Twitter Guys take it all too seriously and may have lost the plot

Twitter’s slow user growth is doing the rounds in every circle and subsequently share prices have slide down 20% plus in the last month, which has forced a sharp movement from the management team, where Dick Costolo led an investor analyst day (#TWTRAnalystDay) and come out with a product roadmap, that includes emphasising Direct Message (DM)  and increasing engagement with non-registered users. Also there are some changes in team. Kevin Weil has been given the product management role and CFO Anthony Noto becomes the new face of the company. In fact Noto has recently being involved in a DM gaffe where he is accidently disclosed an intention of buying a start-up.

If we go in more detail on how recent product updates work, first, Twitter has made available their archive via search i.e. a person doing a search on twitter can see all tweets since 2006. This update is targeted at non-registered users who usually arrive on Twitter via referral traffic to see results on a profile or hashtag. Second, to improve the direct message experience, the user can now DM any tweet just by tapping on tweet. This is to let people use a highly untapped feature of Twitter and try to leverage recent success of DMing apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp.

On expanding their business, there are always rumours of Twitter acquiring start-ups like SoundCloud, and recently a selfie app (backed up by) Bieber. Twitter is also talking about an app video feature; however they have a separate video app, Vine App with a considerable number of registered users. And under Adam Bain/Nathan Hubbard (ex Ticketmaster CEO) Twitter is trying to venture into Twitter commerce, where they are enabling some selective businesses to offer in app purchases of their products and services.

On the personnel front, they have a strong team of executives with a background of Google, Facebook and giants of the media industry like BBC, Fox and LiveNation.

I think on paper all look ideal to lead the company in whatever it can do to take their business to a stage where both shareholders and end users can enjoy the success of the product. However, sliding share prices and declining user growth may be forcing outsiders to think otherwise. So where exactly does the problem lie for a platform which host top personalities and celebrities from the Pope to the Clintons to Cristiano Ronaldo to Justin Bieber, and has become the rage since the 2009 Obama election?

I think, the problem is that Twitter has taken themselves too seriously. That may sound funny for a company listed on NASDAQ ($TWTR) but let’s not forget Twitter was launched on the back of mobile text messaging  limitations and was intend to enable us to send messages on an open platform with ease. Thereafter, they have opened up their technology, which triggered the development of apps like Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and many more, which not only enhanced product features by introducing entities like @, #, RT and @reply, but also took the popularity of this product to another level.

And when the guys at the helm realised that this was a very engaging product, what they did was clip the developers’ wings and brought people from Google and Facebook to recreate the magic, and that’s where the problem is, because Twitter is not another Facebook or Google; it is unique, and is perhaps the first crowd-sourcing social network product with a cult developers’ following.

Looking at the success of Hootsuite, TweetDeck, Bluefin Lab, DataSift, GNIP and many more tools, I think in order to seriously monetize their service, Twitter has to take unique approach and maybe hand back power to developers/hackers, and should take a role of technology facilitator. For example, if Twitter continues their focus on speeding up in app features like payment, multimedia DM, in app video & audio and lets developers create products, then it would be far more of a success story than it is now.

If I didn’t make myself clear above, what I am trying to say is that the amount of success or creative satisfaction third party apps have enjoyed at the back of Twitter technology could not possibly have been achieved on any of other platform, including Facebook and LinkedIn.  And what Twitter must continue to do is to encourage developers to take more risk and come up with more innovative products. That would means that their business model is more based on Apple (App Store) than Google and Facebook (Display Advertising), which is an unique model for a data or information hosting company, but don’t forget  Twitter is a unique product.

Overall, what is making me nervous is that this platform is a by-product of crowdsourcing and now a group is trying to control its monetisation, which may be too much and too serious an approach for a product which is uniquely poised to serve various sections, topics, demographics and geographies of societies, and covers topics from the Football/Soccer World Cup to the Arab Spring.

