Read the room, Twitter
You have to give Twitter credit.
When it became clear that their Fleets feature wasn’t working they didn’t spend months or years chasing their tail and tweaking things in an effort to fix something that just wasn’t happening.
Nope, they just shut it down. Just eight months after launching Fleets, the company announced yesterday that it would be retiring the feature and going back to the boardroom to figure out how to address what it is that they thought Fleets would address.
Reaction to the move was mostly muted. The stock (NYSE: TWTR) was down slightly on the day from $72.00 USD to $70.27, but it remains mostly flat on the month.
Before we get into what happened, a quick review on what Fleets were in case you, like most users, were mostly unaware of them.
They were Instagram Stories, basically. The idea was pretty much straight up taken from Instagram. They weren’t very original at all.
They also weren’t that easy to find. You could only easily access Fleets via a status bar that appeared on the top of your mobile interface. The things were basically invisible to Web users of Twitter.
Those two factors lead to a very slow acceptance of Fleets by Twitter users. If you wanted a short lasting post that was highly visual in its make up why would you do it in the space that was coping the original, successful version of that? Most brands thought that. They just kept creating Instagram Stories and, if Twitter was lucky, they’d repeat the same content on Fleets. There was no value add for an end user that probably had already seen the same content on Instagram.
Twitter also found that the feature wasn’t attracting new users to join the conversation, which is the biggest reason they launched Fleets. Twitter has a lot of lurkers — members that do not actively post, but rather just read the platform. They thought that the reason for that was because those users were “shy” and that by offering a feature that would have their content disappear after 24-hours that more of them would join the conversation.
They didn’t. It turns out that the only people that Fleeted were users that also Tweeted.
Twitter thought that by stealing a competitor’s successful idea — and, as mentioned, stealing Stories is the only way to describe this — they could fix their engagement issue. What they needed to do was actually listen to the users that aren’t posting and address the concerns that cause people to stay away from the platform.
Those issues aren’t hard to determine. Twitter just doesn’t want to hear them. Namely, they have to address the perceived toxicity and hyper-political nature of the space. That’s what’s intimidating to people, not whether their Tweets will remain up after 24-hours.
People don’t Tweet for the same reason they didn’t put their hand up in class back in High School. They don’t think they will be heard over the loudmouth in the front row who won’t shut up.
The problem for Twitter is that those loudmouths are the bread and butter of the platform. If you go too far to reduce their noise then you might drive them away. Then what?
So maybe Twitter’s fleeting attempt at attracting the introverts should just fade away like the Fleets were designed to do.