It seems like Twitter is getting hammered of late, ok may be not of late but ever since it went public. I have to admit, though I have had a Twitter account for years, it really is only over the past couple of years I have used Twitter. That being said I actually use it quite a bit as my Social Media hub, even more so than Facebook. A big reason is news. Twitter aggregates the news sources I want to view with out the opinion of my acquaintances on Facebook , which in many instance I find offer opinions that I can either “Like”or not like (no button yet for this). I really just want news so I can make my own opinion. Twitter has become part of the internet dialog. It seems all people of celebrity status, business, politics, and every day people have Twitter accounts and are tweeting. With its troubles you would think they are like Yahoo even though as a daily activity they resemble Facebook. At one time Twitter was feared and possibly is still feared by Google. With its trending now service, Twitter was the pulse of the internet. The question is why all the troubles, why all the worry?
It is easy to compare Twitter to Facebook. Both are giants of Social Media and yet while Facebook has a good habit of continually blowing out earnings and capturing the hearts of Wall Street, Twitter has not enjoyed that same success. Facebook has over 1 billion “users”, how active they are is another question but overall there are many people who are very active. What this has translated to is Facebook has been very successful in monetizing the very large user base. Twitter has “only” 320 million unique users and gets criticized for not growing fast enough. I think there are a lot of companies on the planet who would like this problem. Where Twitter has failed is not being able to monetize those users. Where Facebook routinely beats Wall Streets expectations, Twitter seems to struggle to keep pace.
Another difference starts at the top. Jack Dorsey left Twitter and then was forced to come back. He also is CEO and Founder of Square, a mobile payments company. The guy is an entrepreneur and a successful one. However as companies grow and go public some needs change. The startup mentality has to be replaced with a sense of maturity tempered with a driving passion for the company you lead. With Jack coming back we are waiting for the latter two. Contrast this with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg ,, who has stayed true to Facebook. It went through a rough first year on Wall Street. the initial IPO was mishandled, but through the process we saw Mark mature and maintained his belief in the company. The results have been staggering. Listening to Mark Zuckerberg he reminds me quite a lot of a maturing Bill Gates. Bill could be very hostile to the media, but when talking to employees he was always very calm and certain of the direction of both the company and the industry. He could inspire. Mark seems to have that same demeanor, minus the ridicule of the press. The question for Twitter has Jack Dorsey returned to be a Steve J0bs type of figure or will he look to hand the reigns over to someone else.
Twitter has very much become a part of the internet’s social dialog. I cannot watch a television show, whether it be “Men in Blazers” or CNBC or my favorite soccer team without following them on Twitter or having them direct me to their Twitter account. It is a good problem to have. This is why they are not Yahoo, which is a company that is struggling to survive. Why Jerry Yang fought the Microsoft takeover will live as one of the dumb egotistical moves of business history. Twitter just needs to become more professional and more disciplined. the audience is there before them, they just need to develop a business model and fine tune it to monetize that user base. Twitter needs to understand its users better. Facebook has done a phenomenal job in doing this and the results show it, in amazing fashion. This to me is job number one and then take that understanding and start generating ad revenues to match its user base.
An area where Twitter has stagnated is innovation. Twitter has not gone on a grand buying spree or provided regular updates and new features to its service. Where as their competitors have made big bets and thrown out some pie in the sky ideas, we have yet to see that from Twitter. A large part of that is the instability in senior leadership. I think if Jack Dorsey can provide some focus, Twitter can attract some talent. Once that is done then the hope would be we would stat thinking a bit outside of the box. There is a lot happening in the industry. Big Data seems easy for Twitter to capitalize on as they house a lot of data. Can it be analyzed and action taken upon that analysis? Where will Twitter fit in AI, Robotics, IoT etc..These are all areas where there is potential for Twitter to play, we just need them to stabilize and deliver.
Twitter so far is a failure not because they are a bad service, quite the contrary in Social Media circles they remain a relevant and great service. However they frustrate as they seem incapable of seizing a unique opportunity. In many ways you hope a more mature organization like Google or Facebook would buy them out. Twitter should succeed. They have mind share. Most young people are using Twitter today. However these windows of opportunity only stay open so long. We remember MySpace and now most people do not remember them. they are one of technologies historical artifacts. I will continue to pay attention to cable news and other media outlets to see if they still reference their Twitter accounts, are using hash tags. It is time for this company to start executing upon its potential. Otherwise they can join along list of companies in the technology cemetery.
Good Night and Good Luck
Hans Henrik Hoffmann January 29, 2016