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If there is one thing Twitter is really good at, it’s incremental innovation. Every month, it seems, the company rolls out a new feature or tweak that makes the platform just a little bit better, all without really changing what the company does or how the user experience feels.
A great example here is the new Twitter Tip Jar, which enables users to collect tips via payment platforms such as Cash App, PayPal or Venmo. Twitter saw that creators and influencers on the platform were taking all kinds of indirect steps to collect tips from others, so it simply made the process a lot more direct. There will now be a Tip Jar icon next to the profile of a user who is able to request and receive tips.
The new Tip Jar functionality
As Twitter explains it, the new Tip Jar functionality is “a new way for people to receive and show support on Twitter,” and was created with creators, journalists, experts and nonprofits in mind. Say, for example, you’re a top-notch independent journalist who has recently published a breaking story on an important topic. You could include a link to your story in a tweet, while also suggesting that fans and supporters leave you a tip in your Tip Jar. Once users click on your Tip Jar, they would be able to send you money via their platform of choice.
It’s a good idea, especially because it was designed in response to what users were doing anyway. People were leaving their Venmo handles and PayPal links in tweets, and Twitter took notice. So kudos to Twitter for this little innovation. It’s a new way for people to send and receive tips, and it helps to de-clutter the user experience. Instead of seeing tweets filled with #cashtags and payment links, there’s now just a little Tip Jar icon.
Incremental vs. radical innovation
However, there’s not really much here that’s going to help Twitter in the long term. And that’s the biggest problem here. The Tip Jar was a good idea, but there really haven’t been a lot of people talking about it online. The feature launched in May, but there hasn’t been much buzz around it. Why? Maybe because it’s just a straightforward “fix” and not much else. Twitter isn’t even taking a cut of the money being sent back and forth, so there’s no added “oomph” to the company’s bottom line.
In short, Tip Jar is a nice-to-have innovation, but not a “must-have” innovation. And that’s precisely what’s wrong with Twitter these days. The company hasn’t changed much in the past decade – the user experience is almost entirely the same. Sure, there are now 280 characters for tweets instead of the classic 140 characters. And, sure, there are changes to how items appear in your newsfeed, but has Twitter really changed?
Twitter and the new competition
To use an analogy, it’s like showing up at your favorite hotel for your summer vacation and realizing that the decor hasn’t changed in years. Everything looks the same, and everything feels the same, and you feel safe booking the same place every year. Every year, the hotel seems to make a few minor changes, but nothing really major. But then one year, you show up and you start thinking to yourself: this place really needs an upgrade – everything seems so dated and faded. You start to see all the flaws – the elevator that doesn’t work correctly, the chipped furniture in your room, the decor that seems to be from another decade, and slower overall service. And then you start looking around at other hotel properties, and realize that there are plenty of other places out there that are just as nice. Next year, you tell yourself, you might decide to stay at one of those trendy boutique hotels.
And that’s exactly what might happen with Twitter. There are plenty of other social media platforms out there that are embracing radical innovation, whether it is blockchain or cryptocurrency or mixed reality. And there are plenty of other innovators who seem to be living much more in the moment than Twitter. One day soon, many of Twitter’s monthly active users might start thinking to themselves: this place really needs an upgrade – everything seems so dated and faded. By then, of course, it will finally be too late. Users will have checked out.