Marketing Twitter

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Life can be strange. 

It’s hard to imagine a brand not seeing Twitter as an opportunity to share and connect with customers and potential customers. It’s near-impossible to find any semblance of a marketing campaign that hasn’t attached itself to some kind of hashtag or Twitter call-out. Some might argue that Twitter is less about communication these days, and much more about a place to share information (a micro-broadcasting platform instead of a micro-blogging platform). At the very least, Twitter continues to be an amazing, public water cooler of information, links and consumer insights. With that, Twitter seems to be struggling at marketing itself. 

The Twitter struggle. 

It’s hard for me to see this from inside my little bubble. I joined the platform in late 2006, but did not send my first tweet until 2007. Frankly, I did not understand the value at the time. Back then, if I had anything to say, I could simply update my Facebook status (same thing for LinkedIn) or I could blog about it (and give myself much more than 140 characters to do so). In fact, it took me some time to understand and appreciate the value of Twitter, use it properly and see its breadth and depth of potential (I still grapple with how to use it properly). To this day, I know many people who struggle to understand how to use Twitter in an effective manner. They struggle to understand who sees what tweets, what content is public, how to reply to individuals, how to use hashtags and how to add anything of value or relevance.

I was not alone. I am not alone.

The general confusion of Twitter is similar to that of a new job or learning a new language. It takes time to get comfortable. It takes time to understand the environment and it is, a language unto itself. With that, comes a myriad of different interpretations about what makes Twitter most valuable. Still, Twitter is a public company and they are now reporting to the street. One of the key metrics that the company has struggled with has been growth of their user base. Growing user base? Sounds like a marketing challenge/opportunity, if ever there was one. So, what does Twitter – the place where all brands think about marketing – do to solve their own marketing challenge?

Marketing is now a function of the Chief Financial Officer. 

Yesterday, The Verge published an article titled, Twitter gives control of its hapless marketing department to its chief financial officer. From the article: “As an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, Anthony Noto orchestrated Twitter’s initial public offering. Now Noto is Twitter’s chief financial officer, and he’s changing the score again, moving the social network’s hapless marketing department under his control. Marketing is not typically the purview of a CFO, and a source familiar with the situation told The Verge that the unusual structure was discussed in a meeting at Twitter headquarters Monday. ‘Noto is consolidating power, so to speak,’ the source said.”

Marketing and finance need a much stronger connection.

Making boisterous claims that marketing has nothing to do with finance (and vice-versa) is both counterintuitive and places marketing on a terrible course. All disciplines within a business must be fiscally led and responsible. It’s also not enough to scoff at the idea that Twitter’s CFO should not be leading marketing, simply because his last tweet was April 9th (he had one more since… a retweet on April 21st). Still, it’s hard to imagine that a person whose main focus is the corporate fiscal responsibility of an organization can also lead a marketing team that has so much deep, complex and important work to get done. It’s also going to be very difficult for Twitter to get a seat at the brand table when their marketing lead shows little-to-no interest or investment in the platform itself. If the CMO is not living the brand, how are their team members and clients expected to do so? Twitter is all about communication, distribution and connections. The marketing of this platform is going to be the critical factor to ensure its financial health into the future. Passing that leadership over to a CFO (as another part of their portfolio) doesn’t just hurt the company, it hurts the profession of marketing. Ultimately, that’s what is so disappointing in this move. It’s not really about Twitter. It’s about the value and respect of marketing within an organization.

It feels like marketing is being pushed back a couple of decades. What do you think?