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Is Twitter Too Confusing to Generate More Growth?



twitter logoTwitter’s IPO is the new talk of the town.

Unfortunately for Twitter, much of that talk is about potential negatives that investors should be considering when they look at buying Twitter stock in the future once it is on the open market. It’s the same pre-IPO analysis that Facebook had to face, especially in regard to its apparent inability to capitalize on the mobile world.

Twitter’s pre-IPO issues are a bit different and many may consider that they are more serious that those that faced Facebook.
There is plenty of talk about just how legitimate the company’s claims are to numbers of real users. TechCrunch wonders just how many of Twitter’s accounts are real people that advertisers could actually reach.

That’s one element of concern and a good one. Oh, and the fact that the company is not profitable (unlike Facebook at the time of its IPO) is concerning for many (as it should be) is yet another.

But one potential gotcha is looked at in a USAToday article that wonders if the service is too confusing for new users which, in turn, will hinder growth significantly. It’s not a thought that goes without merit. I have been on the service myself since 2009 and while I am FAR from some kind of super user, there are elements of the service that I find clunky and hard to understand. It has limited my personal engagement in the service but it hasn’t discouraged me from using it entirely. The trouble may be that the rest of the people who have not yet tried it yet may find it to be too much.

Slowing user growth is among top investor concerns, followed by the impact of fake or multiple accounts, profit margins and the road-map for future revenue-producing products.

A broader, but related concern is whether a large section of the world’s population will decide that Twitter is not useful for them. The company can fix this by doing more “curation” — essentially using data to advise users which sources of information to follow, says Rick Summer, an equity analyst at Morningstar.

It’s when social media gets out from beyond the current group of more tech savvy users that the troubles could begin. Younger users who are growing up in the social media age may take to it like a fish to water but they don’t have the buying power in 2013 to help Twitter just yet.

Could it be though that the intensity of the pace of information from Twitter is too much for most people who are so busy to begin with that they simply won’t even bother? Since I have rejoined the workforce in an office environment I am actually very surprised at just how little usage there is of the service. When I was consulting in the Internet marketing space I think I got a rather twisted view of the impact of social because it seemed like everyone was using it all the time. Trouble is that in the industry everyone is but their usage levels and patterns are NOTHING like those of non-industry types.

Could it be that the world of the Silicon elite is bumping up against its limitations? Could it be that there is a much smaller sub-section of the world that is suited for this kind of communication than was originally thought. Even with the ‘changing of the guard’ over the next 20 or so years where those who were not born into the digital age will die off and the world will be have a greater percentage of digital natives, will that mean that everyone will ‘get’ social media and, in particular, Twitter?

These are hard questions that investors will have to ask but what let’s be realistic, will what Twitter might be even 5 years from now important to those who are trying to make a buck on the Twitter IPO? Probably not. They will be in and out of the investment long ago and will have no financial stake in the performance of the tool. Only long term investors will care and one has to wonder if that’s just as much of a dying breed as those who grew up with only three TV channels.

What’s your take?