Twitter Is Growing Up! (No It's Not)

Rebecca Greenfield
The Atlantic Wire
Twitter Is Growing Up! (No It's Not)

The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek have differing views on how far Twitter has come, the Journal still seeing it as an immature start-up and Businessweek arguing it is all grown up.  Amid this year's deluge of tech company IPO announcements -- Groupon, Yelp, Facebook -- Twitter has yet to follow with one of its own. The site has earned relevance from a cultural perspective -- it drives news and revolutions -- but it has yet to prove that important cash-money type of worth. Looking at the growth and current direction of the company, Businessweek's Brad Stone thinks it is on its way to IPO, whereas The Journal's Shira Ovide and Emily Glazer are more skeptical.

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Twitter Is Ready to Get Serious?

Twitter says Twitter is amping it up. "Our ad business is only about 18 months old,” says Satya Patel, Twitter’s product vice president said to Stone. "2011 was the year we began scaling it. And 2012 is the year when we demonstrate that it’s a juggernaut."

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Twitter says Twitter is taking it slow. "When they begin to understand our approach, they think we're doing the right thing going at our own pace," CEO Dick Costolo told Ovide and Glazer. 

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Twitter's Advertising Strategy

Advertisers think it's brilliant. "The centerpiece of Twitter’s plans, what Costolo calls 'the atomic unit of our ad strategy,' is the 'promoted tweet,' a message from an advertiser that appears near the top of a user’s feed," explains Stone. "The message—Twitter was taking a more nuanced, user-friendly approach—resonated with ad executives," he continues. 

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Advertisers don't get it.  "All [P&G] brands are asking questions about what to do with Twitter and how to leverage it; nobody really had a clear, lean answer," Proctor & Gamble's J.B. Kropp told Ovide and Glazer.

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Twitter's Relationship With Companies

Businesses are totally excited and on board. The company's ad-driven business strategy has companies "delighted," writes Sonte. "The company has ... rolled out new advertising products to the delight of big brands such as General Motors (GM) and Budweiser (BUD), which advertised heavily on the microblog service during this year’s Super Bowl, " he explains. 

Businesses are abandoning ship. Interested at first, brands don't see the value in advertising on Twitter, note Ovide and Glzer. "A P&G spokeswoman for Tide didn't specify why the company didn't buy any Twitter ads last month," they write, even though these companies had worked with Twitter before.

The Super Bowl: A Twitter Success Story?

#FTW "During this year’s Super Bowl, 8 out of 42 TV advertisers included a Twitter hashtag in their commercials. Last year only one, Audi, did so," Stone notes, demonstrating how companies used Twitter to promote their brands.

#FAIL "[Twitter] doesn't have the same mass appeal of something like a TV commercial on the Super Bowl," said Joel Ewanick, GM's global chief marketing officer, told Ovide and Glazer. 

Twitter's Winning the Social Network War?

Yes. At least in the mobile advertising space. "On Feb. 28, Twitter announced it would also start sending promoted tweets to mobile phones, beating Facebook in the race to make money from exploding mobile Internet use," writes Stone.

Nope. Just look at the ad revenue stats. "Twitter's ad revenue reached $139.5 million last year, eMarketer Inc. estimates, while ad revenue at Facebook—which is two years older than Twitter—was 22 times larger at $3.15 billion," Ovide and Glazer write.