Twitter… What Are You Thinking?
The big announcement surprised some, angered others, and led many to conclude that the little bird isn’t bringing in enough cash.
The news: Twitter share counts will no longer appear alongside Tweet buttons AND third-party direct access to tweet share stats will be curtailed.
Update: Our team worked hard and were able to bring back Twitter share counts in version 1.4.1 of Social Warfare!
Off the cuff, that may not sound like an earthshaking development – but the potential ramifications are huge. It could even signal the beginning of the end for social media metrics as we know them or it may signal a giant step towards a paywall-anchored internet.
Let’s take a look at what we know, what we can surmise, and what this change could mean to your business.Twitter share counts will no longer appear alongside Tweet buttons. Is this for real?!!Click To Tweet
So what IS Twitter thinking?
Greed? Corporate jealousy? Power mongering?
Or could it be that Twitter – a social media mainstay – is leading us towards better ways to assess social effectiveness?
It would be easy to run wild with speculation. Rather than do that, though, the Social Warfare team asked a bevy of online influencers for help understanding the situation.
If you care about the future of the internet – and especially if you do business online – don’t leave without reading, bookmarking, and sharing this article.
It’s that important.15 Social media power influencers speculate why Twitter is cancelling share countsClick To Tweet
Reasons why YOU should care about this issue
The impact Twitter’s decision (and its unavoidable consequences) will have on you and your business depends on how you function online.
Here are a few of the most likely situations and outcomes:
- If you’re a blogger, your Tweet button won’t show visitors how many times your latest post (or any post) has been shared – Could lead to fewer shares and less interaction?
- If you’re an online pro who gets paid big bucks for helping promote brands, you’ll lose a primary way of showing advertisers how popular you are with the online masses – Social Proof. That could put a dent in your bank account
- If you’re a third-party app developer, you may be in deep waters – without access to Tweet share counts, your app may lose a critical part of its functionality, and you may lose subscribers
Insight from the front lines
The Social Warfare team realized Twitter’s announcement foreshadowed the coming of something considerably more significant than a Tweet button design change.
After pondering the situation, we sent out a heads-up announcement to our subscribers – then we polled online influencers to see what insight they could bring to the discussion.
Our query focused on three things:
- Why would Twitter do this?
- How do you feel about the move?
- What impact will this have on social media and social proof?
Following is a synopsis of the responses we’ve received thus far. We’ll also consider the (unofficial) logic provided by a Twitter insider.
Afterwards, we’ll put those same three questions to YOU.If Twitter cancels share counts, will it impact social proof? Click To Tweet
Why would Twitter do this?
Speculations about motive ranged widely. Some were unique. Most pointed to an end game related to the primary motivation behind most business decisions – how to make more money.
Responses fell into these six fairly well-defined categories:
- Twitter wants to generate more revenue!
- Twitter wants to cut expenses by no longer playing (free) host to share count queries.
- Twitter hates that Facebook share counts generally make Twitter share counts seem paltry. Removing share counts may prompt other social platforms to do the same.
- Twitter knows the future of computing is predominantly mobile and wearable devices – where there’s not much room for share count displays
- The move makes no business sense whatsoever. Twitter is “throwing away dollars to make pennies.”
- Twitter wants to force users to login to Twitter.com, rather than use third-party apps as the primary access point. That will give Twitter more marketing capability. They can sell more ads and get more commissions.
You may recall that it was about two years ago that Twitter, Inc. became a publicly traded company. Share value moved from a $69 USD high in January of 2014 to a current close of $25.76 – and has been sinking steadily since last spring.
(Source: Google Finance on September 29, 2015 after close of trading)
That scenario adds real credence to the “desperate attempt to earn more money” theory. And while we can’t provide an OFFICIAL explanation for the move, here’s what we were told by a source inside Twitter:
- The Tweet counts alone did not accurately reflect the impact on Twitter of conversation about the content. They are often more misleading to customers than helpful.
- This was an undocumented, unsupported private API to this data. With Gnip, we provide a public and documented way to get similar information for developers and product companies.
- Ultimately, we encourage developers and product companies to demonstrate richer information about the audience impact of content shares on Twitter: including the influence, authority, and distribution shares give to content on our platform.
How do you feel about the move?
Remember: This is just the beginning of the discussion. Your input is valuable. We want to know what you think.
To get the discussion started, though, here’s how the responses we’ve received to date pan out.
- It’s a shame
- I hate it
- It’s a bummer and a bunch of B.S.
- I’m disappointed
- I doubt they’ll follow through and really do it
- I really don’t care
- I’m horrified
- I’m not surprised
- Maybe there’s a bright side!
All told, the general consensus was that the initial jolt won’t last more than a few months. Just as the SEO world found ways to deal with grossly diminished reporting of search data for analytics, the social media community will develop workarounds to meet the challenge.
We may need to pass through a period of ‘flying blind,’ but the online world is resilient, creative, and determined.
Give yourself some applause. You deserve it.
Said my buddy – and copywriter extraordinaire – Demian Farnworth, “Either the backlash will be so big Twitter retracts or someone else comes up with a better way to demonstrate social proof. I actually prefer the latter option.”
Ya gotta love it.
And that brings us to our final query…Here's the initial reaction many had about Twitters announcement to cancel share countsClick To Tweet
What impact will this have on social media and social proof?
