I remember in early 2007, I was at a videobloggers' event in San Francisco and one of the girls at the event asked me, Do you twitter? She explained how much easier it was to send out a text to all her friends so that they could meet at a specific place, instead of sending out individual texts to everyone we knew. Of course, that feature had been replaced by group chat text messaging apps, and would eventually be eclipsed by Foursquare, which lets people find places to eat and monitors your location data.
Since then, Twitter has mainly become a source for celebrity news gossip, and an app that lets politicans, celebrities and news media personalities take positions in political and social issues, whilst the majority of their time spent has migrated to other apps like Instagram, in which they use a kind of publicity and marketing tool.
One of Twitter's most loyal and controversial users: President Donald J. Trump.
However, there are advantages to Twitter that other apps, like Facebook or Instagram don't have, it's a place where one could be completely anonymous, or at least have the illusion of being anonymous. The problem for Twitter has been declining growth, spam accounts, its revenue model and monetisation policy.
One of the things I think are key are about Twitter is that often, people can attain first-person accounts of news, events and insights before the major forces in the media reports on them, similar to South Korea's Ohmynews! where citizens take it upon themselves to upload videos or film news segments from their mobile devices. Twitter was the first site where I had access to what happened during Hurricane Sandy from the photo documentation by a person who was in the area as it was happening, and it was a more authentic coverage of the event than any other news agency at the time.
I also don't follow any celebrities on Twitter, however, I follow other "anonymous" people who work on Wall Street, in finance, venture capital and trading houses. Wall Street has always had sort of a bad rep, especially in all the major media outlets, and it was heightened after the global Occupy Wall Street movements. However, what most people weren't aware is that many people who worked on Wall Street or in the financial markets were often critical of their own organisations, and Twitter gave them a voice to do so under anonymous accounts.
It's not that these men and women who worked for financial institutions were all evil and debasing the population with their risky derivative products; they often felt powerless, trapped within a system of corruption, and unable to speak out for fear of retribution, losing their jobs or becoming blacklisted. After spending half a year engaged in stock analysis on Twitter, I was able to follow all the key people who often gave intriguing insights into their own industries. There were many alternative news publications that I began to follow as well, such as zerohedge, whose editors kept a low profile and whose identities were secret before it was unfortunately revealed in the major media outlets who they were last year.
What I liked about Twitter that I couldn't do on Facebook and Linkedin, was that it gave me candid perceptions into the psychology of people who weren't speaking from their public voicebox, but what they were really thinking. I made some friends as well, people I would've never met from the circles of friends I had on Facebook or even on Linkedin, and became friends with a writer and mentor who published many books on financial institutions and even sent another fellow anon a gift for her funny insights.
If we examine social media today, they are pretty much all turning into each other. Since Linkedin's recent design change and UI, it is fairly indistinguishable from Facebook. Facebook has now entered the news arena, and has the power to influence people's opinions through its curation of the news, despite its criticism of fakenews to alter election results.
Through these polymorphisms of social media, Twitter however, has not changed. It is essentially the same as it was when it launched in 2006, and there is something nostalgic about that, but I also think that it could add some features as well to supplement its monetisation policy.
One thing for investors is that like many other social media, Twitter has a problem with spam, fake accounts, and identity verifications. Its best feature - anonymity - is also its worst feature. Whereas Facebook, Linkedin and Airbnb use authentic personalities and identities, Twitter does not. This has been an disadvantage to investors. I see several features that could authenticate people's personalities whilst still giving them an anonymous platform to speak from.
Twitter teamed up with a French bank to launch S-money in 2014 so that people are able to directly send money to Twitter users. However, the problem with this is that users have to also download a separate app then connect the two apps which is cumbersome, slows down the speed of the apps, and a bit of a hassle. Twitter could instead, launch its own TwitterPay, so that users can use one platform to send and receive funds to other users whilst retaining their anonymity.
Last year in 2016, iPayYou launched which allows Twitter users to send each other bitcoin. Twitter could bypass all these secondary apps and launch its own service, TwitterPay, that could act as a broker, escrow service and payment service between banks and users on one platform.
TwitterPay. As I mentioned before Twitter allows people to meet people outside their own social circles, and perhaps even make a friend or two. I think similar to Reddit Gifts, TwitterPay could facilitate eCommerce and become its own financial platform where people can send each other gifts. Integration with Amazon's wishlist or even Etsy's wishlist or any other wishlist from multiple eCommerce platforms could allow strangers to peruse your wishlist and be able to make purchases to send to you. Obviously, no one wants to give away their privacy and personal details - and these details, such as name and address could be integrated into the Twitter platform, where no other user has access to, but only revealed to the retailer who has access to the name and address of the recipient and the name and address and credit card information of the sender. Therefore, let's say, I find a writer on zerohedge or another stock market trader or even a person I find funny, why not send them a gift for their interesting contributions, like a book from their Amazon wishlist? I can peruse their wishlist, and through TwitterPay, can send them a gift with a note that it was from my Twitter account, but our identities are kept anonymous. In this way, TwitterPay can evolve towards becoming a kind of broker, escrow service and financial institution that has access to people's financial information and details, and perhaps even evolve into something like AliPay, which gives loans to small businesses.
