A lack of brand and vision can even bring down superstar Twitter

by Tony Fannin, President, BE Branded

On the cover of the latest issue of Fortune is the headline “Trouble@Twitter”. Looking in from the outside, it seems that Twitter is a highly successful and profitable social media company. They are admired by millions of entrepreneur wanna-be’s and used by billions of people. So what can be wrong with all that? Internally, it seems like there’s a different story. First of all, a revolving door at the top positions doesn’t help. It disrupts vision, direction, and morale. Second, though they have plenty of money in the bank, they’ve yet to turn a profit. Eventually, that will wear on investor’s patience. Remember, Twitter is not a “not-for-profit” company. The waning patience by investors is beginning to take it’s toll internally. Finally, Twitter has no idea of what it wants to be when it grows up. No brand direction. No real vision of what purpose it fulfills in the daily lives of people. CEO Dick Costolo says Twitter isn’t a social network. So, what is it? In fact, Twitter hates being put into the same social media category with Facebook and the “others” within that category.

Here’s my main point, know your brand. This means, know why you exist in the first place. I know one of the mantra’s of new media is “create something and let crowdsourcing tell you what you should be.” That’s all fine and good in the world of academia and theory, but it doesn’t work in the real world of business when it comes to creating a company that has meaning and value and makes an impact on the world. Google was very clear on what it stands for and want it wanted to accomplish – to bring the world’s information in just one click. Facebook was very clear from the beginning to build a digital phone book for the new millennium. Amazon was clear in its mission to become the world’s bookstore. Twitter had, and still has, no clue on what it’s true purpose is.

To it’s defense, Twitter’s founders, Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Biz Stone, never really set out to create a company. They had an idea they though was cool and fun, created it in two weeks and let the “crowd” take over. That is all cool and “new media romanticism”, but if you want it to last, the principles of business (marketing, brand, operations, profits, etc.) needs to be in place. So many dot coms have faded after a quick start because it’s ran by it’s visionary founders who have no business savvy. The ones what have survived and dominated are founders who have business running in their blood or have gotten key business people to help run their companies.

Twitter’s current condition is telling (traffic is flat to declining, half of the accounts are inactive, and it is behind Linkedin and MySpace in unique visitors). A lack of brand and vision coupled with an unsuccessful business model can potentially kill this once, bright internet star. Right now it’s a caged bird with it’s wings clipped.



About Be Branded

Tony Fannin is of President of BE Branded, an integrated marketing firm who helps clients BE Somebody to their customers. If you aren't somebody, then you are commodity.

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