As usual, the media has begun its see-sawing articles about the IPO intentions of Twitter. Either it is an ascending giant or a floundering service whose potential is as stalled as its user growth.
I realize this type of coverage just is to be expected but, still, its kind of tiresome. Investors will bet on the leadership or just plain bet. As for marketers, it’s time to operationalize your Facebook investment (we know how it works now “scale”) and go into a hefty ‘try and learn’ phase with Twitter.
A Response to the Challenges
Challenge: Ironically, Twitter is well-designed for mobile yet suffers from a dearth of mobile advertising options and inventory
Response: Really? Praise and condemn Twitter simultaneously for being too ‘mobile?’ No marketing platform can be too mobile in 2013. Twitter’s mobile-friendly format is a huge plus. Just look at the mad growth of WeChat and LINE in Asia (and now Europe). Both are platforms specifically designed for mobile.
Certainly, Twitter needs better mobile advertising formats. That is true of the entire mobile space. Just look at Mary Meeker’s comments on the stage that mobile advertising finds itself. She remains confident that we are in early days and that mobile ad monetization will happen. Betting against mobile advertising seems unwise to me.
Challenge: It’s just a PR platform
Response: More irony that on the day of the day of the IPO announcement, the New York Times ran an article about world leaders relying on Twitter to connect with constituents and to deliver more transparency and access to government via the United Nations. World leaders on Twitter. That’s powerful.
But critics would say that substantiates Twitter’s role as a PR platform. That’s kind of like saying PR is just PR. The communications disciplines are all meshing together. None work separately anymore. Advertising works with PR, direct marketing needs mid-funnel marketing, ecommerce flourishes because of social and so on. PR, itself ,is valuable as the earned voice for brands. Combined with other marketing, it drives business and should not be undervalued.
Sure, Twitter needs a rich set of advertising options to run a viable business. Those will come. These advertising options will be richer still because of who is on Twitter (influencers) and the interconnectedness of Twitter to other marketing functions like …customer care, for example.
Challenge: Twitter will need to massively grow beyond its 218+million users to become relevant to advertisers
Response: I doubt Twitter will reach 1 billion users anytime soon. They could reach 500M. Their growth has measurably slowed. Still assuming that Twitter, or any platform, must reach massive scale to be a strong marketing platform is overly simplistic.
Twitter has a lot of influencers: government leaders, celebrities, business leaders, sports figures, journalists. It’s a pretty good crowd. They tweet to their thousands of followers and often sending these updates automatically into Facebook. Followers retweet and also funnel messages into the broader reaching Facebook. Journalists routinely trawl for story ideas through their follower feed.
Twitter should and will grow. At the same time, they should embrace their influencer-rich nature and put more energy into researching the role that Twitter plays in the customer journey. Brands need evidence that Twitter can “sell” in the broadest sense.
Challenge: With its limited 140 characters, Twitter cannot compete with image-rich services that are all the rage.
Response: Twitter’ simplicity is it beauty. In many ways, the limited feature set of Twitter has driven adoption by marketers who can easily “get” what Twitter can basically do. Compare that to the mysterious feature set and purpose of Google+. I guarantee most brands are stumbling through their use of G+ based upon a rather blind belief that it will help their search rankings…in Google.
I tweet pics all of the time. It may not be as elegant as the Instagram app but it could be. And Twitter Cards are a great innovation and one that will build their advertising base. These information panels allow us to use visuals to advertise and even sell direct.
Twitter plays a valuable role in the marcom mix. I cannot speak to valuations - most are a bit frothy - but we shouldn't simply evaluate Twitter's value based upon today's stories.
(image from: http://www.pillowfightsj.blogspot.com/ )