If you're on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) for any amount of time, you have to realize the balance of power is quite uneven. Immediately upon signing up and selecting a few interests, you are given a host of suggested accounts that Twitter recommends you follow. If you're expecting any of these recommended accounts to return the favor, or ever interact with you, or even see your tweets, then you're sadly mistaken.
Instead, the service acts like a cruel high-school cafeteria reminiscent of Mean Girls, where these power users converse only among themselves, and use the service only for one-way distribution with the hoi polloi, picking and choosing who they communicate with on the basis of user counts (a proxy for popularity).
As compared with Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), a service that establishes relationships based on off-line relationships amid a two-way connection mechanism, Twitter has a much higher abandonment rate, as non-VIP users find it hard to acquire a significant number of followers. The end result is that Twitter continues to be unable to fully monetize the value it provides to these celebrities, newsmakers, and business leaders, with these users providing little value in return, and stubborn user counts that advertisers care about dearly.
And now, according to a new study by JNFE Consulting (via Business Insider), many celebrities are continuing to degrade the user experience by sending users off of the site.
Celebrities are going to Instagram and leaving Twitter behind
According to JFNE analyst Adrianus Wagemakers, and based on data from 137 celebrity accounts with more than 1 million followers, Wagemakers found that cross posting on both Facebook-owned Instagram and Twitter was prevalent -- an issue on its own -- but the celebrities tend to post content on Instagram first, an ominous sign for Twitter, as there's no reason for a follower on both Instagram and Twitter to check both social-media sites.
Not only that, celebrity accounts are growing faster on Instagram, and are posting more than they are on Twitter. All in all, these findings reflect a celebrity populace that's finding more value in posting content on Instagram than on Twitter.
While Twitter is bringing valuable users almost indiscriminately to celebrities, they appear to now be taking value away from the company by using it as a portal to original content posted on Instagram. Simply put, Twitter's unrequited love affair with power users like celebrities is quickly becoming brand destructive, and a shift toward smaller users is needed.
Twitter, you're doing it wrong
For investors and analysts, Twitter's poor stock performance can be summed up in one acronym: MAUs. Twitter's slowing monthly active user figures are what's hurting the stock. Unfortunately, the company continues to go about growing this figure in the wrong way. It would work better to grow new MAUs by improving the experience from the bottom up, not by its current top-down strategy.
First, the company isn't going to improve its MAUs by shoveling users to power users without the bandwidth (or desire) to possibly interact with them. Instead, the company would be better served by recommending users with similar follower counts and interests, who are more apt to interact with each other. Simply put: Encouraging more users to follow Justin Bieber won't improve Twitter's MAU figures.
Speaking of follower counts, they should be de-emphasized
While Twitter's at it, the company should move to de-emphasize -- or allow users to hide -- follower counts, for a host of reasons. First, the number of followers a person has is not representative of the value the user brings to the platform. Many spam accounts have 100 million followers or more, whereas many of the more thought-provoking users I have encountered have less than 5,000 followers.
Furthermore, many power users and newsmakers will only interact with users over a certain follower count, regardless of the value of their tweets, creating a two-tier society, and a poor user experience for the non-power user, which increases the chance that the user will abandon the site. In the end, Twitter can continue to grow, but not if it continues to follow the same path it's taken.
If the company continues to only match new users to power users, the company will continue to underperform in MAU growth. If the company does a better job at stratifying and matching similar users, however, it can grow its MAUs. Twitter could bring value to its onboarding process by recommending a second set of users to follow a week or so after the account is opened, matched on similar follower counts and tweets. If celebrities are going to shift users away from Twitter, then Twitter should start to shift users away from celebrities.
Jamal Carnette has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.