Facebook=Coke, Twitter=Pepsi: If you’re No. 2, do what No. 1 cannot
In “Odyssey” by John Scully, the former president of Pepsi described one of his main strategies when competing with Coca Cola. He turned one of Coke’s major brand elements and turned it against its owner. From 1923 onwards the Coca Cola company used a patented bottle shape to promote Coke. They put a great deal of marketing money behind associating its distinctive shape with Coca Cola.
Pepsi didn’t have a specific alernative bottle shape to promote in opposition to their rival. Instead of spending millions to add a physical packaging design to their brand, they used the flexibility of not having a specific shape to create different kinds of bottles. This flexibility made it much easier for Pepsi to sell bottled cola in locations not previously associated with soft drinks.
Chris Sacca has written an article suggesting what Twitter should do to compete:
Hundreds of millions of new users will join and stay active on Twitter, hundreds of millions of inactive users will return to Twitter, and hundreds of millions more will use Twitter from the outside if Twitter can:
- Make Tweets effortless to enjoy,
- Make it easier for all to participate, and
- Make each of us on Twitter feel heard and valuable.
Accomplishing this isn’t hard and there are obvious, concrete steps to fix it all. Done right, countless users new and old will find Twitter indispensable, use Twitter more, see great ads, buy lots of stuff, and make the company much more money along the way.
There are many interesting ideas in his post. Many of them are ways of using ideas from Facebook without becoming too much like Facebook: including providing views of the feed that aren’t in strict chronological order, and breaking up Twitter into multiple apps.
While Twitter is considering which of its baseline features to change, they should also think of doing new things that Facebook cannot.
You are not your social media
The base assumption of all social media networks is one person = one account. When you sign up for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Amazon, you create an account that represents your relationship with the social currency that the network manages: updates, pictures, videos and purchases.
Now that Apple want to make corporate attitude to privacy a major martket differentiator, I think Twitter could make it appealing for people to participate if they helped users be more than one person on the internet.
At the moment professional Twitter users know how to use tools like TweetDeck to maintain multiple Twitter accounts. Most TweetDeck users are maintaining accounts for different clients or departments.
I think Twitter should encourage people to have more than one Twitter identity. Each Twitter identity would be associated with the different lives people live:
- Professional life (one for each area of expertise) – your place in a wider industry
- Work life – what you are working on at the moment
- Alumnus life (one for each instutution – be it educational or workplace)
- Acquaintances life
- Friends life
- Family life
- Personal life
The results of who you follow, who follows you, what interests you have, the tweets you write depend on whether which of these lives you are living.
The privacy promise that Twitter could offer is to never associate one identity with any of the others. If your family life identity searches for presents for a niece, there’s no need for your professional life identity to be connected to those searches. Also your friends won’t be interested in your professional opinion on an important industry issue. Also organisations who want to communicate with one identity will not be given access to any of its associated identities.
Twitter users will feel safer contributing to Twitter because it more accurately represents the way their different lives intersect with the world. Twitter could then talk about how many millions of identities access Twitter content each day.
Twitter would gain benefit from knowing what state a person is when using their service. Other apps and protocols would also be able to configure themselves depending on which Twitter identity is current. Amazon – or an upstart competitor to Amazon – should look different to me depending on whether I’m searching for professional, family or personal reasons. Wherever there is a ‘Tweet this’ button, there should be a UI to switch Twitter identities.
This would be very hard to explain to prospective users and hard to design, but the effort might be worth the reward.
Facebook’s “one account per person” is their ‘distinctive Coca Cola bottle shape.’ I hope Twitter turns this restriction against them helps people maintain a distance between their true selves and the ones they maintain on the internet.