Twitter has a problem

I love Twitter. It has opened many doors for me and connected me with wonderful people.  

About three years ago it even connected me with great people who actually work for Twitter and, it was with a lot of excitement that I met some of their executives when they were planning the Sydney office (none of them work in the office now in case you’re wondering). 

It was a time of great hope. We met in a hotel lobby and went out for lunch. I looked at some of the pitch documents from various PR companies and dropped soup dumplings down my top. There was a big push for TV partnerships and sports and we talked about the future of media and I destroyed the PR pitch documents and handed them back. I felt super important like I was at the forefront of something massive. A lot of the talk then was getting the content organised enough to monetise and they were working with sports teams and the like to hashtag correctly, drive conversations and make the feeds marketable. 

We then started talking about ad agencies, media agencies and some of the issues they were facing. The Twitter executives were hanging on my every word when I was talking about ad buying and media commissions, the death of print, the gravy train of TV and the market for “Creative”. I remember thinking it was a little bit strange that I was explaining how ad inventory is bought and sold to them but hey, this was The Future and maybe I was stuck in old school thinking. 

In hindsight, I can see that they had no idea how brands actually buy media. Twitter has a problem. 

They still have no idea how brands actually buy media.

 If they think a client-side brand manager is going to sit at a computer with a company credit card (have you ever seen anyone in a marketing team with a company credit card, let alone using one to buy ads?) then they think wrong. The agencies are sitting in the middle between the client and the media the same way they have since the 1930s and, as much as I would like that to change sometimes too, that's the reality. 

Twitter have pushed out a whole lot of ad products in the last few weeks, none of which I could recommend on a media plan with a serious face unless, brands just want to have a bit of a play. Facebook and Google have done a far better job of working with agencies to get their self-serve models working but it has requited a lot of hand holding and Google have essentially outsourced their client service with the growth of the new industry called “an SEO agency”. 

 I still struggle to get brands to understand that they have to ‘pay to play’ on Facebook and that they should be pushing the social media companies to educate them and provide them with client service. 

I ran into the now former Twitter executive at an event recently (he now works for another large startup) and he shrugged his shoulders and said the same thing. They are pushing out a lot of stuff but they can’t agree on a business model so nothing sticks.  Building a better mousetrap won’t fix Twitter’s problem.