Twitter: Fledgling takes Flight

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Tom Murphy's picture
Tom Murphy has worked as a producer and cameraman specialising in current affairs and documentaries, filming in many different environments, hostile and otherwise, throughout the world. @tom_murphy

In the early part of August we published an article entitled Twitter Grows Up: The Start Of A New, More Mature Era. Using data derived from research done by John Conroy and Josephine Griffith at NUI Galway it was determined that Twitter had moved from the rapid growth phase of its early beginnings to a much more mature and somewhat more predictable phase of steady growth.

Rapid change is indicated by and is an indicator of volatility. For the wiser amongst us volatile markets, companies (or people for that matter) need deep consideration before time, energy or money is invested in them. Once things become more predictable markets and companies can attract investors who are interested in making profitable returns over the medium to long term.

While there are plenty of examples of founders morphing into C-suite executives, Steve Jobs probably being the most famous, the skills needed to be effective in managing and running large-scale organizations are so different from those needed to get an idea up and going that for many company owners the transition is not really workable.

Evan Williams stepped down from his role of chief executive of Twitter earlier the last week. He, his team, his investors and other insiders would have looked at the same sort of statistics as discussed in our article and come to the conclusion that Twitter had moved on from something other than what it was when it first started.

Twitter began in 2006 as an internal project inside a company called Odeo to help a team of people communicate with each other and the rest is history. But like a lot of history the story of Twitter seems to have acquired a lot of myths along the way. In our recent article on The Value of Analytics it is abundantly clear from the Social Media graphs that Twitter is not a referral service. In terms of clicking through links Twitter is a long way behind Facebook and Stumbleupon. In relation to these two latter services Twitter is relatively ineffective as a sales or marketing tool.

Twitter is maybe not where you should be putting your advertising euro or dollar. However, for providing a means for companies to be able to take care of their customers; to be able to understand and better engage with them then Twitter is almost the ideal medium.

One would hope that the large-scale investors and backers that Twitter is hoping to attract will see the value in providing a service that helps keep other people’s customers happy but they must have to wonder how to reflect the value of that service onto the Twitter balance sheet.

News, particularly breaking news, is an area that Twitter can claim as having created a genuinely new way of being able to look at the world around us. But it is only a welcome addition to the way we receive news and is not a substitution for other forms of learning about the goings on the world around us. A world view entirely shaped by the strength of trending topics would be unbalanced to say the least and shows that any argument for the wisdom of crowd must be always laced with some common sense and independent thinking.

As Twitter moves into its mature, grown up phase, the new managers, who very likely will be devoid of the inspiration, flexibility and risk-tolerance consistent with the start up mentality, will do the only thing they are good at which is to manage. It is in their nature, it is what they have spent years training themselves to do and it will be impossible for the new cadre of experts just to leave things alone and go along for the ride.

News in general and trending topics in particular will inevitably be managed in some way. We see this already over with missives from Twitter defining what a tweet should be and how it should be used.

The consolidation of services provided by third parties such as linking pictures and so on has been going on for some time. There is no doubt that it is killing off the eco-system that grew up around Twitter that did all the things that Twitter itself either could not or would not do itself.

Like a lot of people, I don’t really bother too much with the Twitter website. I use Nambu as a lightweight desktop Twitter monitoring system. It takes up very little space. If I am retweeting Technology Voice articles or otherwise engaged in some Twittering activity I use Tweetdeck.

For users of Twitter this is one of its greatest virtues: The ability to personalize and access Twitter in a way that suits me best and which may not necessarily suit the man or woman sitting next to me or you the reader. But from a corporate management point of view people are using their service but the advertising eyeballs are looking at someone else’s platform. Clearly, from their point of view third party services are not a good thing.

Twitter, with its revamped website and other developments has been taking bite-size chunks out of the community of third party service providers that surround it for some time now but under new, grown up, guidance the strategy will have to be one that requires Twitter devour its surrounding eco-system wholesale.

The essential worth of Twitter is that makes communication between individuals and groups very quick. What has been created by all these snippets of conversation criss-crossing the globe is magical and wondrous. But magic and wonder are hard things for grown ups to hold on to and see value in.

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