The biggest news in social media this month had less to do with social shares than it did with stock shares. Twitter, the perennially beleaguered Lewis Skolnik to Facebook’s BMOC Stan Gable, finally made a profit.
Twitter has always been something of an enigma. Everybody seems to have an account, but nobody seems to tweet. Ironically, Twitter has always had more in common with good-fashioned media like newspaper than it does with its new media brethren. Many of us have a Twitter account simply to catch up on the news, not to report the news ourselves.
And that may have been Twitter’s biggest shortfall – it’s old media dressed like new media.
Oh sure you can tweet, but who really pays attention? Mostly, we check in to see what our favorite celebrities are wearing, who our local sports teams are playing or what our loudmouthed politicians are shouting.
In fact, even as political scientists study President Trump’s every word with googly-eyed amazement, his fondness for Twitter’s open-mic environment probably saved the company from being being acquired by some horrifically under-qualified suitor like salesforce.com (“Hey, we know even less about social media than Microsoft – let’s buy Twitter!”).
The president has become something like Twitter’s mascot, and business is booming because of it.
I wonder what will happen in the long run, though. Can the least social of the social media really survive without its controversial firestorms? Twitter’s management tries to pretend that they are putting these wildfires out even as they surreptitiously egg on the flames like (spoiler alert!) Scott Glenn in that boring movie with Kurt Russell and Alex Baldwin’s less-interesting little brother.
If Trump decides to adopt a quiet, thoughtful persona, would users start swiping elsewhere?
Twitter probably has a few years of buzz to look forward to before it has to figure that out. Let’s hope that it spends that time more productively than it did the first decade of its life.