NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- TheStreet's Herb Greenberg made some good points earlier this week with respect to why, as he puts it, Twitter (TWTR - Get Report) "struggle(s) with user engagement." Or, as I would put it, why, relative to Facebook (FB - Get Report), "nobody" uses Twitter.
While I tend to agree with most of what Herb said, nothing he listed about the unintuitive Twitter platform should serve as an obstacle to growth or engagement. If Twitter intrigued the average user of social media enough, they would figure it out. Just like anything else.
If my Mother can make the shift from Facebook on the desktop of an old Dell to Facebook mobile on an iPad, anybody can learn the seemingly elusive ins and outs of Twitter.
There's an overarching problem at play. One that doesn't have a whole lot to do with digital prowess. It's not simply that Twitter's tough to make sense of. It's that it's a highly pretentious environment comprised of a series of cliques, dominated by media members, celebrities and tech insiders.
It's just not very inviting. So why would the average person -- at the scale of Facebook's user base -- want to invest the time to learn how to navigate a place where they don't feel wanted.
Consider the following series of Tweets from Twitter user (and, in full disclosure, my friend, Craig Scott):
Craig makes excellent points.
If you feel like an outsider on Twitter, why would you bother hanging around? If you're in the media or the type of person who lives and breathes some flavor or news and information 24/7 you'll be there, but, outside of that, what's the incentive of being on Twitter?
To watch hacks like me brag about who follows them on Twitter?
After I made that Tweet about Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo! (YHOO), following me, I cringed. I felt like I was name dropping, which, for better or worse, I sort of was. However, I don't think it's completely unnatural or out of line.
As I noted in the conversation with Craig:
.@CraigScott31 definite ego stroke. Im not ashamed to admit it. Validation. Or something like that. Very human. Just in this venue.Rocco Pendola (@Rocco_TheStreet) March 12, 2014
Mayer follows me. So do other equally-as-big names. That's pretty cool. In some ways, it's like getting an autograph. But it's better than that. Even if the person who follows you isn't literally following what you do on Twitter, you still have that badge of honor when you go to their profile and see ... so and so Follows You.
It's pretty cool.
However, most people do not have the benefit and advantage of writing for a high-profile multimedia outlet that allows them to get their names out there on a daily basis. When you're able to effectively inject yourself into the conversation, it's relatively easy to score some high profile followers. Ultimately, it doesn't mean a damn thing. It's not worth anything. And it doesn't make you better than anybody else. But, again, it's a cool feeling.
Humans are idiots like that.
And then there's this ...
Just one illustration of the "inside baseball" and personal, look who I know back and forth that, to some, can feel like it dominates Twitter.
I don't care if there's a period in front of the initial handle or not. This is the type of stuff that goes on. And I reckon it turns people like Craig Scott off. To see the Silicon Valley billionaires, founders, media celebrities and the like gush all over one another about dancing at cocktail parties, hanging at "the Ritz" and such ...
@dickc but now I need to write a story of this egging. Scramble one of your minions to me ASAPKara Swisher (@karaswisher) September 4, 2013
Right. They really do. It would be boffo. Maybe Dick C. can commission a lackey or two to try to make it happen.
In large part, Twitter consists of cliques you (and me) have little chance being part of. And I don't we really want to be part of them. Thus they're a sideshow that hampers what should be Twitter's focus: Increasing engagement along and, more importantly, between all levels of the status food chain.
It's borderline condescending that the company's CEO participates in these inside conversations with the Silicon Valley elite. And we wonder why it's difficult for Twitter to generate Facebook-like traction.
It goes back to what Craig Scott said: By default, you're part of something on Facebook. Whether they like you or not, you assemble a cadre of "friends" on Facebook from your various social networks. Relatives. Friends. Co-workers. Blasts from the past. And you easily engage with them.
While I'm not saying Twitter ought to replicate this -- it can't and, even if it could, it shouldn't -- there's something the folks who run it can learn from all of this. All of this being Craig's (I assume he's not alone) critique and my illustration of it.
Cats such as myself as well as people who eat, sleep and drink some brand of news and/or infotainment will be on Twitter. Many of us will utilize it as our lifeline for the latest. As the modern day newspaper. It was this very dynamic that made me believe, back in 2012, that Twitter would live and Facebook would die over the long-term.
But things haven't evolved as I thought they would.
For many folks, the Facebook newsfeed, even if it can frustrate the heck out of them, does the job of being the morning, afternoon and evening newspaper as well as nightly newscast. They don't need the cleaner, instantaneous and personally-curated scroll that is Twitter.
So, with all of the inside baseball stuff that goes on, as well as the technical hurdles Herb Greenberg lists, why bother? You can use Facebook and/or dozens of other platforms to get what you need minus chatter from the elites and the investment of time to learn Twitter's quirks.
Craig Scott had some ideas for how to rectify this situation.
Make high-profile types on Twitter follow a certain number of people. Require some level of engagement. Give people control over their follow list so they can opt out of all Tweets it produces. And so on.
While I'm not sure I agree with the remedies he offered, I know this ... companies such as Twitter simply can't afford to allow an air of pretentiousness to keep users away or reduce the odds of engagement. It needs to use its overabundance of so-called influencers and celebrities to its advantage. And that means finding a way to increase engagement between the big guys and the seemingly little guys.
There's no question Twitter's present superstar gaggle can find time between parties at "the Ritz" and the summoning of minions to make it happen.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.