Don't Confuse Growth For Relevance

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Just because something does not post Wall Street growth, it does not mean that it is dying or no longer relevant.

This may seem obvious, but it doesn’t look so obvious if you study the current marketplace and business climate. In fact, if you take a pure Wall Street perspective of things, we will wind up being in a place where it will be hard for all businesses to succeed. Take a step back. Take a deep breath. Put Wall Street aside. Put your brand’s performance aside. Don’t think about your quarterly earnings. Just stop and think about what the business of Wall Street preaches: each and every quarter we want your business to tell us how much you grew and how much more money you have made. That’s it. Each and every quarter. Without fail. We take this as the only acceptable metric, but think about your life for one second in relation to this model. What if I told you that each and every quarter, you had to report to the world how much more money you made, how much weight you lost, how much better your mental wellness is, how much stronger you have become, how much better looking you are, etc… How would you perform? Could you do this? Could you improve (without fail) each and every quarter… repeatedly… forever. There are no margins for error. There are no moments in time, when you can adjust the business model, change things up and/or try something new. If you do, you will be punished by the markets. 

It’s a tough place to be. This is where we are.

Twitter is having a rough go. There are a myriad of reasons why this is happening. There are a myriad of armchair quarterbacks who will tell you where Twitter veered off course. Many people will call for those in power at Twitter to give up their positions. The media and markets are claiming that Twitter is no longer a growth story. If you dig in, you will see that shares have dropped more than 10% as ad revenue fell by 7%. With that, its monthly user base increased 4% to 319 million, and daily users were up 11%. Still the money is not following (this is the headline), as revenue grew only 1%.

There is a business philosophy and new way of thinking that needs to be discussed.

Close to 320 million people use this platform. There is still – without a doubt – many people who know, like and use it. There is still – without a doubt – many people who might still join or use it for different reasons (Facebook is getting close to 2 billion users, so the market is open). There is still -without a doubt – things that Twitter can do (more than text, different marketing solutions, premium services, data and analytics plays, etc…). If you abide by the Wall Street world (massive growth, multiples and huge ad revenue), it looks like Twitter is in a death spiral. If you abide by a different philosophy (large media platform, strong user base, strong technology, a part of our cultural fabric, etc…), it’s a relevant business that is not growing at the speed of Wall Street’s expectations. And, that’s the thing. Is Wall Street metrics everything? Think about your brand… think about your personal brand. Do you gauge each and every quarter by how much growth there was (money only), or do you also measure and value things like relevance, what your customers are doing with your products/services, etc…

It’s not perfect. It’s business. It’s not just Twitter.

It would be easy to confuse this post as being about Twitter’s performance, instead of the real focus: how do you define business success. Is success growth or relevance for a brand… for your business today. I think of relevance online all of the time. I think of quality brands like Quora, Pocket, Quartz, Medium and many more. Are they – quarter by quarter – driving massive growth or chipping away at relevance and a solid business model (for today and tomorrow). It’s easy to say, “well, you can’t compare a private company to a public one,” or that “you can’t compare a company that was expected to be huge, against ones that are taking a much more conservative approach.” Are all fair and well-worth debating, but there is still a business philosophy that often gets clouded: being relevant is (and should be) as valued as growth in business today. Could you argue that the more relevant a brand is, the more growth they should experience? Yes, one could… but at what multiple and scale?

If you had to choose… what would you choose?… growth or relevance?