TwitterFund. Many people from fundraising apps often use twitter to tell people they are raising funds. One of the most effective ways to raise funds on Kickstarter or any other crowdfunding platform is through news coverage, by getting writers from major media outlets to write about your fundraise or by having editors and writers generally sharing your fundraise on the internet through blogs or on other social media platforms. However, because so much is filtered through Twitter, why not have its own crowdfundraising ability by allowing non-profit organisations to be able to directly raise funds on Twitter, instead of filtering it through PayPal or another platform? Therefore, let's say I am part of an organisation, WomenInVentureCapital, and we are a nonprofit organisation raising funds for the education of women in third world nations, I could link a TwitterFund in my account, a page devoted to its fundraise, which would be similar a page on GoFundMe or Kickstarter, that allows people to make direct contributions through TwitterPay and be able to comment on it. The advantage is that multiple people in an organisation can link to the TwitterFund account, so that it would appear to be a team effort instead of just being one page of interaction with comments. In addition, another major advantage would be that non-profits can list their tax exemption status so that, unlike donating to GoFundMe or Kickstarter, "anonymous" donors can use these donations for a tax deduction whereas on other crowdfunding sites, people are not able to receive tax deductions. Therefore, TwitterFund doesn't take a percentage of the funds raised, but there is only a minor charge for using TwitterPay. For others who are not a verified non-profit and simply want to crowdfundraise, Twitter could revert to the Kickstarter or GoFundMe revenue model.
TwitterChannel. The nice thing about Twitter is that you can curate your own feeds, by putting users into different public and private lists, but sometimes I like to look at curated content from others. For the demographic that mainly follows CelebrityWorship, why not have a curated TwitterChannel, that is sectioned by interest or news? For example, a TwitterChannel of members of all the major news outlets vs. a TwitterChannel for interesting users who report from their industries anonymously? Since Amazon, Alibaba and Netflix have also become studios and production companies, why not Twitter? The advantage would be that Twitter would become the underground news channel with authentic first-hand accounts of an event that people watch outside of the major news outlets, and unlike Facebook, could become its own factchecking agency, except that the people involved would be its own users.
TwitterPro. Twitter already has a twitter for business site, but aside from ads and analytics which Hootsuite does better and the latter which also integrates all social media accounts onto one platform, TwitterPro could be a business account for companies that engage in customer service. To a degree, many companies already use Twitter to interact with their customers. Twitter could make this a paid subscription service so that business owners and companies can easily interact with their customers and give instant rebates, coupons, refunds etc. to customers who interact with them on Twitter. For restaurants, beauty salons and cafés that use TwitterPro, users could also make reservations and purchase pre-paid discounted meals and services only available through Twitter. Again, these services can be facilitated via TwitterPay.
The all-in-one eCommerce wishlist: TwitterWishList. TWL could connect directly with businesses and retailers and be the intermediary with users to buy, receive and send products and services whilst users remain "anonymous."
TwitterWishList. Twitter has recently created a wishlist hashtag for Amazon users and vice versa. However, this could be taken one step further. TwitterWishList could be a comprehensive wishlist feature that would allow users to voluntarily insert details about their real name and location without giving up "anonymity". Users can integrate many wishlists from other eCommerce sites, or even find products they like online, and link the direct page to add to their TWL page in their profile. These details will only be available to the specific user, to Twitter, and to the retailers involved. To keep anonymity, Twitter will either have to have an agreement with all the retailers not to release the name and location of the recipients who receive their gifts from the WishList by another Twitter user even of that user was the sender or this can also be automatically achieved if the funds received through TwitterPay is held in an escrow account, and the gift is technically sent to the recipient through Twitter and not the Twitter user, although it would be attributed to the latter. In this way, users are able to utilise all the features of eCommerce companies, whilst retaining their anonymity and private details from other users.
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I remember in 2009, when the pandemonium in Iran had begun and I was watching YouTube, and a woman was narrating in Persian (and someone else had bothered to upload the video with English subtitles) from the rooftop of her building, watching from the window as chaos was ensuing below. And I thought to myself, it would've been so nice to send her a care package from America; to let her know that the politics of war and instability we had instilled in the Middle East were not representative of all the American people. I didn't speak her language and obviously, there was probably no chance we would ever meet, but what she said had a profound effect on me. At the time, there was no way to cross those boundaries of language and national divides, but I think Twitter could become the app to build that bridge, between nations, between different industries, and between people of different social circles who would otherwise, never have a chance to connect.
By Sierra Choi