While its counterparts (FB, Instagram etc) have been able to ride the growth waves to the fullest, the ride for Twitter hasn’t been exactly a breeze.
As visible from the image above, Twitter’s Net New Active User Growth (New Active Users – Lost Users) was “-One Million MAUs”. Amidst, the fake account cleaning activity underway, the company expects this -ve growth trend in MAU to continue and the MAUs to drop further by ‘mid-single-digit millions’ in the next quarter.
While the MAU growth has been rather Flatish, the DAUs and Revenue numbers show some signs of growth
For now Twitter claims to be prioritising ‘Health’ over ‘Growth’ by undergoing a massive cleanup (Apparently, the company’s health problem also costed them an acquisition offer from Disney).
However, in middle of all this Jack Dorsey announced last week a new functionality, the ability to change the user feed aka timeline.
A lot of Power users felt a collective sigh of relief. A few features have been on the wish list of a lot of users namely
Abuse control (Stopping accounts that spread hate/harass others, bots)
Ability to Edit a Tweet
Reverse Chronological Timeline (Raw user feed)
Not sure about others, but I found this update rather interesting. Though I initially (and to some extent later) felt how the Twitter timeline experience had sorta deteriorated, but it never bothered me that much.
In fact, I think for most people the value Twitter provides in terms of ‘staying in the know’ (along with one’s network) is much more than any bad changes to timeline.
A quick look at Twitter’s Timeline/User feed
Starting 2015 (Jack’s Return), Twitter started making changes to the user timeline to offer a better experience (and better monetisation?). Prior to this the timeline was simply in reverse chronological order.
‘Ranked Tweets’ are tweets recommended for each user by Twitter’s algo on the basis of
Apart from ‘Ranked Tweets’ and ‘In Case You Missed It’, Twitter also started ‘Seeding Tweets by accounts they don’t follow’ into users timeline
While this last move definitely annoyed a lot of users from both timeline intrusive and also their own privacy POV, it apparently worked wonderfully well for Twitter.
As for me, I was finding more interesting tweets and new people to follow due to the ‘A, B and C liked this’ feature. I remember stumbling upon new content and users regularly and thus ended up interacting with that content and also following up more people.
It’s been a week since I reverted back to original timeline, while there is no meaningful difference in the quality of my timeline, the discoverability of new content/people have definitely gone down. I don’t remember starting to follow anyone in the last week or so.
Twitter for as long as I can remember has had a concentration of power users.
As Felix Salmon writes in Wired, “Twitter is becoming increasingly concentrated on a tiny core of power users. It’s less and less a distributed mode of many-to-many communication, and more and more a broadcasting hub for the elite—a highly unequal place where their least-considered, Ambien-addled opinions get amplified to a global audience of millions.”
Power users are at core of every product and one must count them lucky to have lots of them, however defining your product roadmap on the basis of what power users want isn’t necessarily the best thing. Given the tricky spot in which Twitter finds itself in (chasing profits via monetising eyeballs and keeping power users happy) they have to make changes to the product that makes their revenue targets met without compromising the user experience much and without bloating the product with hundreds of settings.
PS: Snapchat is another example of challenges a company faces on being the other side of Power User dynamics.
It’s been a long time since I scribbled something here but hopefully things will be better in the coming few days.
Anyways, here’s an excerpt from my email interview with YourStory.in, hope you like it
When was the last time you went to the neighbourhood book store? The chances are, you can’t recollect readily. Gone are the days when buying books involved a visit to the trusty book store round the corner. Online book stores, with a practically unlimited collection and simple search mechanisms, have sprouted by the dozen and the good bit is, all of them are seeing patronage. We at YourStory recently caught up with entrepreneur Mayank Dhingra, the co-founder of Dial-a-Book, who promises to make book buying even simpler. In this exclusive chat with YourStory, he speaks about his startup and how he intends to create a community of book-lovers.
If someone asked you to tell them about Dial-a-Book in about three sentences, what would you say?
Started with the aim of simplifying the process of buying books, Dial-a-Book is India’s first service that lets you order all kinds of books and novels over the phone. We offer free home delivery across India and accept payment by cash upon delivery.
How is Dial-a-Book different from other online bookstore models?
While online bookstores let you order books only on their site, Dial-a-Book allows you to order books over phone, SMS, email, and even Twitter or Facebook. You can even order the books that are not listed in our database but are otherwise available. We accept cash upon delivery and have our own delivery team for the Delhi/NCR region. And most importantly, we just don’t sell books. We are working towards building a community of avid book lovers.
How did the business idea for Dial-a-Book come about?
