Ready? Take a deep breath. Twitter intends to “reach the largest daily audience in the world by connecting everyone to their world via our information sharing and distribution platform products and be one of the top revenue generating Internet companies in the world.”
Twitter’s chief financial officer Anthony Noto, who read the statement, knew this wasn’t epic prose.
“I struggle to read it every time,” he said.
The reaction — shared, as often as not, on Twitter — was unkind.
“Twitter’s new mission statement: 35 words, 62 syllables, 4 clauses, 2 grammatical errors,” wrote the Journal’s Dennis K. Berman.
“Twitter’s new mission statement is longer than a tweet,” wrote Farhad Manjoo of the New York Times. And: “Part of your company mission shouldn’t be that you’re going to make a lot of money; this is more or less expected.”
Twitter’s prose was more than just fodder for quick-witted financial reporters. Since the company went public last year, critics have said the social-media giant, despite its huge presence in the social media landscape, is more like a social-media midget — and one’s that’s adrift. It’s constantly compared with Facebook as an investment and it suffers from the comparison. Facebook had $3.2 billion in revenue and more than $800 million in profit in the third quarter of the year. In the same quarter, Twitter took in $361.3 million, but suffered a net loss of $175.5 million. As of this morning, earnings per share for Twitter are minus $1.79. Earnings per share for Facebook are plus $1.08.
“But perhaps the biggest thing separating the two companies is the way they’re run,” Victor Luckerson wrote in Time. “Facebook will gleefully shove any changes down users’ throats and force them to adapt. … Twitter, meanwhile, has seen relatively few changes to its core interface since it launched. … The core Twitter experience has basically remained untouched.”
And the critics are looking at numbers. TWTR is down 37 percent this year. Five executives have come and gone since the initial public offering. The company is just one-fifth the size of Facebook, and the growth in its number of users is slowing. And since it stumbled on to the New York Stock Exchange, the company has yet to turn a profit. Both Twitter and Facebook sell ads, but think about it: Do you remember seeing any of those ads on Twitter?
Among its problems, wrote Jeremy Owens in the San Jose Mercury News, is that the company “has about 500 million people who visit the service but never log in or become active users. … The paradox for Twitter is the difficulty in catering to new users while not angering those who already spend hours a day tweeting and accessing content on the service.”
Chief executive officer Dick Costolo said the company is “working towards creating a Twitter that everyone in the world can get value from immediately. A Twitter that connects everybody to their world.”
But how a social media service that some struggle to use can do that remains unclear. The Journal reported that the company was reluctant to even publish a “How To.”
“Yeah, we thought about that, but we think people can figure it out,” Costolo reportedly said when asked about a guide.
A new “Instant Timeline” feature Costolo announced at the meeting seemed a nonstarter. Much like, say, Netflix suggestions, Instant Timeline is designed to push people into the Twitter conversation, steering them toward accounts organized by areas of interest such as “sports” or “business.” But Twitter makes it easy enough to find interesting people to follow — what’s difficult is understanding the lexicon and etiquette of RTs, hashtags, tagging and subtweeting.
“New users have to do a lot of work to find the right people to follow,” TechCrunch, who praised Instant Timeline, wrote. “Until they do, they’re at risk of churning out and never coming back. Costolo says Instant Timeline is designed to be immersive for new users.”
In language as incoherent as Twitter’s strategy statement, analysts said they were wary.
“They’re doing all the necessary things, or at least talking about all the necessary things about product and marketing,” RBC Capital Markets analyst Mark Mahaney, who attended the presentation, told the Journal. “But at the end of the day, when it comes to the stock, all of this needs to translate into reaccelerating user growth and growing engagement per user.”
In a tweet on Nov. 12, Costolo emphasized that Twitter’s mission statement hasn’t changed.
The tweet linked to a page on Twitter’s Web site that read: “Our mission: To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”