Ah, so that’s why Twitter’s vision seems hazy

Jack Dorsey responded to the flattering New York Times profile of Twitter CEO Dick Costolo that sponsored questions like Mathew Ingram’s “Can you have a part time product visionary?” The answer, apparently, is no. Silicon Valley applauded when Dorsey, an original founder, returned 18 months ago to help set product – and strategy – direction for Twitter. But it seems he’s stopped doing that since January. Dorsey drops by on Tuesdays, much as he did prior to the comeback tour.

So feel free to blame this summer’s ecosystem-upsetting API policy changes on Costolo. Mathew points out that Twitter has separate product leads in charge of consumer products, advertising, and international. Does it really have an overall vision? Does it need one?

The answer to the second question is yes. Twitter is struggling a bit as it wrestles with its multiple roles in the social technology industry. Twitter is a media company – any organization that makes most of its revenue from advertising is, by definition. And while it is a supplier of APIs, those are used by third party developers more for their access to Twitter information than they are for access to core tech infrastructure services (the way Google’s, Facebook’s, and Microsoft’s APIs are used). That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Developers can get locked into those APIs, in a good way, just like they can with infrastructure. And Twitter may be able to build out its business in data licensing, though that doesn’t feel like its real focus.

No, that focus is on selling ads. I’m skeptical that Twitter’s ad sales are as big as eMarketer thinks they are, and Twitter’s really in no better position to sell mobile advertising than anyone else is. It’s a positive sign that Twitter is working with media companies who have richer ad inventories and bigger salesforces to sell them. But it lacks the agency and ad tech and services ecosystem of Facebook, the company that for all its grief is the real social media marketing power.

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David Card

VP Research Gigaom Research

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