Twitter allows people to share something of interest — provided it is 140 characters or less — to a global audience. Because of this reach and simplicity, the service is growing like a weed and it is now the fourth most popular online property, according to Quantcast. Twitter is also an invaluable professional tool and keeps you up to date on what everyone in media and advertising is thinking — whether it’s Irwin Gotlieb at GroupM, Bob Lord at Razorfish, or Bill Koenigsberg at Horizon Media.
But despite its growth, Twitter is still not perfect. In fact, there are at least four usability issues that are threatening to diminish the service. They include:
Spam. When I first joined Twitter, my account was immediately followed by people I had never heard of before. On Twitter this is not unusual because you can remain anonymous and represent yourself with any handle you would like. But I couldn’t help but notice that some of the people following me were depicted as younger women with attractive profile pictures and strange user names. Something about this didn’t seem right.
Sure enough, a month later when I tweeted a message about a new Apple product that I wanted to buy, I was sent messages from these new followers on how I could get a great deal on other Apple products. When I dug a little deeper, I learned that these profiles were also recommending things like Nokia phones and Adidas shoes to people. It became obvious that there was an affiliate marketer at work behind these profiles, getting paid to hawk someone else’s products.
This unwelcome spam is unfortunate because it cheapens the Twitter user experience. Also, I doubt that marketers at Apple, Nokia and Adidas would be pleased to learn that their brands are being used in this way. If brand marketers matter to Twitter, then the company should clean this up ASAP.
Solution: Twitter needs to root out and eliminate these offending users from their platform.
Hackers. In recent months I’ve seen two industry friends have their Twitter accounts hacked. In one case, the hacked account repeatedly sent the same message endlessly over a two-day period promoting a coupon offer. The other hacked account resulted in a direct message promoting a random product that was sent to every one of the user’s followers.
Solution: Twitter needs to implement a more rigorous user password protocol. This one is so simple it should have been done years ago.
Volume. Because I work in the industry, I like to follow media companies and what they have to say. The only problem is that sometimes these organizations go overboard and tweet constantly, overwhelming my Twitter feed with their posts. Last week a major media company tweeted more than 40 times in two hours!
Solution: Twitter should allow users to set the number of times that someone can post into your feed during a defined period. Also, marketers need to employ some common sense.
Search. I’ve been on Twitter for nearly six months and I still find it difficult to find people I know on the service. For example, a search for “Nick Johnson” results in more than 50 results. Unless Nick is using a picture of himself and/or Nick has written a profile description that is relevant as to how I might know him it can be difficult to find him. Often, I skim through all of the results and click on profiles to see if the tweets are consistent with the person I might know.
Solution: Twitter should collect more structured information about people, even if it is optional. Being able to search for users by where they work or their industry would be invaluable.
Overall, Twitter is a great service that helps connect our industry. In combination with iPad applications likes Flipboard, Twitter provides a curated content experience that can rival magazines. But it needs to address these four issues to become a more perfect platform.