business technology

Twitter Authentication/Connect Useless?

I had to do a project using both Facebook and Twitter authentication for single sign-on. While Facebook had some traction, I found that Twitter was barely in use. Perhaps, less than 0.03% of the users used that feature. After reading some forums early on, I learned that many companies opt not to use Twitter for authentication purposes. This blog analyzes what’s going on here.

The reason why we ended up using Twitter was partly as a signup mechanism. However, one major problem that Twitter’s authentication presents to a consumer is that they do not offer the user’s email address (not for the web) and only recently might do so after asking permissions from Twitter. That renders general authentication quite worthless since many systems that use single sign on desire a secondary means of connecting, which in this case would be an email address. With this barrier to entry, many people on the forum criticizes Twitter for not providing users’ email addresses and thus making Twitter authentication more useful (as compared to Facebook).

Another problem where I think our application failed in capitalizing on Twitter was distinguishing their target audience vs the actual people who use Twitter. Without going into detail, I want to say that our target audience are probably not heavy Twitter users. I would say that the vast majority of Twitter users are celebrities, wannabe celebrities, sycophants, technologists, marketing people and people managing the brands of celebrities. Those who don’t fall into those categories in general probably want to test Twitter out or are looking for information from Twitter, using it as a sort of read-only source.

Interestingly enough, none of the current users who use Twitter are born before 1950 (where the oldest users on the site were born in the 1940’s). While there are older people who use Twitter, I feel that the bulk of them fall into the categories above. The number of users for Twitter increases as they get younger, which leads me to believe that future generations will be hooked up through this mechanism if they decide to connect through a social network.

Another thing I feel is that Twitter is a very niche social informative mechanism. It’s more like radio where if you happen to be at the right place at the right time, you get to hear something interesting or important. Because of the way it works, the vast majority of the audience probably would never use Twitter for such a platform.

Compare the way this platform works vs say Twitch. Why is Twitter important to Twitch? Because essentially, many of the people who consume Twitch are younger people. They do not use email as their method for receiving alerts and prefer SMS or Twitter. But the real thing is that the high end broadcasters are essentially illustrating a lifestyle and want to keep their audience informed by all available social mechanisms. That’s where Twitter becomes more effective.

In our case, we never really honed in on the stories for building platform. We made a few uneducated guesses in targeting the type of people that would participate, but without real metrics beforehand to understand the people, we could not properly cater to those users. Twitter simply was not even in the radar scope for the most part. A novel feature at best but the barriers to entry with this mechanism are pretty tough and require a fairly sophisticated audience member to fully make use of this technology with what we’ve done.

Hopefully, these marketing companies will eventually realize how to properly utilize these technologies. I feel that most won’t without the backing of both data, data analysts and proper technologists who can comprehend the social sphere. My guess is that most won’t and will continue to misuse these technologies.

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