To keep growth going, Twitter wants to be everywhere — and a little more intimate


Twitter’s public-by-default strategy has been a large part of the social media site’s success, but now it wants to ramp that up — while also making it easier to take some things private.

The 140-character social network is riding high after a stronger than expected quarter, thanks in part to increased World Cup-related usage as well as chief executive Dick Costolo’s focus on an improved onboarding process.

But Twitter’s default publicness and public utility-likeness has caused problems, including a large amount of spam accounts (maybe computers just innately like me, but I’d guess about half of my own followers are some form of spam bot) and, far worse, a platform that tends to accumulate trolls, stalkers, and flash mobs.

I personally doubt Twitter is happy with the current situation, but the toxicity has descended to a level where some wonder if it’s just part of Twitter’s game plan. Ben Kuchera captures that sentiment:

Sending and receiving tweets isn’t the product being offered by Twitter, of course. The product being created and sold are the eyes that look at those tweets. The more engaged you are with the service, the more you’re likely to see ads, sponsored tweets and the other ways Twitter makes money or sells itself. Engagement is power. The longer you stay, the more you read, the more you tweet? The better for Twitter.

Which is why the company gives so little attention to the now-routine harassment experienced by so many members of the service: It drives engagement. Harassers organize their efforts on forums, they set up new accounts that haven’t been blocked in order to attack their target, and they move in groups.

And so it looks like, just as Twitter is tapping Boston to help it better tap into mass broadcasting sentiment and to capitalize on mass media events like the World Cup, it’s acknowledging some things Twitter users won’t want to share with the world. Costolo made that explicit to Jay Yarrow at Business Insider:

Specifically, being able to take a public conversation and being able to migrate it to a private channel. So, taking a public tweet, and being able to have a conversation about that public tweet with a private group of people is a compelling use case. One we see internally as something a lot of us would like to do and one that will be a real engagement driver for us.

In other words, Twitter’s future growth is all about finding a much bigger audience for the tweets it sends out — as well as much smaller ones.

Michael Morisy is the founder and former editor of BetaBoston. Follow him on Twitter at @Morisy or email him at [email protected].
Follow Michael on Twitter