And, I would like to finish on a positive note, that we all agree this is great product and those who use this platform know the power of 140 characters. Personally, I have managed to engage many journalists, VCs, CEOs, and celebrities and have made valuable contacts, which I could not have dreamed of in the pre-Twitter era, and with my aspirational entrepreneurial hat on, I am also trying to build a purely Twitter-based commerce tool, Tweepforce, which I think can really capture people’s intent and convert that to sales. I hope that we all prevail in what I see as keeping alive one of the most liberating platforms ever introduced in the post dot com era.

Instagram Stabbing Itself By Leaving Twitter Cards Off

Hunter Walk

YouTube never disabled embeds on Twitter or Facebook, letting visitors to those products watch a YouTube video without ever coming to our site. YouTube worked with Apple to make our app a default experience on iOS, even leaving it effectively non-monetized until last year. Why? Because we knew our users were on those sites and we wanted YouTube to be synonymous with “video.” Because we knew we could create a differentiated on-site experience which drove clicks back to our site from those embeds. And because we knew that our community was OURS only so long as we served THEIR needs.

Instagram photos ceased being viewable on Twitter last December due to a strategic decision by Facebook management, which Twitter CEO Dick Costolo said was “their prerogative.” At the time Instagram was building out a web presence and seeking overall to drive more consumers to view photos within Instagram…

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Tweepforce Roundup(1st Oct): Tim Cook Tweets, Surge in @Mention & Promoted Trends

Tweepforce continue to roundup Twitter stories and help businesses leverage this platform for businesses and product development.

Rouhani to Tim Cook on Twitter

Tim Cook (Apple CEO), contrary to his predecessor (Steve Jobs), has jumped on the Twitter bandwagon with several other noticeable tech CEOs including Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Dell CEO Michael Dell. Cook’s decision to join the social network demonstrates that Apple has recognised Twitter as a PR tool to reach out to both shareholders and customers. – http://ow.ly/pofgb #Blog

Things I Learned Working on the Twitter Platform

Ryan Sarver

I was lucky enough to spend the last four years of my life working with an incredible team of people on the Twitter Platform. I joined Twitter in June of 2009, shortly after Alex Payne had launched and built the early community around the Twitter API. While my role initially entailed product and engineering management, I spent all four years focused on building an ecosystem of companies that created value for our users and our partners and that’s where I’ll focus these posts. It was my first time doing anything like it and I learned an incredible amount through trial and error. There were failures, triumphs, and great lessons learned along the way.

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Dick Costolo is right to aim for one billion twitter users and more monetisation maturity before an IPO

Seems like both Twitter and Wall Street are embracing the Twitter IPO sometime in Q4 of 2013 or very early in 2014. No doubt Twitter growth has shown loads of promise and, in the leadership of Jack Dorsey and Dick Costolo with some notable new hires, they have a very balanced team in place to execute the plan. In addition, recent Super Bowl data more or less confirms that Twitter has become a second screen while watching telly!

From Grammy Awards to Olympics, everything seems to be gaining momentum at Twitter, and no one can ignore Twitter’s growth: the number of users has doubled since 2011, and the range from celebrity to businesses to the masses has made this an integral tool for information publishing and gathering!!

To monetise their success, Twitter has been rolling out various advertising and data mining products such as promoted accounts’ tweets, and licensing Twitter stream to 3rd parties! And the results are very encouraging too: Twitter has generated over 300m revenue and a variety of companies from Kuwait investments to the Black Tones have invested a substantial amount to leverage this service!

But despite all this success, the $10billion question is, is it really a $10bn company? That’s the evaluation by secondary market; and is it really ready to go public, and has it got a proven and sustainable long-term revenue model? And how can they make sure that they will not meet the same fate as Facebook, Zynga and GroupOn, when launching into the stock market?

http://siliconangle.com Image

https://Twitter.com/PrivCo/status/297566587509157888

To find the answer, let’s look at what Twitter has in its armoury to justify its valuation, and the potential products and services they can offer to keep generating value for their shareholders.
Like Google and Facebook, Twitter too is a numbers game
Twitter is playing their huge user base card, which no doubt is really very impressive, and as soon as they roll out its services to other countries it grows exponentially! Current stats suggest it has over 200m active users with 30% growth every year. These can be categorised into 40% active participants (i.e. those who read and write tweets) and 60% listeners (who only read tweets from top brands, celebrities and friends). Twitter claims around 40% of people follow brands to find special deals and new product information, and 80% follow their favourite celebrities and journalists to keep up to date with news, gossip and other information. Overall, Twitter has a huge base with a vested interest in business-driven information, not just focusing on mingling with friends like Facebook!

