There’s been a lot of talk about Twitter being dead because of the levels of trolling and abuse that takes place on the platform, but I totally disagree. The network has changed a lot over the last year. In the past, Twitter has been slow to react to the majority of abuse and trolling that takes place online, but in the last month the company has really started to get its act together.
You’ve been able to report abuse for some time, but as of November 2016 you can now mute people, words and conversations. If you go to the settings on the left-hand side of your account, you can block certain phrases so they never show up in your feed. The only problem is that there’s no library like there in Instagram, where you can tick all the words you don’t want to see. And of course people often use clever spellings to get round obscenity filters, but it’s definitely a positive move.
But I always say it’s all about context. If I send you a picture of a pig you might be offended, but if I send it to a friend who has just been to the zoo, they’ll probably like it. It takes time for moderators to read through each post and understand what’s a joke and what’s offensive in each context. It’s also difficult to create a platform that allows freedom of speech but then creates and enforces rules around what people can and cannot say. Of course if someone says “I’m going to hack your head off” then you don’t need any context, and that threat needs to be dealt with by the police and there are already rules around harassment.
"Twitter’s main problem is that it doesn’t communicate what it’s good at. It’s got an amazing search engine that hardly anyone uses."
For me, the best development is that you can also mute conversations, so you never have to see them again. I often mute people. If you delete it, the person will often come back harder, and if you block them it aggravates them even more. If you simply mute them, they’re unaware that you’re not seeing any of their messages and you have a much more pleasant experience.
So Twitter is tackling online abuse, which is great, but the other reason it’s not dying is because the platform is amazing for four things: discovery, listening, live events and breaking news. No-one is going to go to SnapChat for breaking news.
Importantly, it’s also a fantastic business tool – allowing you to listen to your customers and find leads. The problem is most people don’t use if for that – they follow celebrities and tell you what they had for breakfast, which no-one cares about.
"The great thing for customers about Twitter is that you can have a go at a brand in public."
Twitter’s main problem is that it doesn’t communicate what it’s good at. It’s got an amazing search engine that hardly anyone uses. That’s where the money is. You could have joined Twitter two minutes ago and have no followers but would immediately have a stream of business leads coming in all day by using the search function, for example by typing in “anyone recommend” AND “plumber” you can immediately find people looking for a plumber. You can make searches location specific and you can also search what people are saying about your competitors.
Direct Messaging is also a fantastic tool that’s under-used. There’s a button in settings that allows you to receive messages from people who you’re not following, that few people know about. The great thing for customers about Twitter is that you can have a go at a brand in public. Businesses need to use direct messaging to take those conversations offline, and not enough companies are making the most of this feature. Some are – if you send a direct message to Tesco you get one of their chatbots, which is an automated system of prefigured answers that drive you down a particular channel.
So no, Twitter is not dead. It’s different from what it has been, and trolls will still be a problem, but the company is taking it much more seriously – and its four key features are better than you’ll find on any other social platform.