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From Conversation to Content-Delivery: Professors Predict a Change in Twitter

twitter logo“Get ready for a TV-like Twitter.”

That bold statement comes from Columbia Business School Professor Olivier Toubia. He and his colleague, University of Pittsburgh’s Assistant Professor Andrew T. Stephen just released the results of a study they conducted on Twitter usage. They study is called “Intrinsic versus Image-Related Utility in Social Media: Why do People Contribute Content to Twitter?” and it concludes with the end of Twitter as we know it.

Don’t worry. There’s not going to be a giant Twitter Apocalypse or anything. (Sounds like a Syfy original movie.) Twitter usage is just going to keep shifting until it becomes more of a content-delivery system and less of a means of conversation.

Here’s why.

The study followed a 2500 everyday people who have no financial incentive to Tweet. No brands, no celebs. These people post on Twitter for one of two reasons. Some Tweet for the intrinsic value of helping others by providing information and / or entertainment. Then there are the people who post for image reasons – meaning, the more people who follow them, the more important they feel.

Now, to test how an increase impacted Twitter behavior, the professors set up “synthetic accounts”  (I like how “synthetic” sounds more legit than “fake”) and used them to increase the follower count on randomly selected Twitter accounts.

At first, the Twitter user began posting more often in response to his newly found fame. But, once the group reached a moderately large number of followers, the posting rate declined  – a lot.

“Users began to realize it was harder to continue to attract more followers with their current strategy, so they slowed down,” said Toubia. “When posting activity no longer leads to additional followers, people will view Twitter as a non-evolving, static structure, like TV.”

Their conclusion? That eventually Twitter posts by average people will slow and celebs and brands will take over Twitter.

“Twitter will become less of a communications vehicle and more of a content-delivery vehicle, much like TV.  Peer-to-peer contact is likely to evolve to the next great thing, but with 500 million followers, Twitter isn’t just going to disappear.  It’s just going to become a new way to follow celebrities, corporations, and the like,” said Toubia.

What do you think? Will Twitter become eventually become nothing more than another advertising channel and if that happens does it have a chance of continuing into the far future?

  • enigma

    Although I use Facebook, Twitter has never appealed to me. I don’t care if you are going to the grocery store or bathing your cat.

  • JC

    Great one that brings insights and saves my time. Thanks a lot.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    This is a ridiculous study.

  • Pandeypriya E Solutions

    It seem twitter and other social sites are facing a threat from facebook. A threat of survival.

    http://pandeypriya.com