https://Twitter.com/PublicisUSA/status/301330359730188289

Twitter can leverage its user base by selling advertising
Considering Twitter has a huge user base interested in various types of information, they have come up with the idea of an interest graph to help businesses to leverage people’s interests. Therefore, like other content driven businesses, they have launched advertising products like promoted accounts and tweets. They also verify businesses for a fee, to give them more credibility on their platform. In summary, these products are very basic online advertising products with similar kinds of conversion ratio, which would act as cash cow for Twitter in the long run.

Platform openness enables Twitter to license their data too
Twitter via Gnip and DataSwift and them self has gone into 3rd party data licensing where Twitter sells data generated on their platform to businesses for further integration and analysis; no doubt this has huge potential for business, as this can help them to trap customers and/or market sentiments and subsequently help them to develop their products and services. Lately businesses have also used Twitter as a communication channel to provide customer support!

And now, like LinkedIn, Twitter is exploring industry-specific B2B products
They are also actively integrating and exploring opportunity on TV analysis and recently got into a partnership with Nielsen and bought TV social media analysis company Bluefin Labs. This shows Twitter is ready to leverage their success from last Super Bowl, where 50% of advertisers integrated Twitter hashtags to carry on conversations with customers after their 30 sec TV ads. This is a huge opportunity for Twitter as TV is still gets the most eyeballs for businesses; however Facebook is also apparently testing a watch button, which means Twitter could face stiff competition from its obvious competitors.

Twitter with Amex has introduced commerce too

Twitter has also taken an initiative with Amex to enable users to buy products just with a tweet; it is an enormous minefield to explore as Twitter with credit card details and using hashtags can really make commerce very simple, but users might shy away from using tweets as a buying instruction, as you are telling (or spamming) the world, not just friends, that you have just done the transaction. Facebook is trying this concept with Facebook Connect and Facebook Gifts.

Twitter is replicating the micro-blogging concept with video and images!!
Like any tech company from Google to Facebook to Apple, Twitter too has a huge challenge to come up with a product line so that investors can see scalability and be comfortable with investing. The reason for this is probably that in this day and age disruptions occur at supersonic speed and if Twitter keeps banking on their obvious product line, it may not be on the map after a while. However, Twitter is aware of it and they have already introduced a Twitter-like video service, @vine, and have improved image attachments to take on Instagram and Pintrest.

But and it’s a big but – Twitter will always have issues about data ownership and Privacy
I think Twitter will at some point find themselves in the middle of a data ownership controversy where they will be in the crossfire with authorities and their users for not sharing the revenue with those generating content on their platform. Basically, Twitter is licensing and analysing, and subsequently selling, data that is not produced by them and therefore, somewhere along the line, someone will ask the question, why is the content producer not getting a share from data licensing?
I think Twitter might need to adopt the Youtube business model where they share revenue with publishers too.

Per user valuation might be too high like Facebook?

Facebook launched $100bn valuation IPO by valuating per user around $100, when they were yielding only $3/user and subsequently struggling in the stock market. LinkedIn valued their company around $4.3bn for an IPO, when they were making around $5/user and now trading at two times of the list value. So for Twitter with $1.5/user, a $10bn valuation might not be the best valuation?

*Note: Calculations are based on Facebook Revenue $3.5bn and 100bn users, LinkedIn revenue around $944m with 200m users and Twitter revenue around $350m with 200m active users

Twitter technology and ecosystem desires more!
Twitter was recently blamed for killing its most progressive ecosystem when they suddenly changed their API terms and conditions, citing the reason that there are too many hackers around, stopping Twitter making their services consistent across the platform. However even after that, technology is still not resolved e.g. tweets are not synchronised on all platform i.e. if I deleted a tweet on iPhone, it still appears on my web client, if I don’t delete from there too!

