In theory, merely creating a hugely popular product should be enough to achieve success, but if you want to see an example of how the world is a more complicated place than that, you only need to take a look at Twitter. It has been around for ten years and has grown to have over 310m users, embedding itself into the daily lives of hugely influential people, but yet it has never managed to topple Facebook and has already been passed by Snapchat in terms of daily usage.
Most importantly, it has failed to find a way to monetize itself in the way that Facebook has done so successfully, and with its user numbers seemingly starting to plateau this year, it’s no surprise that Twitter’s owners have been examining options to sell up while the selling is good. In the last month there was talk that Disney was thinking of adding Twitter to its portfolio of media properties, but this week has seen that talk die down, with reports suggesting that executives were put off by the more unsavoury nature of some of the activity on the platform.
Bloomberg’s report claimed that: “Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.”
Certainly Twitter has its problems when it comes to how people use it. If you need evidence of this, simply find any tweet by a prominent actor, musician, politician or celebrity and scroll down through the replies. In one of Disney’s more recent purchases, the Star Wars franchise, there’s a line about the Mos Eisley spaceport where it is described as a ‘wretched hive of scum and villainy’, and that’s no doubt the impression Disney execs will have gotten of Twitter when they read the types of abuse that its users get on a daily basis.
None of that fits in with Disney’s ‘wholesome family image’, and so far Twitter has been able to do very little to stamp out the abuse, death threats and bullying that are rampant on its platform. That seems to have cost its owners their sale not only to Disney, but also other potential suitors like Google and Salesforce, and CNBC’s Jim Cramer said: “What’s happened is, a lot of the bidders are looking at people with lots of followers and seeing the hatred. Twitter says ‘listen, we have a filter’. I mean, the filter filters out a very small amount of the haters, and I know that the haters reduce the value of the company.”
So what does the future hold for Twitter? It had apparently told potential buyers that it wanted to conclude business by October 27th, a very short deadline for a major deal and sign that CEO Jack Dorsey is concerned that protracted uncertainty would add to what has been a difficult year for a company that has failed to produce a net profit since going public. For Dorsey in particular, the failure of the Disney sale is a personal blow given that he sits on the board of directors there as well as holding his position at Twitter.
Shares in Twitter have dropped since it became clear that none of its suitors were going to make a bid, so the challenge for Dorsey and Co is a big one to turn things around with very little chance of selling up by their deadline next week. The revelation that the abuse on its platform has been so very costly to them will surely provide an incentive to really start to tackle that problem, and it will need to be tackled effectively to avoid being seen as too little too late by users and investors alike.
If it can start to be seen as a safe place for women and celebrities, then Twitter still has the potential to be successful. It remains an important part of our culture, and headlines are made every day from what the likes of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are saying on there around the US election, which cannot be said for any other social media platform, no matter how successful they are in relation to Twitter. Finding a way to make a profit from that level of influence remains the elusive goal for its current owners and any prospective new ones, but first it needs to prove that it can do the hard work to stop scaring them all off.
What do you think the future holds for Twitter? How can it turn things around? Tell us in the comments section below or get in touch with us on social media.