Twitter has made its first moves to go public, albeit somewhat privately, which may leave its millions of user wondering: What, exactly, does that mean for me?
Tired jokes about a me-centric Twitter user base aside, it’s actually a very good question for the firm’s 200 million users to be asking. Going public can change a lot for a company, and it would be naive to think that those won’t trickle down to users in some form.
Of course, it’s hard to say exactly what Twitter’s IPO will look like, especially since the company has opted to express its intentions to go public through a confidential filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. But past changes at Twitter do offer some clues of what’s ahead.
In the past year or so, Twitter has been ramping up its attention to advertising products and ways to give user messages more impact. Its recent changes to how conversations look on the site, for example, were aimed at making it easier to wade through tweets and to follow discussions within a user’s stream. Advertisers, too, have been flowing more content onto the site, through the official products of promoted tweets and hashtags, as well as less traditional attention-grabbing stunts. And Twitter has already proven itself quite savvy about placing ads on mobile devices — something that tripped Facebook up ahead of its IPO — and recently bought the mobile ad exchange, MoPub, for $350 million.
Expect Twitter to focus on picking up advertisers by touting its network as the place to talk with potential consumers at exactly the right moment.
“Twitter has won the race to become the home of the real-time Web,” said David Rogers, director of Columbia Business School’s Digital Marketing program. “For the first time, advertisers can place ads not just against a media property (e.g. “Mad Men”), but against our collective conversations. Witness the real-time Twitter ads by Telco’s and smartphone competitors vying to be seen Tuesday amidst our collective conversations on Twitter about the iPhone launch.”
Rogers, who works at the school’s Center on Global Brand Leadership, said he expects Twitter to mature in 2014 as a company and continue its role as a center for conversation.
Which brings us to another point: Twitter will also probably be looking for more ways to integrate itself into your everyday habits. With products like Twitter Music, the firm has shown that it’s actively thinking about extending its services beyond mere conversation and into the competitive space of recommendations. The company is already working with Nielsen to augment its ratings reports.
As for investing in Twitter? Again, it’s a little early to say, since we don’t have the full details on the company’s financials. Small investors may be (reasonably) wary of Twitter’s IPO after being burned in Facebook’s market debut in May 2012. By filing privately, Twitter may escape some of the early buzz that contributed to the hype ahead of Facebook’s public launch.
(Jeffrey Bezos has agreed to buy The Washington Post newspaper. His personal investment organization, Bezos Expeditions, was an early investor in Twitter.)
Follow The Post’s new tech blog, The Switch, where technology and policy connect.