Conclusion – All going in the right direction but Twitter need to prove more monetisation tools than advertising to launch an IPO!

Overall it seems Twitter is, like Facebook, making sure that they have strong user base and, like Google, they are hoping to leverage big data produced on their platform via selling advertising. The openness of Twitter has also enabled them to license their data to businesses for further analysis and/or use their content to provide industry specific products. Plus, the lesson they have learned from Facebook’s recent hiccup on the stock market and Apple’s on-going agony of not having a product roadmap, forced them to start thinking of future products, leading to partnerships with Nielsen and Amex and the launch of micro-video-blogging app @vine, which means Twitter is ticking all the right boxes.

However, despite being on right path, apart from growing their user base and advertising products, the rest of the products need to be monetised before Twitter can launch into the stock market. After the Facebook, Zynga and GroupOn stock debacles, any move from tech companies will be received with a pinch of salt by investors. Also, Twitter as a sharing platform might need to embrace sharing economy i.e. sharing revenue with content producers to ensure they have sustainable non-controversial revenue model and do not end up in various court battles. Therefore, the right thing for Twitter is to first prove their model beyond advertising, and then to value their company correctly before launching on the stock market. But would investors have the patience to wait that long, given that businesses lifecycles are shortening at lightning speed these days?

Is Google (not Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn) poised to win the Graph war?

Recently we have had big announcements from Facebook, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn around improving or extending their search technologies! Facebook announced a social graph to leverage social relationship data, and then Twitter introduced human-aided search results to cut the noise and deliver more precise and interest-driven data via search results; The LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, claims that LinkedIn will be the home of a world economic graph to consolidate the human resources and skills market, and Google has its eyes on a knowledge graph with more holistic data to enrich consumer searches with complete information. So what exactly is this graph war; why are these companies insisting so much on graphs to leverage their platforms; and who will come out as the eventual winner?

We have looked at all these graphs and analysed the pros and cons to reach a verdict on who might be going in the right direction.

Facebook joined the search bandwagon by introducing the Graph Search beta version. No doubt the Graph Search premise is founded on very lucrative logic, which promises to enable the Facebook user to search things within their extended social circle, and as studies suggests that 73% of the time we do, or buy, things based on friends’ references or recommendations, we might end up using Facebook search more often than even accessing the newsfeed or timeline or Google!
In addition, Facebook will, at some point, release this whole functionality to developers via APIs to integrate to their apps and/or websites, which means, like Facebook Connect, the site can now integrate Graph Search to enrich their customers’ journeys with recommendations, reviews and so on i.e. higher conversion!

Pros:
• People can find relevant information based on their interests, activity and location within their social circle e.g. “best pizza restaurants in west London area” and “SkyFall”.
• Businesses can now weave in their ads to search results, similar to Google AdWords i.e. higher conversion.
• Facebook Connect with Graph Search enables websites and apps to integrate customers’ social circle’s sentiments for corresponding products, to help them in decision making.
• Graph Search analytics will enable businesses to have better customer insight, as they would now know exactly what people are looking for through search keywords, locations etc.

Cons:
• Privacy and Data Protection is still a huge concern for Facebook and Graph Search
• Processing 2.5bn likes, 1 bn comments and 3bn pictures upload every day to produce an accurate search graph is not easy.
• Facebook Mobile integration is running behind.
• The data war between Twitter and Facebook is leading to a decoupling, so social data is incomplete.
• Facebook uses Bing as default search engine, which may be a liability rather than an asset.
• Facebook is often used to show off i.e. we don’t share everything we buy on Facebook!

Twitter Interest Graph and Human-Aided Search Results
Initially Twitter started to sell their advertising products based on an interest graph, but it has also recently enhanced its search algorithm by introducing human element (using Amazon Mechanical Turk) to ensure people get the best results when they search live events based on hashtags, keywords, pictures and/or with certain linguistic emotions. Personally, I am the biggest fan of the Twitter platform for finding information, and if they manage to fix their search it could really be a game changer, as the amount of information from various sources they have is unmatchable!

