Twitter, as we’ve noted before, is a company in search of a business plan and to a lesser extent an identity. But the company is making strides on both fronts with new changes, including a revamped home page for Twitter.com, better search tools and possibly the rollout of brand pages for companies. The company is clearly trying to attract and engage more users by making it easy for them to get something out of the service, while also forging better ties with advertisers and companies who want access to them.
The most obvious change happened today with a new Twitter.com home page. While the home page previously offered a glimpse of top tweets and some notable users, the new page makes it clear what Twitter is about, at least to many mainstream users. “Follow your interests,” it proclaims, urging people to get, “instant updates from your friends, industry experts, celebrities and what’s happening around the world.” Previously, the home page beckoned new users with the promise: “The best way to discover what’s new in your world.” The new home page also features a ribbon of prominent users along the bottom.
The changes may seem superficial, but they fit into a larger push by Twitter to appeal to mainstream users, who are more consumers of information. By pushing them to follow their interests, it helps users get into the Twitter ecosystem and educates them on the process of getting up to speed, something Twitter executives have talked about the need for. In the same vein, Twitter on Monday also unveiled new search tools that make it easier for people to find who to follow based on their interests. Now when users enter in a search term, they don’t just get back users who have that term in their names — they get pointed towards relevant accounts that match what people might be looking for (Twitter is also offering an advanced search page for more in-depth searches).
This not only underscores Twitter’s identity as a place to consume information about specific topics, but could help the company appeal to advertisers, who want to target users based on those interests. Unfortunately for Twitter, the latest changes also seemed to cause some glitches for users, which caused company to disable the new Twitter for a time on Tuesday.
Twitter is also reportedly looking at appealing more to business by offering brand pages, similar to what Facebook does with Facebook Pages. The service already has profile pages for companies like Coca Cola and others, but according to a report by Sarah Shearman of BrandRepublic, Twitter is looking to offer more expansive brand pages that allow for more communication with users. Twitter said it didn’t have news to announce in that area but ReadWriteWeb talked to a few brand executives who say the move makes sense, and Twitter investor John Borthwick of Betaworks called it “smart and necessary.”
Twitter has some basic monetization tools in its promoted accounts, tweets and trends — and this week expanded access to its data firehose through a partnership with Datasift. But the company has also gotten flak for its hamfisted Quick Bar feature on the latest iOS app, which was later pulled. That episode highlighted the perils for Twitter as it looks to build a business model out of its business while still holding on to its central appeal with users, who see the service as utility and a information platform. And it has run into criticism about its moves to control the Twitter ecosystem including its warning to developers not to create new Twitter clients.
With Twitter founder Jack Dorsey back in the mix as chairman, providing a counterweight to CEO Dick Costello’s more business-minded emphasis, we may see some more thoughtful moves by Twitter as it looks to balance its core mission with the increasing need to make money. Indeed, many of these latest changes seem more modest in scope and less likely to prompt criticism from users and developers. But this is an ongoing process for Twitter, so expect to see a lot more moves as the company firms up its business plans and its identity.