Mike Isaac

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Twitter Tries Harder to Explain Itself

It’s common knowledge — Twitter is too tough for the average, non-techie person to pick up. Even CEO Dick Costolo agrees.

That’s part of why Twitter is stepping up its efforts to become less opaque to the millions of first-timers to the service, releasing a series of instructional consumer videos and projects over the past week in the form of cool data visualizations and cutesy Fathers Day shorts.

Take the tool launched on Thursday morning, for instance. Twitter hooked up with data visualization company Vizify to create a fun product called #FollowMe: Sync your Twitter account with Vizify’s service, and the company produces a short remixed video of the way you tweet, including your most tweeted words, times of day you’re the most active and other data points, all set to a music track.

It’s not exactly useful per se, but it’s a clever way to show off stats to folks who may not really get why Twitter matters, or why they should use it.

Which is a far greater number of people than, say, on Facebook, which hosts more than a billion users. Facebook is straightforward, even if waning in its coolness. Twitter, with its confusing language of hashtags and @symbols, isn’t as easy to just jump into.

It’s likely that recent efforts to step up the mainstream consumer pitch and explain just what Twitter is stems from recent changes in management; namely, Twitter VP of communications Gabriel Stricker adding marketing oversight to his list of duties. He has employed the aid of a number of Twitter designers to helm the effort.

Heck, Stricker even made an appearance in Twitter’s recent spoofy video celebrating Feathers Day Fathers Day, which is really a short crash course in how to actually use Twitter, all in the guise of a joke video. (Stricker is the deadpan dude toward the end.)

How ironic that Twitter — a communications service now so well known it has made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary — has such a problem with being understood.

Perhaps Facebook’s recent adoption (ahem, rip-off) of Twitter’s hashtags will help the confusing language break through to the mainstream.

My guess: More marketing videos, better Twitter blog posts (on its newly redesigned blog) and clearer explanations of the service.

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I’m a giant vat of creative juices.

— David Pogue on why he’s joining Yahoo