The first time I tried to quit Twitter was in late summer 2016, in the post-convention, pre-debate stretch of the surprisingly close presidential election. I was frantically refreshing my feed, looking for updates on a developing news story and I was bumping into other people at the gym.
Needless to say, I lacked the willpower to stop checking Twitter dozens of times a day cold turkey. I tried again after the election, the inauguration, and the Super Bowl. Each time, the result was the same.
I’ve given up, and with some moderation, I might be better for it. For all the bashing of Twitter on the web — and there’s a lot of it, from well-deserved criticism that it’s failed to exert control over its most extreme users to nitpicking about upgrades — Twitter is an essential platform for people like me: news junkies, journalists, and people who can’t stand to be out of the loop.
The elephant in the room is Twitter’s bottom line, which has been a disappointment since the day it went public. Its Q4 2016 earnings badly missed analysts’ expectations. It rebounded a bit in Q1 this year — a Trump bump making Twitter great again? — with the number of active users surpassing predictions by an eye-opening 7 million. Revenue was better than expected, but still in decline. CEO Jack Dorsey credited timeline improvements and better machine learning for the surge.
Some of the users are also a big part of the problem. Here are three requests for Dorsey’s to-do list: get rid of the Nazis, the trolls, and the hate speech.
A platform that thrives on free speech doesn’t have to tolerate harassment campaigns, and it should step up its efforts to ban users who see it as a means to harass others. If Twitter makes it easier to report abuse, it’ll reap the rewards.
Wall Street may not see the difference, but Twitter is not Facebook. It’s not a mass-market platform that’s morphed into a cross between a yearbook and an ever-more-video-centric news feed.
It’s likely it’ll never see the user or revenue growth the markets want — and it might never be considered cool again. However, it is an effective platform for reaching highly engaged and influential users — as long as it gives those people a reason to stay.
Frank Washkuch is news editor at PRWeek. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.