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The media commentariat has been in overdrive this week around a possible decline in the fortunes of Twitter since the company reported its latest quarterly earnings and a plateau in user numbers.
The instant impact on share prices has dominated reportage, and supplementing this with indignation around mooted platform changes from some quarters, it would be easy to surmise a less than rosy immediate outlook.
As a media agency it’s always our job to try and sort the wheat from the considerable chaff so we can continually reassess the potential efficacy of every medium for our clients. A marginal drop in user numbers is far less of a concern than being able to clearly demonstrate a growing return on investment, which for Twitter, will depend largely on the extent to which it tends to its existing flock.
One of Twitter’s main objectives needs to be wholesale ‘monetisation of the news’, with 2016 bringing forth elections, referenda and Olympics in diary events alone. The introduction this week of a new algorithm for serving up the most relevant, engaging tweets marks a return to form in this respect, and one that should distract naysayers of other proposed changes for the platform’s users.
For advertisers, the promise of conversational video ad units suggests a reinvigorated focus on engagement and sharing of adverts on the platform and a renaissance of its original objective: dissemination of commentary and chatter.
We will continue to assess the profitability of Twitter and every other platform, however in this instance I also want to take a step back and reflect on Twitter’s current circumstance.
There are two main protagonists in this particular scenario - 'activist investors' and 'activist users' - both of which are particularly sensitive creatures.
The investor side are at the end of their extremely short tethers about Twitter's ability to more rapidly monetise its audience base. Many of these investors were indeed the same folk who clamoured for the appointment of a new CEO and have now given him a window for improvement that would make a Premier League football manager wince.
That said it’s hard to accuse the investor market of ingratitude. By floating a business you accept a necessary quid pro quo that doesn’t allow for short-term plans and long-term returns. Twitter knows it needs to show progress in 2016 but I for one would back its business to deliver.
‘Activist users’ are a different beast altogether. For no direct charge and with good grace Twitter gives everyone a voice. The degree of chutzpah displayed by its users whom frequently troll the very platform that gives them a voice is at the very least arresting. More often than not, however, it is the broader media industry that through the momentum of perpetual commentary finds itself by degrees adding weight to an uninformed or ill-researched perspective.
Which brings me neatly to a position for the media agency. As I said, at Maxus we will continue to work with Twitter based solely on its merit as a platform for our clients, but as a media planner I am hugely grateful for its contribution to my craft.
Since its mainstream adoption Twitter has helped media agencies and advertisers evolve from planning their communications in silo to thinking about a complete picture. The hashtag gave us a vehicle to start planning our media within real systems; it helped give rise to the Paid, Owned, Earned construct and most importantly of course it allowed our flow-chart arrows to point both ways. Real consumer engagement became a reality and it allowed us to evolve our own businesses to what they are today.
It has also given our industry, along with so many others, a voice and a community. News moves fastest across Twitter and while at times it can be an echo chamber for the broader media industry it has helped us evolve. Industry learnings are more quickly shared, best practice more easily defined and initiatives around areas like diversity and equality get traction more quickly and more effectively.
Over the coming months we will see how and if Twitter overcomes its current detractors, but for the moment I am happy just to take this opportunity to simply say thank you to Twitter for making my world a livelier and more connected place.
Nick Baughan is chief executive of Maxus UK
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