As you likely know, Twitter recently filed for its initial public offering (IPO) with the Securities Exchange Commission, a major step in the process of becoming a publicly traded company. For many of its investors, this is the long-awaited payoff of billions of dollars invested in the company. But what does the act of becoming a publicly traded company mean for the many folks who use Twitter for marketing, PR, and communications? More important, what are they working on to dazzle shareholders as they go public?
The major changes that going public typically are that things like short-term profitability and demonstrated growth become key concerns for the company, concerns that must be demonstrated on a quarterly basis. Companies are required to file quarterly earnings reports, and those companies who don’t meet or exceed expectations for profitability and growth typically are punished by investors over time.
As a result, when a company goes public, more resources and focus are put in its revenue-generating capabilities. If you think about what Twitter has to sell in order to make money, it’s got two really valuable things. Twitter has an audience, of course, and selling those eyeballs in the form of advertisements is one of the ways it already makes money.
The second major valuable asset that Twitter has is data, lots and lots of data in the form of the Twitter stream. Television advertisers and content producers pay attention to it. Marketers pay attention to it. Companies license data from Twitter already.
The clearest indicator of where a company is going isn’t based on what they put in their press releases, but what they put on their jobs pages. After all, hiring human resources takes significant time and investment if your company is to grow well and sustain its growth. To ascertain where Twitter has been going for the last year and where it is going now, SHIFT examined the Twitter careers page from a year ago, 6 months ago, 3 months ago, and today.
A year ago, Twitter’s focus on hiring was to solve infrastructure problems. Many of the job positions centered around the nuts and bolts of building out the site, from Hadoop engineers to security to reliability. Some of those positions are an ever-ongoing hiring campaign, but for those veteran Twitter users from the early days, Twitter’s efforts have paid off. The famed fail-whale has become something of an endangered species.
6 months ago, Twitter had just acquired Bluefin Labs, a social TV firm. A good portion of their new open positions revolved around integrating the Bluefin technology and systems into Twitter, from infrastructure (new job postings about JVM, Vertica, Linux, Open Source, and the Crashlytics platform) to new data products.
3 months ago, Twitter’s acquisition of Bluefin seemed to be going smoothly, enough so that they turned their attention to making money. Twitter started hiring for an ads API engineer, a monetization engineer, a new Twitter command center, and others. This was also the first sign of an increased focus on the Android platform.
Today, the signs of Twitter’s future direction can be foretold from what’s hiring now. Significant increases in Android Search and Discover can be seen in their hiring. as well as a new data scientist in analytics. We see many of their engineering projects maturing with the addition of new engineering managers for their projects and efforts, such as TwitterTV (which has now fully been rebranded from Bluefin), Activation, and development. What’s of special interest is Twitter’s explosive interest in their international efforts, with new positions in international growth, international engineering, international Android development, international web apps, and most specifically, a hiring effort for Arabic natural language processing.
Where is Twitter going as it marches to IPO? The company clearly believes (and is willing to pay for in new hires) that international growth is a target, that mobile is the trend to bank on, and that partners, ads, and data sales are going to fuel their growth.
How should you interpret this for your marketing and PR? If you’re looking at marketing and PR programs with a more global focus, you’re in good company. Expect Twitter to increase its capabilities and offerings globally, which means more advertising capabilities.
If you’re looking at your social data, expect access to that data to get more expensive or more restricted, at least at scale and volume. Twitter has made significant investments in data analysis over the last year, and that investment will pay off in their data products.
Pay special attention to TwitterTV as social TV and its data analysis continue to grow and expand. If you’re doing anything with social media or anything with broadcast media, expect significant convergence to continue, and new opportunities to blend broadcast and digital media together, especially in-app. Create campaigns with the idea that broadcast and social are two sides of the same coin and not separate entities.
These are just a few of the signs and portents we can read into Twitter’s moves as they march towards going public. Time will tell whether their investments will make their investors happy or not, but we can see quite clearly where they’re plotting to go over the next year or so based on who they want to hire now.
Christopher S. Penn
Vice President, Marketing Technology