Twitter is in trouble. The company recently missed earnings estimates for the second time in four quarters, and had to strike a deal with activist investor firm Elliott Management which had “been trying to push (Jack) Dorsey out as part of an overhaul to Twitter’s business.” Could creating a “Twitter for business” service level be part of the answer?
Twitter is generally viewed as the second-best social network for B2B marketing, behind only LinkedIn. In the current environment where the coronavirus outbreak and COVID-19 pandemic have shut down live events and even coffee meetings, forcing increased online interaction, B2B marketing activity on Twitter should be exploding.
But it’s not. Though 90% of B2B software companies are on Twitter, barely half are active. Of the top 500 people in event marketing per BizBash magazine (a group that should definitely be social media active), just 119—less than a quarter—even have a Twitter account, and many of those are inactive. Most providers of brand monitoring tools don’t even bother monitoring their own brand mentions on Twitter.
And it’s not just enterprise accounts. Most professionals still active on Twitter can name plenty of colleagues and acquaintances, formerly engaged on the platform, who haven’t tweeted in months (or years). They stop checking their feeds because they are sick of the cesspool Twitter’s creators have allowed it to become.
They are sick of the hate, the profanity, the pointless MAGA-vs-“the resistance” diatribes, the bots and trolls, the whole outrage industrial complex. Tried of the blatherings of vapid, ignorant Twitter celebrities with small brains but large followings.
Fed up with the cancel culture attacks on anyone who dares express a sensible viewpoint, and the general adolescent nonsense so prevalent on the platform (when a hashtag like #thingspeoplestickuptheirbutts is trending, Twitter does not present itself as a forum for serious business discussion).
Of course, there are actual, bona fide B2B rock stars still actively tweeting—people like Vala Afshar, Mike Quindazzi, Tamara McCleary, Ronald van Loon, Paula Piccard, and Craig Brown, to name just a few—who consistently find and share content that is fascinating, meaningful, and insightful.
But there are far too many of the other kind on open Twitter; the hateful, banal, the self-absorbed.
Twitter should be trying to woo B2B marketers and business professionals onto its platform rather than driving them away. After all, enterprise decision makers buy things, Often big, expensive things. Twitter could be a lucrative advertising channel for reaching these people, if it could attract and hold them. But how?
An Idea: Twitter for Business
Twitter could create a not-quite-separate but sort of segregated version of the platform catering to business use. Business Twitter (or Twitter Professional, Twitter Pro…whatever they choose to call it) would have attributes attractive to professionals, such as:
Richer profiles: It’s ludicrous that one can’t easily find, for example, everyone who work in marketing at IBM who is on Twitter. It’s easy to do that on LinkedIn. Business Twitter would have much richer profiles, including title and company. If fact, the easiest way to do this would be to enable users to tie their LinkedIn profiles into Twitter. This would also require that anyone who wants to join Twitter for Business first have a LinkedIn profile, which would keep a lot of the 13-year-olds (in terms of chronological age or maturity level) off the platform.
Tighter rules: These would a combination of algorithmic (e.g., prohibiting the use of profanity) and community enforced. It’s not unusual to see provocative political postings flounder on LinkedIn as other users simply reply, “This isn’t the place for that.”
Meaningful ratings: The “heart button” is kind of lame for business use. No one wants to “love” a story about a tragedy, failure, or death, even if the story is also important. Replacing the heart icon with a five-star rating system would enable users to vote on the actual importance and usefulness of a tweet.
Of course it would be supported by advertising, but even the ads would be more valuable to business users; more Wall Street Journal, less Flo from Progressive.
Could it happen? Maybe, if Jack Dorsey and the Twitter marketing team of Leslie Berland and Gap Kim start taking business influencers and professionals seriously. If they don’t, Elliott and Silver Lake may force the issue.
Frank Strong says
Twitter has been up and down many times, so I don’t see the current time as having the same urgency. On the contrary, Twitter has enjoyed more visibility than ever given the political and news attention – businesses will pay for visibly despite brand safety.
Exhibit A: programmatic.
However, I think your idea is good because just out of good practice they should be pursuing new streams of revenue. I like the idea of finding business contacts.
It makes me think as part of that, the company should jettison its practice of “verifying” just the cool kids and instead strive to verify real people. Real people will, on the whole, be more careful about their choices of words. Twitter can incentivize this by eleveting the visilibyt of verified accounts. They’d crush bots and bad actors at the same time.
Tom Pick says
Great points Frank, thanks, though Jack Dorsey is essentially on performance improvement plan from Elliott so I’m not sure he’s agree with you about urgency. 🙂
Your ideas for verification are really spot on. This process has been broken for too long, and it should be about who has trust and credibility — not just the “cool kids.”