Twitter CEO Dick Costolo needed more than 140 characters on May 29 to discuss his coming of age product at the D11 conference. Since October 2010, Costolo had been at the helm for the online social networking service.
The University of Michigan graduate and improvisational comedian was only supposed to be a temporary CEO for Twitter, while his predecessor Evan Williams was on paternity leave, but the position soon became permanent.
Technology columnist Kara Swisher conducted the interview, approaching Costolo with a broad spectrum of questions most he happily answered. But he resisted the urge to discuss revenue with a little chuckle. “We don’t talk about it,” the humouring CEO smiled and when probed further he simply stated, “We don’t have to.”
Despite Costolo’s coy attitude, Twitter’s advertising profit is experiencing growth. From brand advertisers to director response advertisers, marketers are finding greater success promoting their products on Twitter than many other formats.
“Bonobos, the online men’s sportswear company, they saw 13x more effective ads deals with us than any other marketing span they had online,” Costolo said. “It’s called a flock to unlock, which is ‘a here’s a tweet about a particular clothing item we are launching, if you retweet this you get x-dollars off and you use this coupon to go redeem it.'"
“The beauty of promoted tweets,” added Costolo, “is that they go out originally as contents. They are just a tweet that goes out organically to company followers. And those things can be promoted to people who don’t follow them, either based on their interest or things they are following about.”
Over the years Twitter has been carefully constructing its niche in the large social media ecosystem. Sometimes hunter and sometimes prey, Twitter is in a constant battle to be the predominate alpha service against such competitors as Google and Facebook.
“The landscape of these relationships between companies always ebbs and flows,” the Twitter CEO noted. “There is going to be areas where we compete, obviously we compete for things like ad spend and large global marketers and a bunch of those companies. And there are areas where we cooperate.”
Although Costolo reiterated the importance of communicating with competitors, he remained diplomatic and steered clear of specific details. But for Twitter, there were many other complimentary companies they prefer discussing, such as Apple.
“We are integrated into iOS,” said Costolo. “We love working with those guys. I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again, I kind of think of Apple as a mentor company for us. We like the way they think of simplicity of design and the way they think of product elegance. Those are the things we try to drive into our own organization.”
When asked about the future of Twitter, Costolo described his experience by using a sport metaphor (something he wasn’t really good at as a kid). “I feel like I’m this wide receiver,” he said, “I’m trying to manage this business and I’m trying to create separation from the quarterback and the quarterback is trying to throw the pass. And I got to figure out how to catch the ball—and this person on the sideline is like, ‘Hey! What are you doing after the game?’” Costolo rolled his eyes, “and lets assume I stop and say, ‘I’m not thinking about that right now.’ They’ll go, ‘Pfft, sure!’”
IPO, banking and stocks are not what Costolo thinks about when he thinks about Twitter. Instead he is focused on connecting his product with other forms of media such as television.
Instant replays and tv show integrations are the next big things for Twitter and their CEO believes it.
“Over the past few years we’ve recognized that Twitter is the second screen for TV,” he said, “and TV is more fun with Twitter. Deb Roy, one of the founder of Blue Fin Labs and now our Chief Media Scientist likes to say, ‘Twitter is the social soundtrack for TV.'"
Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg