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Twitter is broken. Here's how you fix it

In an effort to capture new users and improve its fledgling stock price, Twitter has been rolling out some new features and changes. Recently, in a seemingly random move, it changed its "favorite" feature, symbolized by a star, to a "like" feature, symbolized by a heart. This went over like a lead balloon with many users, who may act like 12-year old girls on Twitter, but don't want to be reminded of it with a bunch of red hearts.

Silhouette of man against Twitter logo
Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tune in to CNBC's "Closing Bell" at 4pm ET Thursday, Nov. 5. Carol Roth will be a guest for the hour.

I adore Twitter as a platform and think it's an indispensable tool and resource. Given that there are so many things the company should be doing to improve; I can't imagine where the stars to hearts came into play.

As both a power Twitter user and a business strategist, here are some steps that I advise Twitter to take right now to keep its users happy, attract new users and ultimately, grow its top and bottom line.


To enhance existing user experience

  • Add a bookmarking feature. The "favorite" function in Twitter was used in multiple ways. Some used it as a hat-tip to the creator of a tweet. But others, including myself, used it as a bookmarking feature. Users could favorite tweets to have an easy list to reference and read later. With stars becoming hearts, the addition of a true bookmarking feature (that was searchable), would add to the user experience.

  • Add an edit function. Nothing is more frustrating than quickly typing a tweet, pressing send and then, realizing there's a typo in there. Let me repeat: nothing. Users have been asking for an edit function so that they could change the typo after a tweet is sent without having to delete and resend, thus losing any social sharing (retweets, etc.) If preserving the integrity of data is the hold-up, it could be marked with some type of an edit symbol, and the original tweet could be linked through clicking on it so that people could see the change.

  • Change character count for key items. There's been talk about losing the 140-character limit. I think that would be a mistake. However, it could not count pictures, user handles and links in that character count and make for a richer experience.

  • Focus on data. If you use Twitter frequently, you are creating a robust history of information and interactions. However, it is virtually impossible to search through that data to reference information you might need. If I had an exchange with a user six months ago that's now relevant, there's no practical way to find it quickly. Adding robust tools around data and search, particularly in your own history of tweets, interactions, followers and overall network would make Twitter even more powerful (and could be a great monetization source; see below).

  • Fix TweetDeck. I really believe that you can't understand the power of how to use Twitter without a dashboard "client." Twitter owns one of these, TweetDeck, which makes segmenting your information incredibly easy and gives you a suite of powerful tools. However, TweetDeck has been woefully ignored and most updates have made the experience worse. Putting effort into TweetDeck would be transformative.
  • Put up a trends database. One of the best ways to figure out what's important right now is to check Twitter's trends. But they move quickly, so you may miss out on some important things if you are not on the network during the trending moments. Having access to historical trends over longer periods of time, in addition to the trending "now", would make Twitter more indispensable as a news source.

  • Stop spammers. If you check trending hashtags, there are always the same dozen or so spam accounts that jump onto every trend with the same, non-relevant content. Twitter should block those repeat offenders' content from appearing in trends.

To enhance new user experience

  • Explain it better. The Twitter team seems to think new features will attract new users, but the biggest hurdle is plainly explaining what Twitter does. I have converted many users to Twitter myself by just explaining it with the 4Cs: Use Twitter to 1) Consume content (get your news and information) 2) Create content (share your thoughts and ideas broadly) 3) Curate content (share content created by others that you think your network would find interesting and 4) Communicate (engage directly in dialogues with just about anyone on Twitter).

    All it would take is a simple explanatory videos when you arrive and sign up, a toolbox that has things like a glossary of useful terms, acronyms and functionality, and some light ongoing training.

  • Embrace lists. The most effective way to really benefit from Twitter and learn it is by having content sorted into a couple of lists. Being able to create lists, access lists and display lists on mobile devices would make the Twitter appeal broader and its use easier.

To monetize the user base

  • Make it a freemium model. Twitter should remain a free platform, but for many users, access to enhanced features (such as more robust historical search capabilities or a more comprehensive suite of tools in TweetDeck) is something that they would have no problem dropping $5 to $10 a month for. Create worthwhile power user add-ons to upgrade to and they can enhance cash flow significantly.
  • Monetize data. Twitter is a treasure trove of data that could generate a lot of money. Selling access to data is an obvious strategy. Traders, for example, could, with a quick search and download, be able to access and analyze mentions of a particular stock on the platform over certain periods of time.

  • Give an incentive to bring in new users. Many of the fastest growing companies in tech have built their user base by incenting their existing users to sign up new users. Given that Twitter is a social network, it would seem like an obvious strategy. If they create a better "Twitter How-to" communication package, they could also build in a user benefit or reward for sharing such with non-user friends as a mechanism to gain new users (making the platform more valuable, being able to charge partners more and having a larger user base to upgrade).

  • Produce content. Most broadcast platforms are also in the content production game, as content is king. Twitter should be partnering to produce its own monetizable, proprietary content.

There are tremendous strategies and tactics that Twitter could pursue to build its experience and shareholder value. It's time to stop with the hearts and get serious about the business.

Commentary by Carol Roth, a "recovering" investment banker (corporate finance), entrepreneur/small-business owner, investor and author of "The Entrepreneur Equation." Follow her on Twitter @CarolJSRoth.