Twitter's $40 to $50 million purchase of TweetDeck, reported by TechCrunch this week, shows the service is protecting its platform, brand, and revenue stream aggressively. What's next for Twitter, and what do these developments mean for the Twitter community?
While the business motivations for acquiring TweetDeck are obvious, the implications of integrating the popular third-party app with Twitter are not. Will TweetDeck's core features remain unchanged? Will any of TweetDeck's interface and display options be integrated into Twitter's own applications? Who knows?
But looking forward, if Twitter proceeds down the road of snatching up developers, tools, and ideas, just which features are most important in ensuring its dominance?
Here are key points Twitter should keep in mind if it wants Twitter to become as ubiquitous as the next Microsoft Office, and not the next Internet Explorer.
1. Social Media Integration
Let's face it, the demands of juggling so much social media are already out of control, and the situation is only getting worse. Thankfully, TweetDeck already handles cross-client management over FaceBook, MySpace, FourSquare, LinkedIn and other services. Yes, Twitter, we get it--those are rival services, and chances are you'll strip out functionality with competing sites. But if you're smart, you'll allow for easy, cross-platform social media management. For many social media power users, TweetDeck was as close to a killer app as possible, a one-stop shop for all social media management. So you should do users and yourself a favor and keep these functions.
2. No Fuss, No Muss
The Twitter core app is functional, pretty, and great for following your friends and seeing what topics are trending. That's all well and good. What is it not good at? It's not good at organizing large amounts of feeds. It's not good at giving a clear and concise time-based overview of who sent what when. It can be almost impossible to follow a chat thread over multiple tweeters and retweets. The solution? Well, again, thankfully TweetDeck is already great at power organization.
3. Options, Options, Options
Perhaps the most important feature for any power or professional user of any service is having options. Everyone has different preferences for layout, design, timing and sending messages, and for organizing their social media. The third-party app wars are really all about finding the app that most closely aligns with the options that most appeal to the user. Ultimately, however, the ideal solution is to integrate those options and let the user decide.
So am I saying that Twitter should basically just repackage itself and turn its entire interface into TweetDeck? Maybe (I mean, of course not!). Am I saying Twitter should just take every good idea from TweetDeck, Tweetie, and any other app they absorb, and plug those ideas straight into the main Twitter client? Yes! They've already got the tools and the developers onboard to make Twitter more fun, functional, and easy to use.
As for what's next for Twitter? Well, we can always hope for a merger with chief rival UberMedia, with its already robust line of Twitter-based apps (and which bought TweetDeck in December)--but that isn't going to happen. In the meantime, there are other folks that Twitter should keep its eye on, such as:
HootSuite: This addresses the cross-platform social media integration angle. HootSuite is an up-and-comer in the Twitter app community, and offers a fairly robust set of tracking tools as well.
Klout: Speaking of tracking, Klout is all about tracking statistics across the social media world. With unique metrics such as True Reach, Network Score, and Amplification Probability, Klout is an invaluable tool for getting hard, usable data from Twitter and Facebook.
Dan Scharff is a part-time writer, part-time linguist, and full-time PC geek. A nerd for all seasons, when not finding new and exciting ways to tweak his PC, he can be found on blogs and forums everywhere, obsessing over the NBA, the NFL, high fantasy novels, and video games.