Pros:
• Business can tap into the latest trends to promote their products and services.
• Businesses can use Twitter sentiments analytics to build their products and services. Twitter sentiments are used by the stock market and TV industry.
• Most of Twitter data is consumed on mobile clients, meaning businesses can tap both mobile growth and crowdsourcing!

https://twitter.com/alexhisaka/status/291312770064986112

Cons:
• Despite introducing human intervention, the processing of 1bn 140 chars tweets with free text, emotions, images and videos every two days for accurate search results is still a humongous tasks for Twitter.
• Twitter are reluctant to share profit with the community, which means businesses who are banking on customers to share their services on Twitter, in order to get maximum traction, won’t see much sharing as there is no benefit to the consumer.
• Interest and commerce don’t go hand in hand.

LinkedIn’s vision to produce an economic graph in the next 10 years

LinkedIn’s vision to produce a world economic graph sounds like one of the most realistic and promising approaches. Over the years professionals have already built up their profiles, using the LinkedIn platform for both professional and personal development, and Now LinkedIn is aiming to weave profession, location, and skill sets together to create an economic graph of the business world, which means they can map out human resources and skills supply and demand stats by location, industry, job description etc.

Pros:
• Business development executives are using, and will continue to use, the LinkedIn network for lead generation.
• The recruitment industry is using, and will continue to use, LinkedIn to find best candidates, and vice versa.

Cons:
• Like other crowdsourcing tools, it has data quality issues.
• LinkedIn doesn’t link with Facebook and Twitter data, which would allow a more complete economic graph.
• How will they cover tacit knowledge and skills to complete the economic graph?

Google Knowledge graph (with top search algorithm, G+ , YouTube, Google Place, Android)
Despite all the noise around Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn graphs, Google has also recently enhanced their search result displays with the introduction of a knowledge graph concept, to give a holistic view to site visitors. For their knowledge graph, Google uses its top quality search algorithm to pull data from various sources including Youtube, Google Images, Wikipedia, Google News, Google Maps and various blog platforms to ensure users have all the relevant information in one place. However, Google still faces severe criticism for its inability to show more recent (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) data in its knowledge graph. To combat this issue, Google is rigorously trying to collect current trending data on G+, which will eventually feed into the knowledge graph. And all kudos to Google, in no time G+ has already become the second most sought-after social networking site!

Pros:
• The knowledge graph with the best search algorithm, YouTube, Google Images, Google Maps, Google News, and G+ data, gives far wider reach to businesses for both promoting their products and understanding their customers.
• Surely behind the scenes Google is feeding Android and DoubleClick experiences into knowledge graph to let businesses and consumers leverage graph features on the mobile platform?

Cons:
• The knowledge graph is missing Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest and Instagram data , which have become part of consumers’ online profiles.
• Businesses perceive G+ to be more or less an SEO tool.

Conclusion

Overall, we know Facebook’s social graph and Twitter’s interest search graph have huge potential to benefit both consumers and businesses, but data privacy, quality of search results, reluctance to link to each other’s data and, let’s get real, how many times we really like to talk about our shopping, apart from when we are knowingly or unknowingly showing off, means all these social networks, despite their claims to breaking the code, have a long way to go before becoming forces to be reckoned with when it comes to understanding consumers.

However, LinkedIn has so far managed to make its niche and is heading in the right direction to become a B2B lead generation and job search engine, by focusing only on professionals and their working relationships!

And despite many critiques and predictions of Google’s demise, it continues to grow year by year at very healthy rates, which demonstrates that when it comes to buying or taking any decision, people still go at Google to find information and Google’s strong grip on the mobile platform via Android and DoubleClick is helping to shape Google’s knowledge graph, to make sure search results now comprise all-round information via Google Maps, Google News, Google Images, Google+ and YouTube, so that consumers can find all they need to make a decision.

All in all, I don’t see any feasible threat to Google in the near future and in fact if they can pull together worldwide content including ecommerce site content, location data, YouTube, Google News, Google Images, Google Maps and Google+ content and process and render this via the knowledge graph in the way they have done for web search, they have a clear winner and are likely to remain on top of the game for a long-long time to come, even in the graph war!