by Ben Shute

Innovation in the social media space is hard. The sheer breadth and depth of social applications makes it hard for new players to find a function around which to build an audience and engagement.

Social has always been about storytelling, and the bigger players are recognising that growth comes through giving your audience the tools they need to tell their stories better.

The recent launch of Instagram Stories, a virtual copy of Snapchat Stories (even Kevin Systrom agreed they deserved the credit) and arguably a much more accessible and usable tool, represents the latest effort of established platforms to iterate and grow their user base through tools. Storification, if I can coin a new word, is the new black.

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In the face of these new layers of storytelling capability however, Twitter has chosen a different path. Despite stalled user growth, they continue to struggle when it comes to innovation or even relevance to new users.

In July, Twitter introduced stickers to allow users to decorate their photos before sharing them, with these add-ons operating in a similar fashion to hashtags, in that you could tap on them to find other photos with similar stickers.

But is this a feature that will do anything to engage users further? Unlikely.

With more than 2/3 of their user base aged over 30, Stickers feels like a play designed to appear “cool” (it’s a prominent Snapchat feature) rather than useful. Obviously there is an imperative to make money from the product, and Pepsi has been the first to roll out Sponsored Stickers.

As much as I love the platform, there is very little that has happened to make it sticky (pardon the pun) or relevant to new users. The Periscope integration into Twitter feeds back in January was probably the last good idea they had, and even then it was not market leading. The focus needs to be on relevance and ease of use. There is still a lot of noise.

Moments represented a huge opportunity for Twitter to become part of the storytelling space that is currently the trend, but it has really failed to fire because the tool has been kept out of the hands of regular users. Twitter themselves is the taste maker in terms of the content, curating around themes and offering advertisers the ability to create sponsored stories.

Real engagement comes when you let the users create. Users were the people who made Twitter what it is, developing hashtags and RTs to make their experience better, only to be later adopted by the platform. They need to start listening to what the users want.

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