The world’s biggest modern-day mystery is about to get solved. Doomsayers wondering how microblogging service Twitter is ever going to earn revenues have reason to be relieved. For, Biz Stone, a Silicon Valley serial entrepreneur who co-founded Twitter in 2006, thinks he has found the magic potion.
Biz Stone is no Bill Gates. But the response his session on Day 2 of the 56th annual Cannes Lions advertising festival generated was like what the Microsoft supremo would possibly get.
The Debussy auditorium was packed to capacity, some industry whizkids were even seen crowding the aisles. And since his address and the Q&A thereafter were laced with a fair amount of humour, every smart line drew chuckles and chatter. Plus huge applause.
“I’m not a great judge of cool,” Stone said while answering a question on what were the funniest and coolest tweets (jargon for twitter messages) he had received.
The event was organised by public relations major Hill & Knowlton (part of the WPP network) and CMO Tony Burgess-Webb was hosting the 45-minute session. B-Webb was right in his description when he said Stone was a pretty laidback and humble guy. For, despite the knowledge that the network had grown nearly 2000% in the last year, Stone made it sound as it was no big deal.
Stone started the session with a brief account of how his co-founder Jack Dorsey approached him and another co-founder Evan Williams with the idea of a service that would help people know what they’re doing. After being convinced that it will work, they kicked it off in mid-2006 and today it’s grown to a very popular communication tool. “We anticipated a simple form of social networking,” he said. “But the popularity gained worldwide was amazing.” His mantra: Creativity is a renewable resource.
“Twitter is not a triumph of technology, but of humanity,” Stone philosophised. He cited the example of the Mumbai terror strikes last year and how Twitter has also grown as a means for communicating breaking news. When there was news of an earthquake, there were at least 3600 tweets in the nine minutes before Associated Press flashed the news, he said.
Stone is convinced that he doesn’t want Twitter to grow beyond the rudimentary service of tweets. “We have opened up our simple infrastructure had have some 11,000 register applications who get around thrice the traffic as us,” he said.
Another popular usage of Twitter is by brands. He cited a few examples – of US telco Comcast, the airline Jetblue, a bakery and a San Francisco pie shop, all of who have been tweeting to up equity with customers and thereby leapfrog revenues by 15-20 per cent.
The last year, explained Stone, was spent in getting the technology and infrastructure in place. And now it’s going to be earning revenues. “We don’t want to make billions in our first month. We are going to talk to companies like Dell who have benefitted from us and ask them what their expectations from a service like Twitter is. Efforts are also being made to tighten up design.
When asked to comment on the match-up with Facebook, his instant reaction was: Boxing Match. But he reasoned that Twitter was designed to complement social networks. We are a communication tool that has some SM features.
On how would he explain the benefits of Twitter to an old-fashioned company, he said he would ask it to simply search for what people are talking about it. And once companies and brands know what’s being said about them, they can respond. Or take urgent remedial measures as Comcast did.
Is there any possibility of Twitter selling out? “We’re not engaging in any acquisition talks,” he said very emphatically. The more pragmatic businessman in him though saw an afterthought: “But we are aware of our responsibility towards our stakeholders.”
As of now, for Stone, it’s all eyes, on fine-tuning the product and making money. Until then, those interested in joining the 7.62-odd lakh people following him can do that by looking up biz on Twitter.com.