tweet

When people think about ranking social networks, it’s usually Facebook #1 and Twitter #2. Well, there’s a new #2 in town and that’s Instagram, who with 300 million monthly active users recently supplanted Twitter’s 284 million users.

Twitter was a compelling solution to a problem few understood. I’m not a big Twitter user by any means, but I’ve kept close tabs on it ever since its debut on SXSW, and my own understanding of Twitter has evolved a lot over the years.

Like most, I didn’t get Twitter the first time. It felt like a feature Facebook already had in status updates. Moreover, did I really want to know that people were doing on a real-time basis? Having lunch or going to the gym or feeling sad?

I soon realized it was a precise way of getting updates of only the people you’re interested in, which was/is different to Facebook’s algorithmic approach of getting updates from all your friends — who you may not actually be interested in following on a real-time basis. That was my first take on Twitter’s purpose.

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Twitter has a new analytics tool that lets you see how many people actually saw your tweets.  Danny Sullivan of Marketing Land reported that of his 390,000 followers, only 1.85% saw (not even necessarily read) a random tweet.  Ouch!

When we started feecha, one of the early decisions was what data to show users.  To be like YouTube, where you can see how many viewed a video; or to be like Instagram, where you have no idea how many actually saw a photo.

We decided to go the Instagram route because content creators need to feel like they’re being read to continue; once that illusion is gone, only the most strong-willed can keep going.  In the beginning, and especially with all that’s out there, most new start-ups will struggle getting engagement from users.  When the crowd is sparse, no news is better than bad news.  It’s better to keep your users guessing on how many they’re actually speaking to.

So why did Twitter make this kind of analytics tool available?  Advertising. I find advertisers’ interest particularly ironic; if they only knew just how many really saw their ads on TV or print…  390,000 Twitter followers sounds amazing, but it’s the 7,215 that actually matters.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the 1.85% seen ratio applies to TV ratings and print circulation numbers too.