The Sell: Q&A with Twitter's Jack Dorsey

By Rosie Baker and Sarah Homewood | 26 April 2016
Jack Dorsey

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Twitter founder Jack Dorsey made his first visit to Australia this week, predominately to launch the company’s well established US payments platform, Square, to the market here, but he also met with a raft of brands, agencies and public figures to talk about the future of Twitter. Ever since he returned to the helm the tech platform has issued the rallying cry “Jack's back” as the answer to its woes. Rosie Baker and Sarah Homewood jumped straight in to ask how his second stint as CEO might be more successful than the first.

AdNews: You’re coming up for six months as CEO, what’s the vision for the future and how are you going to get it right as CEO this time?

Jack Dorsey: The reason we’re going to get it right this time and to build strength is because we’re going to focus on what Twitter is great at, and that is live events and live experiences. It’s the easiest way to get a sense of what’s happening now. Not only can you see it but you can dig into it, search a particular topic, see what people think about your brand and have a conversation with them. People can say they had a great customer experience or a bad one and brands can talk back. It becomes a good opportunity for potential customers to see that ANZ Bank, for instance, really cares about its customers and are willing to have a direct conversation. You see it all on Twitter.

Twitter is not a contact book that you bring from your phone it’s people that you meet who are aligned with a topic, whether it’s about a rugby match, a protest, a national event or crisis, you connect with all these interesting people. You can have a conversation with anyone in the world and other people can watch those conversations. A good example recently was between Elon Musk who landed a rocket on a drone ship and the President of the United States congratulating him on Twitter. Everyone can benefit from that conversation.

With recent media reports about the decline in personal posts on Facebook is that something you can leverage?

JD: Twitter is very human-focused. We show humanity very quickly – the positives and the negatives. It’s the fastest way to say something to the world, there’s nothing faster. You look at anything that happens in the world and you see it first on Twitter, 10-15 minutes before any other service.

You look at us versus Facebook and you don’t see it for hours or days, and versus other peers you may not see it at all. When you go to what’s trending [he opens the app to demonstate] there’s a face-swap with Bernie [Sanders] and Hillary [Clinton], equal pay day, HTC 10, Facebook Messenger – you see everything in one go and you can dig into what’s happening, you can reply or have a conversation, but it’s super fast.

The deal Twitter has done with NFL is a big turning point for the type of content that’s on the platform. Are there plans for similar deals in this market as sports are such a huge part of Australian culture?

JD: People have been watching events and games with Twitter for 10 years, they live tweet them and follow people who have an interesting perspective. A huge percentage of our base are sports enthusiasts. We see [the NFL deal] as an evolution.

For example, San Francisco is home to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and no matter if I’m in the arena or in front of a television screen – even if I don’t have access to a screen at all – I watch it on Twitter and one reason why is [player] Draymond Green’s mum is on Twitter. She’s found all the other NBA mums and during the game she’ll just trash talk them, it’s so insightful to watch the players’ mums during the game. It’s really funny. Twitter makes any event better, more interesting, more humorous and more insightful.

As soon as we announced that deal pretty much every league in the world asked us to do something similar because they know people are tweeting about games and they want to amplfly that even more, provide a better experience for fans, and get them to connect with each other.

In most sports leagues a significant percentage of athletes actively tweet. It’s such an engaging way to see inside the sport and engage with fans. They love the sport even more because they get to see the human side of their favourite athlete.

Messenger apps are growing massively and Facebook and Snapchat have made big updates in recent weeks with things like chatbots. The potential for brands is huge, how do you see it evolving and what is Twitter’s place?

JD: I like our position on it. Twitter has been messaging for 10 years – the biggest difference is that it’s public by default. What you see from [Facebook and Snapchat] is they are really intrigued by the public aspect. The public is a big unlock. On Twitter you can literally talk to anyone. There’s a real power in public messaging and that’s what we’ve been for 10 years – we’ve seen a lot of peers want to do more in that space – but we have the experience.

It’s been a difficult two years with change in senior execs and leadership, stalling growth and a share price that’s slumped way below the IPO. Why doesn’t the market get Twitter and how do you address that? Is it a victim of high expectations?

JD: We’re addressing what we can control by building an experience that people want to use more and more. If people value what Twitter is, everything else takes care of itself including everything you hear about the growth. There is focus on particular numbers, but the reach of

Twitter is amazing – you can’t watch TV without seeing an @, a hashtag – I don’t know if we get enough credit for that – but most important for anyone to consider, and particularly advertisers, is where Twitter is seen and how many people you can reach.

The engagement is phenomenal and real. The prominence of tweets is massive, but it’s hard to calculate and enumerate. That’s why people don’t know how to value us. They know that our brand is one of the strongest in the world. In just 10 years it’s in the same league as 100-year-old beloved companies, but at the same time they don’t know how to understand that reach aspect. I don’t think people [analysts, commentators] focus enough on that, but our customers and people that use us do.

We’ve always had a lot of passion around us and it’s because people love Twitter. That’s not a bad thing. People want us to win and survive and that’s because it serves a fundamental need for them that isn’t being served by anything else. There is a uniqueness there and a clarity that they don’t want us to go away – that’s what we’re focused on.

There have been questions around Twitter’s relevance for brands, advertisers and marketers - what’s the argument for them to be on the platform?

JD: Twitter is one of the best places for creativity and our advertising partners all want to create something that people are talking about. If you can get people talking they will remember it and if they remember it they will talk about it to their friends – Twitter is the fastest way to spread word of mouth. It’s not just a way to broadcast the message, it gets people talking. The more we can be creative as advertising professionals, that’s what gets people talking.

We have some super creative partners – ANZ Bank was one of the first with a branded emoji, they’re being a lot more fun and playful and that resonates with people. It engenders a lot of love and makes people feel better about doing banking - that’s the most important thing – the level of engagement.

You’re running Twitter and Square at the same time; what’s your vision for launching Square here? Australia is a very unique market in terms of payment technology so what does Square offer?

JD: The fin-tech industry is pretty mature here and Australia continues to prove that it lives in the future and it’s been ahead in not only payments but communication. But I think what’s unique about Square is not that we can accept payments, but that it’s cohesive with everything you need to run and grow your business. It’s not just the card payment, you have customer relationship management and an analytics dashboard so you know what you’re selling and how to make better decisions around what to stock.

It’s crazy how coffee in Australia is huge, but you ask an owner “how many cappuccinos did you sell today” and typically they don’t know. With very simple data and a dashboard we can tell how many cappuccinos, what happens to sales when it rains and when you put the biscotti jar at one end of the counter as opposed to the other. We see it as a personal achievement to help small businesses stay in business so we’re building very simple tools to enable that.

We’ve made the readers available for three weeks; we’ve certainly seen the coffee stores and some of the quick service restaurants utilise them, but also a lot of tradies. I think Square is only limited by the number of small businesses.

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