I know what you’re thinking. How can Twitter win anything, with its paltry 317 million users and its lame sub-$15 stock price? Compared to the giants like Facebook (1.87 billion users,) WhatsApp (1 billion,) and WeChat (846 million,) you could fit Twitter in the garage of their respective CEOs’ second mansions. Heck, even Instagram – the Etch-a-Sketch of social media platforms – has 600 million users. (Source: statista.)
So on what metric, exactly, could Twitter be outperforming all these titans of social chatter?
In a word, politics.
Trump tweets. Pence tweets. Anthony Weiner tweeted his ass off (and other parts.) And the world reads Merkel tweets. And Putin tweets. And May Tweets. And the usually-epic JK Rowling tweets.
Politics has reinvigorated the in-the-moment DNA of Twitter in a way that perhaps no other sector could. And perhaps no other social media platform could so readily respond to the challenge.
Part of it is the “gotcha” nature of American politics in particular. We’re all taken back to hear one party or one candidate say something that’s very damning in nature, and then double-shocked to hear those words come back to bite them on the ass when someone digs out a tweet from six or twelve months ago. Consider this telling headline from Mashable about Mike Pence as a classic case in point: “This old Mike Pence tweet on Hillary Clinton emails is coming back to haunt him.”
In it, we learn that Vice President Mike Pence used his personal email address (yes, still using AOL,) for official business while governor of Indiana.
The facts are what they are, and I have no intention of arguing whether it’s better, worse, or same as when the former Secretary of State did the same thing. But what’s interesting is where the hearings are taking place: not on television. Not in newspapers. Not on Facebook. But on Twitter.
Pence’s boss is no stranger to the daily-death-by-Twitter phenomenon. Trump’s tweets are so varied and so erratic that CNN has a live website tracking every one of his tweets.
And because he’s President, every tweet becomes part of the official record of his tenure. In case you’re scoring at home, they could become evidence of any number of things in the event of any criminal investigations that may arise. (And, you know, they may arise.) And based on certain tweets regarding certain former US presidents conducting unauthorized wiretapping, investigations are already en route, and with a motorcade, to be sure.
No other social media platform, no matter how cool, or how many fun filters it offers, could offer such a perfect distribution channel for the gotcha fodder: nasty things said, declarative things said, and all that darn fact-checking. Why is that?
A few possibilities include the content-capping. 140 characters are just enough to say something really pithy. Or really dopey. Also, the in-the-moment-ness of Twitter makes it a “now” social media platform, whereas Facebook or Pinterest, as examples, are excellent “linger with it later” platforms. And of course, the fact that Tweets. Stay. Alive. Forever. (Sorry, Snapchat.)
You don’t need to go far to see how the Twitter-back-and-forth-and-back-again is playing out. But pay careful attention to how only one platform is invited into this A-list party, while all the others huddle outside trying to sweet-talk the bouncer with their pleas of “have you seen how many registered users I have?”
In marketing terms, Twitter has a highly defensible point of differentiation, and it should seriously consider exploiting it for its own gains. How that manifests is yet to be seen, but if I were the agency of record, I would seriously be trying to strike while the iron is hot and while 45 is tweeting away.