I have been an avid reader since my college days. I had always thought of doing something with books at some point of time. The advent of the online bookstore concept in India intrigued me and I spent some time observing various online bookstores, their way of working and other variables. I also used to observe how people shop for other things like medicines, groceries, food etc. It was during this time that I realized that the process of buying books can be further simplified and made more user-friendly, just like ordering burgers or pizzas. And hence, Dial-a-Book was born
Tell us about your background.
I did my Electronics & Communications engineering from Delhi College of Engineering (2005 batch). Towards the end of my college stint, I started toying with the idea of staring my own business. I joined Fidelity Investments as a campus recruit and worked there for one and a half years, building software for internal use.
From Fidelity, I joined Slideshare where I worked on various features of the website and some back-end technologies. In Slideshare, two friends of mine and I started an online platform called Kwippy. Kwippy started as a status message aggregator and got a lot of traction in both Indian and international online media.
After working at Slideshare for a year, I left the organization and joined MPower Mobile. I worked there for a year and quit to start something of my own. That’s when Dial-a-Book happened.
Let us know about the tie-ups that you have. Is there acceptance for your concept?
We’ve tied up with most local distributors based out of Delhi along with a few small to medium-sized publishers and we regularly procure books from them. We did a trial run before starting the service and based on the feedback, we decided to venture into the business. We’ve sold books in almost all of the 27 cities where we have Cash on Delivery (COD) and a few other places as well. A lot of our customers regularly buy their books from us and many of them recommend us to their friends and family.
Where do you see online book buying and Dial-a-Book five years from now?
Five years from now, a significant percentage of books sold in India will be sold online and over the phone. In five years, we see ourselves as the number one player in the ‘over the phone’ category and amongst the top 5 in the online space. Currently, there are a number of guys vying for a piece of the pie(online). But my view is that the next few years will see a lot of consolidation in this space and the market will have just a handful of players who will do a majority of the business.
In the next five years, Dial-a-Book will tie-up with more publishers, expand to other cities, explore other/faster modes of delivery, work more closely with authors and build a passionate community of book lovers. We have a lot of interesting ideas for the business which we’ll put to test soon.
Most people start their businesses in partnernships/collaboration with some one they know. It could be a family member, friend, relative or just a known too. Trust is the first thing that people look for before getting into a venture with other things being what the other person brings to the table; money, connections, skill set etc. It’s commonplace to find businesses being run in a fashion where one or more partners put the money(or maybe contacts) and other(s) put skills and effort(or maybe contacts).
Due to inherent nature of the factors in place(time, effort etc), things get a bit difficult at times as contributions start to vary from what they were initially agreed upon. For example: If two people start a business with one person putting the funds and infrastructure and the other bringing in clients and contacts needed to get the job done. Now in this case it’s easy to quantify the funds spent on infrastructure and other activities but it’s a bit difficult to quantify other inputs like efforts, time spent etc. What further makes the puzzle difficult is when both partners feel they are doing their share of the job as initally agreed upon.
A situation like this can easy reach a deadlock with both parties proclaiming to be doing their bit of the business. What further makes matter worse is if both the partners have agreed upon equal share in the profits. The matter gets really complex if say the guy who was supposed to get business and contacts with his effort isn’t doing his part efficiently but believes he is doing it right and thus deserves and equal share in the profit(which they make due to the efforts of the other partner who was just supposed to put funds for infrastruce etc) as mutually agreed upon initially.
Human Ego is another factor in play in situations like these as even though a person might know that he isn’t putting in the required effort in the job but his ego will prevent him from accepting it and agreeing to get an unequal share in the profits. I’ve had a few direct and indirect experiences in this regard which have forced me to think of a way to reduce the possibility of such situations.
A couple possible solutions that I could think of are
1) To partner with someone who is as equal as you are
If both partners are equal in most respects like finances, contacts etc then I think the scope of running into situations where one feels the other isn’t doing enough is reduced. By quantifying one’s contribution in terms of money, contacts or other resources, the factors which could cause confusion/dissatisfaction are reduced. Also, I feel with equal partners it’s a bit easy to find out and accept if one isn’t doing his bit properly
So it’s a good idea to find out in the start what the other person is bringing to the table and ensure that it’s not too high or too low for your contribution.
2) Decide on a profit sharing model based on one’s contribution:
In case of partners with unequal inputs, it’s a good idea to decide on different profit sharing models based on situations with varying contributions. For ex:
a) For every deal where person X does this and this and person Y does this, X gets 66% of the profit and Y gets 33%
b) For every deal where person X does this and person Y does this and this, Y gets 66% of the profit and X gets 33%.
c) For every deal where person X does this and this and this and Person Y doesn’t do anything, X gets all the profit and vice-e-versa.
I feel predeciding things like revenue/profit sharing in various situations where there’s a possibility of unequal contributions will serve as a base and reduce the number of potential conflicts.