This is a tough, tough question. It’s tempting to get out the crystal ball and predict either mayhem or social media nirvana.
And it’s tempting to play the middle of the road and say much without saying anything really. Some of the probabilities seem self-evident and/or unavoidable, and our panel covered the bases well.
Time will give us a better picture of how things will pan out.
Some believe Twitter’s move will make a “huge impact” on the social media world. Some see no reason to panic and are content to wait and see.
Some think we would be wise to get proactive – FAST.
The range of responses stacked up like this:
- Twitter is losing ground and in danger of falling from its privileged position as a social media giant
- Access to “vanity metrics” will be sharply reduced – other social media platforms may follow suit and cut off easy access to their analytics data
- Many social media third-party app developers will be hit hard – some may shut down entirely for lack of affordable access to information
If you get quiet and listen closely. If you sniff the social wind a bit and let the news sink in… you’ll realize something is up.
Something is different.Social media is about to change, and it may be considerably more drastic than just the color of your Tweet buttons.Click To Tweet
What’s the solution?
As a third-party provider of a WordPress social media plugin, Social Warfare is definitely concerned. Our team is working hard to keep Social Warfare reasonably priced and optimally effective.
Twitter’s recommendation (Gnip.com) is cost-prohibitive. Fees aren’t posted on the Gnip site, but developers will need to pony up thousands of dollars each month just to get on board.
By the way (surprise, surprise), Gnip was recently acquired by Twitter.
It is possible to access share counts via the Twitter REST API. This approach, however, requires individual permissions and is considerably more complex and cumbersome than the current, relatively simple, JSON endpoint access.
More likely, Twitter’s move will stir up launches of providers who pay the Gnip fees – then resell the data to others.
Let’s look at the writing on the wall, though: IF Twitter’s desire is to put access to their data behind a paywall – and Gnip is the chosen wall – chances are good we’ll never, ever see easy (read that “low-cost or free”) access to tweet counts again.Is Twitter planning on hiding Tweet data behind a very pricey paywall?Click To Tweet
The mom and pop buffet we’ve grown accustomed to online may be rapidly moving towards an RSVP. You may soon need to pay handsomely for services once easily affordable.
The giants have claimed their spots, they’ve set up shop, and they are ready to start claiming bigger pieces of the financial potential of internet marketing.
How does that idea set with you?
Have you become so internet-dependent that you have no choice but to pay whatever it takes to operate online?
Will the politicians protect you from online extortion?
Can a grassroots movement persuade the big wheels to back off and tread easily?
It’s your turn to talk. Comments are open.
Let’s compare notes.How much are you willing to pay for Twitter share counts and data? It's coming. Get ready...Click To Tweet
Some of my favorite quotes from participants
We’re indebted to our panel members. Even though our call for responses went out without warning – and we needed feedback quickly – they took time to answer. We learn from them daily, and you can too. Click on the names to find out more about the contributors and their work.
“I’ve long believed in Twitter’s potential– but now if they could only take care of the developers, customers, and agencies that need visibility into performance to justify an investment in Twitter, ad-driven or not.” –Dennis Yu
“Twitter is likely to expand functionality in this area where it provides curation of tweets based on most popular content for particular categories.” –Ian Cleary
“I hate anything that makes the web less transparent. While I agree with others that share count data isn’t the only metric that matters, and certainly not the most important, it does serve as at least a relative indicator of content that is resonating with an audience.” –Mark Traphagen
“Tweet counts, while a vanity metric, help authors and readers alike, better understand which content is connecting with readers. Everyone has a favorite plugin/analytics tool, but Tweet counts were a drive-by view of performance.” –Lori Friedrich
“Seems like it’s a done deal to me.” –Peg Fitzpatrick
“From a strategic perspective… this is just another in a long series of moves where Twitter is trying to corral all of their data and force people to use the Twitter-supplied analytics dashboard.” –Jay Baer
Why Twitter is killing tweet counts on all blogs and websites
Posted by Jay Baer on Monday, September 28, 2015
“I commend anyone for testing. But I don’t believe in a social media utopian society where everyone is equal.” –Marcus Sheridan
“This is one way to break me of my love affair for vanity metrics.” –Demian Farnworth
“It simply doesn’t make sense to me on any level… DISLIKE isn’t a strong enough word for how I feel about it.” –Kim Garst
“I feel this is yet another sad tale of Twitter turning their backs on the developers that helped it become great. Of all the social stats to remove access to, Twitter shares should be one of the last.” –Ian Anderson Gray
“It seems like a natural play for monetization… which will make Wall Street happy.” –Brian Fanzo
“[Share counts are] the main metric we use to measure how much traction our content is getting.” –Dan Norris
“Is there a good technical reason for this or is it more ‘We’re Twitter. We can screw developers anytime we want’ B.S.?” –Guy Kawasaki
Have you voiced your view yet?
We’d really love to hear from you and get your perspective on Twitter’s decision to kill tweet counts. You can sound off in the comments below or let us know how you feel on the social network of your choice. You know what to do!
P.S. If you’re not a fan of Twitter’s decision and want your tweet counts to remain, use the hashtag #SaveOurShareCounts and join the other folks petitioning against this change.