Does Twitter want to win?
January 22, 2016
I love Twitter. But I’ve been wondering: is their heart really in it?
This is really a post about the Twitter Ads interface. Which is Twitter’s route to profitability and sustainability, and yet doesn’t seem to be very well thought-out. It makes me worried about Twitter’s future.
For example, for those who might not know, Twitter cards allow you to attach images, videos, and even lead generation forms — click a button to share your email address — to your tweets. They’re awesome.
But they’re not all that well integrated. You have to choose, in advance of building your campaign, what type of card you want to use. Sounds reasonable, except your choice can’t be changed.
So, let’s say you start building a campaign with a lead gen card to get you emails in exchange for your latest asset. And then you decide that you want to clone this campaign, and use the same targeting settings and budget for a campaign to drive more visitors to your website with a website card.
Doesn’t work. You have to start over again, because each campaign type has a specific card type associated with it.
“A-ha”, you say, “I’ll just use the Custom campaign type”. Nope. The custom campaign type doesn’t let you attach a lead card to it at all.
There is a way around this. Create the Card first, Tweet it invisibly (more on this in a second), and then attach it to a campaign.
Doesn’t that sound confusing? Why not just make the card type user-selectable?
As another example, note that the Twitter Ad product isn’t actually ads.
When I think “ad”, I think of an entity that’s separate from the content I would actually post or read. For example, Facebook at one point made a distinction between sidebar ads and sponsored / promoted / suggested content. Suggested content appears in your news feed, like organic content. Ads don’t appear there.
But on Twitter, everything’s a Promoted Tweet. And this is taken really seriously; one of the requirements to set up a campaign is to, in a separate step, hit a button to tweet whatever you’ll eventually include in the campaign.
You do have the option to tweet it in such a way that no followers will see it. But in that case, why call it a tweet at all?
It would be much more helpful to have an inventory of “ads”, which are things that I can insert in other people’s timelines without going through the motions of publishing them in my own, and then to have a separate inventory of “tweets”, which are my organic tweets that I can choose to promote.
Then there are the bugs. So many of them.
And little things like, why isn’t creating a campaign a single-click action from anywhere in the product?
Why is the Create New Campaign button the wrong size?
And so on. Sure, my criticisms here are confined to criticisms of Twitter’s ad platform. But a lot of these seem like basic problems. If Twitter isn’t paying attention here, what does this mean about their prospects?