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Twitter Takes On Its Most Difficult Challenge Again: Explaining Itself

July 25, 2016, 10:53 PM UTC
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People are seen as silhouettes as they check mobile devices whilst standing against an illuminated wall bearing Twitter Inc.'s logo in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Twitter Inc. may be preparing to raise its character limit for tweets to the thousands from the current 140, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Chris Ratcliffe—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Twitter’s new chief marketing officer is taking on her biggest challenge to date: Explaining the 10-year-old service to, well, much of the world.

On Monday, Leslie Berland, who took over the job in January after several years at American Express, unveiled Twitter’s newest effort to demystify itself—something it has struggled with for years. While 90% of people Twitter surveyed globally recognize its brand, not all of them use it. That’s mostly because they don’t understand its purpose, or think they’re supposed to tweet every day.

“We realized we had some explaining and clarifying to do!” Berland writes in a blog post about the new campaign.

Indeed, Twitter, you’ve got some ‘splaining to do about your service.

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The company’s main service has unquestionably left a big mark on modern communications, going as far as helping to rally support for large political movements like the Arab Spring in 2010 and 2011. But while celebrities, journalists, and marketers quickly grasped the value of Twitter as both a social network and a source for distributing and consuming information, much of the world hasn’t.

Case in point: Twitter’s struggles to continue adding new active users.

For several quarters, Twitter’s user growth has been too slow for Wall Street’s liking. The company hit a massive wall during last year’s fourth quarter, when it added no new monthly active users. This was Twitter’s first flat quarter since its initial public offering in 2013. Despite its ability to grow revenue, it’s consistently been compared to fellow social media company Facebook, whose user and revenue growth has been seemingly unstoppable.

Twitter has tried to attack the problem from a variety of angles, such as experiments showing especially interesting tweets on its homepage to visitors who are not signed in as way to get them use the service. In October, it also rolled out “Moments,” a new section for highlighting tweets and topics that are trending at any given moment. At the time, Twitter told tech news site The Verge that its goal was to appeal to various types of users—sports fans and celebrity fans, for example—by hooking them through their interests, rather than to the service itself.

Moments and its television commercial didn’t turn out to be the blockbuster success Twitter hoped for.

Now, Twitter is back to trying to explain itself, again. The company released two short videos as part of its new marketing push, one about Twitter’s service in general, and one showing how helpful it can be for following politics—quite timely given the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week. It plans to more promotions as part of the campaign.

This is certainly one of Twitter’s biggest challenges to date.

The company plans to unveil second quarter results on Tuesday.