In an effort to re-start and focus the meandering strategy of Twitter, co-founder and recently appointed CEO Jack Dorsey has hired Amex’s exec VP of global advertising, marketing and digital partnerships, Leslie Berland. Amex is known for its highly effective social strategy program that has created significant revenue streams for the credit card company, utilizing its high-end card users, many of whom are CEOs and senior management types. Twitter is looking to grow its visitor base beyond 300 million active users at a faster pace and with new functionalitie to monetize its user base.
Twitter’s new chief marketing officer, Leslie Berland
The microblogging company has experienced significant shake-ups since the departure of former CEO Dick Costolo, including its two most senior executives in charge of product development and engineering. Current CEO Dorsey has also announced that he will shortly name two new board directors, one of whom is a prominent media personality, to jump start the company and give it more marketing and sales traction.
Twitter’s co-founder and current CEO, Jack Dorsey
Twitter was founded by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass in 2006. The service rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with more than 100 million users posting 340 million tweets a day in 2012 and handled 1.6 billion search queries per day, according to social media experts, a rise that earned it the nickname of “the SMS of the Internet.” As of 2015, it had surpassed 500 million users, but active user growth beyond 300 million has been stalled. The recent management shake-up is an attempt to give the 140-character microblogging platform a new face, including building a new product that will allow users to share tweets that are longer than the company’s 140-character limit.
While never a media darling of Wall Street the same way Facebook was and is, Twitter’s fortunes have been ignited by serendipity as opposed to strategic planning. CNN in 2008 integrated it into it iReport program, focusing on citizen journalism. Then in 2008, CNN showcased it on its program, Rich Sanchez Direct. But its real breakthrough came following the horrific terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November 2008, when users flooded Twitter with updates. CNN used Twitter to boost its “breaking news” focus in real time. That was the turning point for Twitter. After that, Twitter’s use grew by 5,000 to 10,000 new users every day and then to nearly 100,000 new users every day by 2009.
But beyond that, and the incremental growth to where it is today, Twitter did not have an explicit strategy to increase its breadth. Twitter, in a nutshell, needs to provide a complement to its current functionalities to generate revenue. Very few of its users generate content, so it’s difficult for Twitter to charge companies looking for content and its tweets concentrated in a minority of user. That puts a tremendous onus on Twitter to evolve its product to ensure that it can monetize its customer base, as Google and Facebook do so successfully. Perhaps Ms. Berland can help in that way.