Posted July 24, 2009 9:40 am by with 8 comments

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twitter-birdLet’s try something a little different as the focus goes to Twitter (yet again) and its impact on the free world’s ability to function properly. I have said on many occasions that regular users of Twitter are not the best people to be actually examining Twitter’s success or lack thereof. Why? Mainly because there seems to be this assumption that the rest of the world understands what Twitter is as well as social media ‘regulars’ do. The simple reality is that that kind of thinking is, how can I say this diplomatically….. stupid. The real fact of the matter is that most of the world is confused by Twitter. Fortunately, Biz and the boys (and girls) at Twitter are recognizing this fact and are taking steps to remedy the situation.

Kara Swisher of WSJ’s Boom Town interviewed Twitter co-founder Biz Stone and learned that all of this confusion is not going unnoticed by the Twitter team and they are working to minimize the issue. The first step is redesigning the home page which many people come to once they have swigged the media Kool Aid around Twitter and its importance to mankind. Swisher tells it well,

Stone said the current page is essentially confusing to the masses of people who come to it, made aware of the microblogging service by the massive media hype it has received over the last year.

People arriving at the new main homepage will be greeted by a search box, information on Twitter trends and a panoply of more specific information about how they can use Twitter.

“You can try it out without having to sign up, so you can get an idea of what Twitter is before you use it,” said Stone. “We need to do a better job of explaining ourselves to people who hear about us and then have no idea what do to.”

At this point it’s easy to say “Well, it’s about time!” but I am starting to admire the ability of Stone and others to take some time with decisions and do things that are practical rather than reactionary. Many media darling companies start to believe their own press and let the media drive their innovation. Twitter on the other hand seems to be taking some cues from Facebook in that they want to make the experience of Twitter the best it can be before they try to monetize. No mention of real time search or anything else here. Just the admission that the current home page for Twitter is crappy and they are going to change it.

Stone put it succinctly by saying

“We have to turn a lot of awareness into engagement. Our front page is not reflective of that right now.”

An additional move was made to help business folks figure out Twitter and how it can be used to their benefit. The company launched a section on their blog called Twitter 101. I gave it a quick once over and I have to admit that they did a real nice job of covering the basics in a way that the uninitiated can understand. Subjects include:

  • What is Twitter
  • Getting Started
  • Learn the Lingo
  • Best Practices
  • Case Studies
  • Other Resources

Now before you run off and complain that there’s nothing new being said or why can’t they provide something we didn’t already know, remember that the VAST majority of people do not get Twitter at all. This is their target for this kind of data and they do a nice job of putting it together.

Oh and who put the information together? In a blog post Stone tells us indirectly that they are not wasting a lot of that VC money.

“We coordinated with business students and writers to surface some interesting findings, best practices, steps for getting started, and case studies.”

Hey, for all of the complaining and hand wringing over Twitter’s approach to this and their approach to that it looks like they are seeing that the real growth lie ahead of them and in order to get the bigger numbers (remember the 1 billion users by 2013 number from the great Twittergate scandal?) they need to educate the masses. Having 90% of tweets coming from 10% of the users is not going to help them grow. Once the mainstream finally gets how this might work for them the real opportunity for Twitter can be realized.