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To Twitter Or Not To Twitter

Posted on 12.01.2013

The weeks and months leading up to Twitter’s now historic IPO was flush with serious research reports, in-depth articles, one-off commentaries and streams of digital data that seemed to place the company, in both a positive and a negative light, simultaneously. No one really knew what would happen when the bell rang at the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 6, 2013; even fewer know what is next.

The pundits argue that the social network has changed the face of modern media and that it is fast becoming a standard for communicating. It’s heralded as an opportunity for the world to truly connect with one another in real-time and there are powerful stories to confirm its important role in the day-to-day happenings of today’s digital consumer — from the Arab Spring to US Airways Flight 1549, when Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger masterfully landed his plane on the Hudson River. But are these good and honest examples of the power in Twitter? Aren’t they instead the best examples of that system in action?

For many, Twitter is nothing more than a confusing echo chamber, one without potential or profit, much less a clear plan, or even vision, on what it will become or how it will go about obtaining revenue in the future. A review of your own Twitter stream will likely reveal little in the way of any meaningful conversation or information exchange per say. The most critical argue that Twitter is nothing more than a digital platform for navel gazing — ideal for Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber but not so much for anyone else. It’s one-way communication at best, nothing more; far from the true digital dialogue Twitter users are promised.

While the end result (at least for Twitter’s founders and employees) has been positive, creating many millionaires and a few billionaires along the way — at least on paper as employees can’t cash out until late 2014 — you’d be wise to avoid being like Twitter in any business sense.


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Twitter’s success seemingly flies in the face of nearly every single piece of advice I’ve ever received or given about running a Web-based enterprise; at every turn the company seems to defy common logic.

That certainly hasn’t silenced its most admiring users or strongest advocates, much less stopped it from collecting a rather sizable 18 billion dollar payday in its IPO. Sure, the stock price fluctuated (rather wildly in fact) as stocks prices are prone to do, but there seems to be more supporters now than there are detractors. Why is that the case? Who knows; Twitter’s user numbers are leveling off, it’s still losing money, it’s got a spam problem and an inactive account issue worse than most. And Twitter as a viable way to drive website traffic? Please; a recent Yieldbot study revealed that Twitter was “virtually meaningless” as a source of traffic for publishers. Yet media companies are enamored by it, big brands are actively shifting their time and budgets to the network as opportunities emerge. And consumers? They keep tweeting, in the range of 500 million per day on average.

There’s no denying that Twitter is an important part of the digital ecosystem today. The reality, however, is that Twitter is an anomaly among digital enterprises, and no one should ever try and replicate an anomaly. It’s up to you to Twitter or not to Twitter, but the majority of enterprises will be better off focusing on their business fundamentals rather than attempting to join the flock of the blue bird.

 

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