It's hard to know what to think of where Twitter is at these days. The platform's going through something of a transition, working to re-ignite user growth and inspire investor confidence in the platform, but so far their efforts have mostly fallen flat.
And now, a lot of their more recent updates seem a little behind the times - for example, they recently flagged the coming expansion of customizable Moments to all users, which is coming soon, but that seems to be lagging behind the storytelling trend set by Snapchat, and now Instagram. They announced a new DM button for websites last month - but Facebook introduced the same last December. And they recently added new monetization options for video creators, many of whom have already migrated to other platforms because such tools hadn't previously existed.
While all of these additions are great, it seems like Twitter might have missed the boat on at least some of them, that they're introducing new tools well behind user interest peaks. As such, people aren't using them at as high a rate, because they've already shifted to other apps that offer the functionality they want.
This, again, is the immediate issue I see with Twitter's latest update - a refresh of Direct Messages to make them more Messenger-like.
New! Direct Messages are more dynamic than ever with read receipts, typing indicators, and web link previews. pic.twitter.com/VEU92V5Gqj- Twitter (@twitter) September 8, 2016
As you can see from the intro, Twitter has introduced read receipts, typing indicators and web link previews to DM threads. And those are all cool, those are great additions to Twitter's DM capacity, but again, they're behind the times. You already have all of these options on Messenger and WhatsApp, all of these tools and more. Of course, in order to use them you need to be on those other platforms - the integration of these tools into the Twitter experience is a good move. But again, is it a little too late? Have the users who would be most interested in such additions already migrated to other apps?
One of the bigger use cases for DMs, of course, is for customer service, and given that (according to Twitter) more than 80% of customer service requests on social are happening via tweet - with a more than 2.5X increase in the number of Tweets to brands and their customer service usernames in the past two years - it makes sense for Twitter to make this a focus.
This is why Twitter removed the 140 character length limit from DMs - Twitter's hoping to increase the use of direct response options in order to enable more use of the platform as a customer service tool.
As such, the introduction of read receipts could be a good or bad thing - definitely, brands will want to let users know that they've seen their message, and ideally brands will be able to respond to all such requests in a timely manner. But if there's any delay in response, there'll be nowhere to hide, as the customer will know when you saw their message. If this may pose a problem, you can turn read receipts off (note: it's enabled by default).
The announcement comes at a time when speculation over the future of Twitter is ramping up. Twitter's Board of Directors met today, with reports suggesting that a possible takeover could be high on the topics of discussion. But while most of their efforts to re-awaken interest in the platform have fallen short thus far, there's still the coming live-streaming deal with the NFL to lean on. Twitter's, apparently, putting a lot of stock in the possibilities of that option.
Overall, Twitter's DM updates are good, but they may be too little too late to spark any significant interest.