THREE LESSONS FROM HATCHING TWITTER
February 21st , 2016
Hatching Twitter is a roller coaster read about the birth and growth of twitter.
We know Twitter in its present day form. This book bring you back to the very inception.
Back to when it was known as "twttr" - no vowels. When it was based on text message status updates. And when it looked like this.
The story in itself is unbelievably captivating - a struggle for power amongst the group of four founders.
There are so many interesting stories and lessons along the way. As you read, you find yourself critically dissecting - what is Twitter and what makes it so powerful? Is it that I control my own message and have a platform to talk to the world? Is it how it brings us instantly closer together during major events and crisis? Is it power in the hands of people who until now had no voice? Is it a window into conversations happening at any time in any part of the world?
Ultimately, it's all of those things - the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It's what made and makes Twitter.
Less than a year ago, Twitter was nearly a necessity. Now, people are starting to wonder about its relevance and direction. The current state is well capture by the New Yorker article,The End of Twitter.
Regardless of the future of social media, reading the book highlighted some fundamental business lessons that transcend generations, movements and technological advances.
1/ Let Users Guide Our Product.
We often firmly hold universal truths when we think of the consumer or user - "People just want...[fill in the blank]." Sometimes we don't know them as well as we think. The initial idea for Twitter was a means for friends to share their status with each other. But "I'm listening to The Beatles" was quickly replaced by an instantaneous, unfiltered and raw megaphone for what was happening in the world around us. The user shaped the product once it was in their hands. Similarly, use of @ and # symbols in tweets were ideas that users first implemented on their own to make the platform easier to use - and the company later adopted the concept of @ usernames and # hashtags.
We can be so afraid to put something in market and have people hate it. We think (and overthink) that we have one shot. Rather, we need to subscribe more to the principles of design thinking - talk to people, listen to what really is on their mind. Prototype something and experiment. Get feedback. And iterate until we nail it. Don't be afraid to let people tell us what they want. Why not pilot three versions of your next marketing/product.social strategy and see what works? We are too married to the all of nothing idea of one great creative campaign.
2/ The Medium Is Less Important Than the Offering
Twitter was invented before the iPhone. Before it was easy to access the internet in your hand or have apps that enabled an experience. It was launched based on text message status updates and a desktop website. The fact alone seems near impossible when you think about how Twitter thrives in a mobile-first world.
Today we must be adaptive and responsive to all digital platforms - that's a given. But that's the preferred medium of the time. The only guarantee is that it will continue to evolve. Will our product/experience/service be ready to adapt to whatever is next or are we building the bedrock of who we are on today's current social and digital trends?
3/ Well Designed Products & Experiences Endure
Twitter was a side project of a company called Odeo. The initial site was designed as a basic prototype, with infrastructure that was less than ideal. As the site rapidly expanded, the infrastructure was never upgraded. When Twitter exploded with people signing up, the site continuously and frequently crashed. And yet, users continued to sign up in droves.
A continuously crashing website would devastate many companies. But if the product is exceptional enough, people will wait and come to accept some short term issues. We can produce the best marketing campaigns in the world, but the entire business is fragile without a product that people are willing to cross the street for. Great products are the first step of great marketing. Marketing mediums and trends will come and go and are a fragile strategy; a product that is well-designed and continuously improved will endure.
We don't know if Twitter will survive it's current struggle. We don't know what the next Twitter will be. But whatever ends up being on top next, these three lessons will surely be embedded in their success.
Dave Corelli is Chief Strategy Officer of SportBox Group, a global entertainment agency with verticals in strategic consulting, personality representation, and event creation and ownership. Corelli oversees business and creative strategy globally for the agency, its consulting clients, athletes and events. Follow Dave on Twitter and on Medium.