If you’re familiar with the dilemma about whether art imitates life, or life art, you’ll probably agree that it’s rather a fitting analogy for the world of social media these days. With each platform becoming increasingly competitive in order to retain users and advertisers, it’s become a case of cyclical imitation that makes it hard to keep up with who thought of what first.
While imitation hasn’t always worked for Twitter, as was evident in the outrage caused by the announcement of a non-chronological feed and possible character change
earlier this year, the company is still persevering with ways to tackle its main competitor: Facebook.
We’ve heard countless stories over the course of the year, about how Twitter is failing to retain its user base
due to a lack of identity, features, and failure to sufficiently deal with the levels of harassment and hate speech being spread across the platform. We’ve also heard about their struggle to compete with the increasing dominance of Facebook (and Instagram), in the paid advertising market, which has seen Twitter’s own performance screech to a grinding halt. Combine this with the repeated loss of top-level employees
, and it’s safe to say that this year has been anything but stable.
While the platform’s main competitor has seen its fair share of problems this year, between the controversy surrounding fake news and the revelations regarding miscalculated metrics, there has been one key area in which Facebook has managed to thrive during 2016: Live Video. Since launching the capability for users to share real-time updates from their phone cameras, the feature has proven to be a hit with audiences and content-creators alike, taking the platform’s capabilities beyond that of a simple status update or image share.
For the average user, this provides the ability to share important moments with your friends and family as and when they happen, in a more instantaneous and impactful way than it is possible to achieve with traditional methods of posting. For brands, Facebook Live has provided a platform which combines, ‘behind the scenes’ exclusivity with the appeal of video content, to create an experience which has value for the viewer, as well as the ability to generate engagement and instant feedback for the creator.
This feature, of course, is far from being an original idea, which is something of a theme when it comes to the company’s developments. Facebook-owned platform Instagram almost directly copied Snapchat
’s famous ‘story’ feature this year, integrating it into their app for an enhanced range of capabilities. Let’s not also forget Facebook’s move to integrate ‘trends' back in 2014
, which until then had been a distinct characteristic of Twitter as a social sharing platform.
Regardless of who thought of what first, the importance of these developments is not their level of originality, but the move towards a one-stop, all-encompassing social sharing platform. This is exactly what Twitter seems to be aiming for by integrating Periscope into the existing Twitter app, making it easy for users to share live videos from a single platform. We’ve heard about the impact of video content endlessly throughout 2016, and it’s no secret that Twitter has been lagging behind its social counterparts when it comes to delivering these capabilities for users. While it may have been a case of too little too late when it comes to Vine
(which will now exist as Vine Camera), the move may manage to bolster Twitter’s ability to engage users in 2017.
To what extent this will help Twitter compete with the likes of Facebook isn’t exactly clear, particularly as the latter’s own live video service remains in the very early stages itself. What is clear, however, is that Twitter has to create a more inclusive experience for users and marketers if it wants to put itself on a level playing field with other social sharing apps. While Twitter’s biggest struggle has always been the dilemma between adding new features, and retaining its loyal users who were attracted to Twitter for the very reason that it wasn’t like other platforms, there’s no doubt that the platform has to diversify if it wants to keep up with the growing prominence of video content throughout social media.
Twitter’s choice to integrate video may not be the answer to all their problems, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to throw their name into the list of platforms offering this service. For those who already use Twitter, be it for recreational or commercial purposes, they now have one less reason to go elsewhere if they want to experiment with this feature. If Twitter could manage to grow its user base and brand appeal, that would be a huge achievement for the platform, but if it can manage to retain and engage its current users at the very least, that would certainly be a step in the right direction.