Reactions To Twitter CEO's Comments

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Twitter CEO Evan Williams recently spoke at an event in San Francisco, CA. Here are some of his quotes, with my take on them:

Williams: “The problem with email is that it’s sender-driven, and sender-driven media doesn’t scale. The sender is motivated to send as much stuff as possible because it’s free. Tweeting can be different (and better) than email, because people who have something to say can find their audience.”

My take: Nonsense. Email marketers have learned — albeit, the hard way — that sending too much email will drive customers and prospects to opt-out.  As for Twitter being better, that’s nonsense as well. In fact, Twitter is worse. It has enabled (if not encouraged) people to tweet things they would never dream of putting in an email: What they ate for breakfast, a running account of the delays the plane they’re on is experiencing, Twitpics of the nail polish they put on their toes, and (a personal pet peeve) pseudo-inspirational quotes from pseudo-famous dead people.

Williams: “Google serves more purpose-driven needs versus Twitter’s focus on an interest-based world. Google is very good at ‘I need to solve a problem, I need to buy something, I need an answer’. Twitter is more ‘I’m interested in many things, I don’t know what I need to know.’”

My take: Google and Twitter don’t belong in the same sentence. Google is search, and it’s great for ‘I’m interested in something, but not sure what’s out there, where it is, or what might be related to it.’ Twitter is for….well, different things for different people. For me (and I bet for many of my Twitter buddies), Twitter is for conversation. For other people (and I tend to unfollow these people and firms pretty quickly) it’s for broadcasting. For sure, plenty of people use Twitter for searching. But it’s searching for what somebody tweeted — and that’s a different kind of search than what Google is for. Being “purpose-driven” or “interest-based” doesn’t factor in here — real people (i.e., not marketers) don’t think in those terms.

Williams: “What we need to get much better at is scaling that system so you don’t have to pay attention to everything, but you don’t miss the stuff you care about.”

My take: This comment reflects a somewhat narrow view of how some people use Twitter (in particular, me). I’m not worried in the least about missing “stuff” I care about. I don’t follow “stuff” — I follow people. Granted, there may be a lot of marketers out there who don’t want to miss mentions of their beloved brand, but I’ve got to believe that out of 145 million Twitterers, only a small percentage are marketers worrying about missing “stuff.”

Final thought: I admit that it’s unfair of me to try and read intention into his statements, but I think Williams’ comments are driven by a view that Twitter needs to become more useful to marketers. Why? Because that’s who Twitter thinks will pay to use it. People who tweet don’t obsess over Google vs. Twitter, or email vs. Twitter.

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