What If You Were Running Twitter?

In terms of gaining entry into the minds of Twitter’s management team, the last couple of weeks have been quite unique.  From the subset of confidential internal documents that Techcrunch recently published to the recent launch of the company’s Twitter 101 site, the company’s vision and a bit of what its leadership thinks about its future have become less murky.  For armchair CEOs, this is an opportunity time to speculate on how they would steward the company, but more importantly, on the direction of the social media space in general.

New Twitter homepage

It’s impossible to tell whether the aforementioned documents paint a picture of a rudderless management team grasping at “strategy” straws or of one that is sufficiently aware of the tremendous potential opportunity within their grasp and, consequently, are at ease, openly analyzing their options. Though I’d vote for the latter, after perusing this information, it seems to me to be even more instructive of the industry as a whole.

The first thing that stuck with me after reading some of these documents is how nontrivial it is for a company such as Twitter to define what it is they are or what it is they do.  It seems that opinions within the company’s ranks ranged from “an index to my friends [sic] thoughts” all the way to a “way to share what’s happening.”  Additionally, the conversation on defining Twitter’s value and differentiation in terms of it’s utility for discovery (as opposed to Google search) seems appropriate and relevant.

This last discussion is particularly intriguing and revealing as it provides context for any possible discussions with companies such as Google and Facebook.  It’s pretty clear that Twitter content would provide an excellent complement to Google’s search results.  Thus, one can certainly find justifications for Google to partner or even acquire Twitter and it’s obvious that a number of companies are courting the company for just that purpose.  Aside from leveraging the resources of a larger company and providing an exit to its investors, the justification for being acquired is less straightforward.

Finally, for the first time, we are getting a clearer picture of the company’s revenue objectives ($100M annual revenue in two years) and possible monetization plays.  Initial monetization discussions and possible acquisition candidates seem to be focused on some branding opportunities (CoTweet) and a possible future focus on interesting mobile initiatives (Tweetie).   Nevertheless, it’s obvious from said documents that management’s main concern is building an organization, improving the customer experience and positioning the Twitter brand.  Just as importantly, much mention is made of leveraging a newer API to accelerate the “Twitter everywhere” strategy.

Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the apparent company direction exposed in these documents, the unexpected explosive success of Twitter has certainly made us rethink the social media space.  Perhaps a more appropriate question that we need to ask ourselves is not so much whether Twitter’s management team is getting it right, but whether we understand the true potential of all of these new social media tools as they continue to permeate our lives.

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