Let Twitter Tweet (And Be)

Forget what you think that you know about the business world for a moment.

If I pulled you aside and told you that I had built a social media application that allowed people to share simple text message (140 characters at a time), small images and short videos, would you think this was a good idea? What would you think a business like this might be worth? What if I told you that this business:

  • Generates over one billion dollars from U.S. display advertising a year.
  • Has 88% of total advertising revenue coming from mobile.
  • Had Q3 2016 revenue of $616 million compared to Q3 revenue of 2015 is $569 million.
  • Has over one billion registered users.
  • Has 300 million monthly active users.
  • Serves over 500 million messages every day
  • Would be the 12th most populated country in the world based on that size.
  • Has a current valuation of about $16 billion.

Would you be interested in a business like this? Would you be impressed?

If any traditional newspaper, radio station, magazine or TV station had numbers like this, we would never read articles about the death of TV, radio, print, etc… Still, we live in Wall Street-driven world, where valuations are out of this planet and expectations on what something is/should be overrides the amazing business that a brand has truly developed. For most people today, Twitter is on the ropes. Facebook continues to soar. Google continues to solidify. Snapchat is the darling du jour. Instagram continues to shine. LinkedIn is the place for professionals. YouTube is still valuable, viable and interesting. It’s not hard to see that the markets, the media and some people are (very) sour on Twitter. It’s also not hard to see how a certain United States President seems to be the best PR and marketing that Twitter could have ever imagined, as he keeps the brand in the zeitgeist on a daily basis.

Still, most people look at Twitter, and they are not impressed. That’s scary and sad.

At what point can we — candidly — look at one another and say that this may be the biggest and the best that Twitter can become… and that there’s nothing wrong with that? As of this writing, Twitter’s stock is at $15.12 per share with a market cap of $10.78 billion dollars. Maybe this is a mistake. Maybe this is too many money people hoping beyond hope that Twitter is anything more than a $5 billion company. And, if it is a $5 billion media company, what is so wrong about that? How many people do you know that have built a $5 billion business in a little over ten year?

Have we lost all perspective?

This isn’t really about Twitter, is it? It’s about market expectations in relation to what a healthy and active business can look like. This need for constant triple-digit (or even double-digit) growth is not sustainable, reasonable or fact-based. In fact, if you told me that a social media application that allowed people to share simple text message (140 characters at a time), small images and short videos was worth $5 billion dollars, I might look at your sideways (take no offence to that). If Twitter is a healthy $5 billion business that serves over 300 million customers and delivers valuable content that is monetized (somewhat) decently, is that so wrong? Would Twitter not be in a better place to optimize and grow against that metric, than those waiting for them to become the next… what?… Facebook? Google? Maybe that’s not what Twitter can become. Seeing Twitter get acquired and becoming something even less than what it is, would be disappointing too. Seeing Twitter decline, because it may not be able to live up to its $10+ billion valuation would be tragic as well. We live in very unique times. We have small, medium and large businesses that thrive within their own varied sizes. We see multiple forms of successful brands across B2B and B2C. Maybe being a unicorn is not all it’s cracked up to be?

Expecting Twitter to become something that it may not be, and then dismantling it because of that would be tragic. What do you think?

Mitch Joel is President of Mirum — a global digital marketing agency operating in close to 20 countries. His first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his successful blog and podcast is a business and marketing bestseller. His second book, CTRL ALT Delete, was named one of the best business books of 2013 by Amazon. Learn more at: www.mitchjoel.com.

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