks around the original tweet text. Retweeting with comments was a pain—and chewed into the 140-character limit. Now, this button produces a hyperlink to the original tweet thus providing the user with over 100 characters to add commentary—an immediate engagement booster.
Donations – Twitter said it best in its own blog, "When people have conversations on politics, they have them on Twitter." As part of those conversations, people can now donate money to their favorite U.S. presidential candidates via a partnership with Square. This feature should create stickiness, plus entice candidates to promote their donation hashtags, driving new users to Twitter.
Native Polls – With election season looming, it’s probably no coincidence Twitter is testing a native polling feature that is embedded directly into tweets. Candidates and advertisers will both love this feature for engagement when it becomes available.
Lead Generation – This feature makes it easy to collect email addresses from people interested in your brand, product or service without forcing them to leave Twitter. This is fully integrated with many major email CRMs, such as MailChimp, so addresses collected via Twitter will automatically be stored in these third-party databases. Once again, this feature keeps the user on Twitter and provides brands and advertisers another meaningful way to benefit by participating on Twitter.
Project Lighthouse – Set to appear this fall, Project Lighthouse is essentially a curation of tweets grouped by professional editors about specific topics, events or breaking news. "Twitter is a news company. It is where people go to make or break news," famed venture capitalist Fred Wilson said. Twitter is taking advantage of being a news company and packaging it in a manner that should be highly appealing to new users. One of the knocks on Twitter is that it can be intimidating for newbies. Without knowing how or who to "follow", a Twitter feed can be pretty lame. With Lighthouse, the timeline will essentially be pre-populated with relevant, real-time and historical information about specific interests or topics, making Twitter much more welcoming. It’ll also allow for auto play video and larger images to be embedded in stream, giving advertisers better options for engagement.
What it all means for Twitter
The bottom line is Jack is back as Twitter’s new CEO, and that could mean creative new ways to attract new users, as well as efforts to boost engagement and monetization. Each successful feature can provide valuable insights into user behavior for better ad targeting. They can also simply make it easier for brands to reach their target consumers without forcing them to leave the Twittersphere. As with all tech-related additions, some of these features will fail, but some will thrive, and if Twitter is going to retain its reputation as a major social player and appease Wall Street, it needs to find the right mix of new features to attract more users and keep them engaged.