Reactions To Twitter CEO's Comments

Twitter CEO Evan Williams recently spoke at an event in San Francisco, CA. Here are some of his quotes, with my take on them:

Williams: “The problem with email is that it’s sender-driven, and sender-driven media doesn’t scale. The sender is motivated to send as much stuff as possible because it’s free. Tweeting can be different (and better) than email, because people who have something to say can find their audience.”

My take: Nonsense. Email marketers have learned — albeit, the hard way — that sending too much email will drive customers and prospects to opt-out.  As for Twitter being better, that’s nonsense as well. In fact, Twitter is worse. It has enabled (if not encouraged) people to tweet things they would never dream of putting in an email: What they ate for breakfast, a running account of the delays the plane they’re on is experiencing, Twitpics of the nail polish they put on their toes, and (a personal pet peeve) pseudo-inspirational quotes from pseudo-famous dead people.

Williams: “Google serves more purpose-driven needs versus Twitter’s focus on an interest-based world. Google is very good at ‘I need to solve a problem, I need to buy something, I need an answer’. Twitter is more ‘I’m interested in many things, I don’t know what I need to know.’”

My take: Google and Twitter don’t belong in the same sentence. Google is search, and it’s great for ‘I’m interested in something, but not sure what’s out there, where it is, or what might be related to it.’ Twitter is for….well, different things for different people. For me (and I bet for many of my Twitter buddies), Twitter is for conversation. For other people (and I tend to unfollow these people and firms pretty quickly) it’s for broadcasting. For sure, plenty of people use Twitter for searching. But it’s searching for what somebody tweeted — and that’s a different kind of search than what Google is for. Being “purpose-driven” or “interest-based” doesn’t factor in here — real people (i.e., not marketers) don’t think in those terms.

Williams: “What we need to get much better at is scaling that system so you don’t have to pay attention to everything, but you don’t miss the stuff you care about.”

My take: This comment reflects a somewhat narrow view of how some people use Twitter (in particular, me). I’m not worried in the least about missing “stuff” I care about. I don’t follow “stuff” — I follow people. Granted, there may be a lot of marketers out there who don’t want to miss mentions of their beloved brand, but I’ve got to believe that out of 145 million Twitterers, only a small percentage are marketers worrying about missing “stuff.”

Final thought: I admit that it’s unfair of me to try and read intention into his statements, but I think Williams’ comments are driven by a view that Twitter needs to become more useful to marketers. Why? Because that’s who Twitter thinks will pay to use it. People who tweet don’t obsess over Google vs. Twitter, or email vs. Twitter.

5 thoughts on “Reactions To Twitter CEO's Comments

  1. My dislike of Twitter’s CEO is well documented. I have never in my life seen a CEO who is so completely out of touch with his own company. He has never said one sensible thing about Twitter or how people use it. IMO, he is the most idiotic CEO in America. The smartest thing Twitter and its venture capitalists could do is fire the guy.

    Hey Ev, how’s that revenue model coming?

  2. The problem for all start ups when they get big is; how do we change from being innovative to actually drive our core business forward? Ev might be great at innovation but less at making money.

  3. Joakim: Thanks for your comment. You might very well be right about Ev. Problem is, though, Twitter isn’t big. A lot of people use its technology, but it’s not making money. When you say that the “problem for startups when they get big…..”, I interpret “big” as “starting to make a lot money”. Either way, I found his comments to be confusing and wrong.

  4. Ron,
    While mind reading is always a dangerous game (especially when I try to read my wife’s), your assessment makes a lot of sense. I can’t think of another motivation for Mr Williams to try to make comparisons between Twitter and email and Google.

    And, for the life of me, I’ve been struggling with trying to find another commercial model for twitter besides what you indicated. But, even then, WHAT is twitter going to sell? The raw data (the actual tweets) is public domain. Marketers can attach to the fire hose now. Analytics? There are other companies already in that game.

    I’m still stumped. Any thoughts?


  5. BD: Oh man. If I knew how Twitter could make money, I wouldn’t be sitting here. I’d have made a couple million already, and be sitting on a beach somewhere. Twitter apparently thinks advertising is one way to go. Good luck to them. The number of companies that have failed pursuing ad-supported business models is probably in the billions. I guess Twitter thinks it’s the next Google.

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