Dick Costolo of Twitter.com

Dick Costolo of Twitter.com

A Story by EdmundoKramer

Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, speaks of the impact his company has on the world and reveals the key to conquering the mobile landscape, an area which has proven elusive for advertisers.


Costolo came out of university with a degree in computer science, but instead of pursuing the job offers that came his way, he went to Chicago to forge a career in improvisational comedy, working alongside performers such as Steve Carell and Rachel Dratch. Years later, he returned to his programming roots when he created Feedburner. When Feedburner went to Google, Costolo followed. He describes his experience working at Google as “tremendous.”  There, all the rules he once followed and all the success biases he had developed at his own company were put the test and many proved to be unfounded. For instance, he found himself asking, “Why do we have small teams instead of larger teams?” The same answer always came back: because small teams were how things were done. At Google, he found a culture that was willing to experiment rather than conform to the mold. They tried new ideas, and followed different structures and processes. This was a revelation for Costolo and he saw firsthand that breaking conformity could lead to success.

An “entrepreneur by heart”, Costolo left Google with the intention of starting a new company. However, that changed when Twitter’s previous CEO asked Costolo to join him and run its operations. Costolo couldn’t resist. Even in 2009, the early days of the fledgling new company, Costolo could see the potential and the challenges that awaited him.

One of the changes Costolo brought over from Google was the creation of a unique company culture. New employees at Twitter spend days immersing in its culture and understanding how to do their work successfully because everything they do maps back to what the company wants them to do. Employees must understand what the leadership and the company understands for them to do their jobs efficiently or else they won’t know if their work is any good.

Today, Twitter boasts 140 million users who tweet more than 340 million times a day and it’s growing that audience by listening to what they want. That means allowing its users to bring more of their personalities to their profiles by giving them more choices: background images, rich media, video and photo tweets, and making it easier to navigate between photos.

Tweeting a Revolution
Twitter made headlines during Arab Spring when demonstrators used it to organize their protests in the Middle East. Some in the media said the protests wouldn’t have been possible without the use of social networks but Costolo is quick to downplay things. He believes Twitter’s role in Arab Spring was that it was a mechanism that allowed people to organize the protest more efficiently, much like it expedited communication during the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Costolo doesn’t think it’s fair to say the demonstrations wouldn’t have happened without social media, instead he says that we are too quick to “impart too much impact on our own technology.”

However, because of the potential role social media plays in communication and mass mobilization, countries like Iran and China have blocked Twitter. Costolo points out that even though Twitter is blocked in these states, people can and do use it through virtual private networks. He says government have to understand that communication will take place regardless of the barriers around it and it’s inevitable that people’s voices will be heard.

Twitter’s Impact
Costolo is constantly amazed by the conversations that take place on Twitter. He tells of the artist Drake, who tweeted “the first million is the hardest”, and T. Boon Pickens who replied, “the first billion is even harder.” It’s these kinds of conversations, which possibly couldn’t happen in a public forum, that continue to impress Costolo because they not only take away the barriers of geography and time but artificial barriers such as socioeconomic status and celebrity.

Costolo believes Twitter’s impact at home can be seen firsthand in the U.S. elections. He says media has always presented a filtered version of the news. In the past, after a debate, the stations would go directly to the pundits and ask them for their views as if they spoke for everyone watching at home. Nowadays, the news stations go to Twitter for feedback. Just as important, this feedback is instantaneous and has an immediate effect on the election. The campaign happens in real time, you can no longer analyze the debate, poll people, and release a report because people are already talking about it and reacting to it. This type of instantaneous gut reaction does have its share of detractors who say people are no longer paying deep attention to events. Costolo defends this by saying that these things don’t necessarily go hand in hand, but rather the messages are a reflection of what just happened to them at that very moment. He believes the beauty of Twitter is that it offers an inside-out, multi-perspective of an event, from other observers, participants, and people around the world who are affected by it. All these varying perspectives provide a distinct context for thinking about an event in different ways.

The Key to Mobile
When it comes to business, the first one in with the deepest market penetration usually comes out the winner. Twitter followed that mantra. Starting out as a mobile app has allowed it to find success in the mobile arena more easily than its competitors like Facebook. However, the business landscape is full of slain giants that’ve come first and Costolo knows that simply being first won’t guarantee its survival. One of the first things he did to improve Twitter was ensuring every user’s operating experience was consistent on PC, mobile and tablet, and that meant owning and operating their own Twitter client on all the platforms.

Costolo thinks the key to unlocking mobile is to understand that the “canvas”, or the screen, on mobile is small and that the ad has to be content. No longer can advertisers use the traditional model of having someone on a megaphone shouting a message to its audience because no one can hear it. The limited space prevents that model from succeeding, thus the ad has to be content. In addition, he believes the ads have to participate or be relevant to what the user is doing and that ads will eventually need to evolve their way of communicating with customers to have better success in the future.

Courage and Focus
The way Costolo thinks about his company, at the highest level, is whether or not it is courageous and focused enough. As he puts it, it’s a balance of “Are we being as bold as we could be? Are we taking chances and not just trying to protect what we have but doing this amazing new thing and balancing that with lets not go do everything, we have to do a few things and decide what we’re not going to do and (concentrate) our efforts.” It’s an intricate balance that consumes Costolo as the company grows and he has to deal with problems like legacy software and the management of bigger workforce. He has seen large companies become inefficient and “get these barnacles” that make it harder for them to turn and be nimble and execute ideas.

What the Future Holds
Does Costolo think there will ever come a day when Twitter comes with hardware? It’s a question he admits is “not in his wheelhouse.” Instead, he envisions Twitter will be an API and become a true platform allowing third parties to build on it much like the Amazon model with their sellers. He also sees the Twitter user base changing, in its early days people opened accounts to Tweet. Today, that’s changing with nearly 40% of its users logging in just to read tweets. It’s a fast growing demographic of users who don’t tweet but “consume” and that in itself has unique advertising potential.

As for the future of the mobile ad market, Costolo think it’s absolutely in its infancy and in 20 years we’ll look back at it and its untapped potential and be amazed at the way we once experienced our digital life.

© 2018 EdmundoKramer

Author's Note

Love history and make out my own political researches. Employee of MeowEssay writing service. Write me if you need some good articles for your homework or university studies. I'll give some free advices anyway ;)

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Added on August 16, 2018
Last Updated on August 16, 2018
Tags: twitter, dick costolo, programming, success story



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