Why Twitter Fleets Faced an Uphill Battle From the Start

Why Twitter Fleets Faced Uphill Battle
Cheyne Gateley/VIP

Twitter’s announcement earlier today that it will be shutting down Fleets (the company’s version of Stories) on Aug. 3 wasn’t a shocker.  

Months after the feature became available in the U.S., just under 8% of surveyed Twitter users said they had viewed and posted Fleets, data provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform by YouGov revealed. 

And that seemed particularly telling given the figure was not significantly changed from the percentage of surveyed Twitter users who said the same in a November YouGov survey conducted soon after Fleets launched widely.  

While Twitter had high hopes for Fleets, the feature faced an uphill battle in taking off like Instagram Stories did.  

For one, Fleets launched after Snapchat’s Stories feature had already been copied by social rivals en masse. And having already posted Stories on other apps was among the most commonly cited reasons for not posting via Fleets, YouGov’s surveys in November and January found.  

Meanwhile, the most cited reason for not posting via Fleets was, “I don’t want to post that type of content on Twitter,” which could be interpreted as an aversion by many to posting ephemeral photo/video content to Twitter.

There's little reason for social platforms like Facebook or Instagram to shut down their Stories features if they’re garnering sizable user bases, and it doesn’t seem productive to try to convince a large portion of users who don’t see Twitter as a viable Stories posting destination to adopt Fleets. 

So it’s no surprise that Twitter has called it quits on its Fleets venture, opting to use resources that would have gone toward the Stories copycat for other tools.  

Yes, the discontinuation of Fleets means Twitter is taking something off its platform that could bring in more ad revenue. But it’s probable that many Fleets users weren’t using Twitter's Stories feature frequently. 

Almost 47% of respondents who had recently used Fleets said they checked Fleets from others once a week or less, YouGov found in its January survey.  

Fortunately for Twitter, Fleets is just one of many ambitious swings recently taken amid a broader push to reinvent the platform as something that’s compelling for more than just its main feed.  

Among the most notable recent Twitter bets is the platform’s Clubhouse competitor, Spaces. Social audio seems like a particularly promising bet for Twitter given how heavily publishers and journalists in particular rely on the platform.  

And because many publishers and journalists had already built up followings on Twitter prior to Clubhouse’s launch, some may lean toward using Twitter Spaces rather than Clubhouse for live audio broadcast experimentation.  

Another recent notable product launch by Twitter is its subscription product Twitter Blue, and the company just started rolling out applications for Super Follows, a feature that lets users charge their followers to access exclusive content.  

Twitter is hoping these offerings don’t find the same fate as Fleets, considering the company’s goal of reaching 315 million monetizable daily users and doubling revenue by the end of 2023.