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Do we need to rethink what we think about when we think about Twitter?

Do we need to rethink what we think about when we think about Twitter?

There’s no doubt that Twitter has been taking some good steps forward these past weeks on quite a range of fronts.

It just teamed up with Jack Dorsey’s Square to allow U.S. voters to donate cash to political candidates through a tweet, it’s working closely with Bloomberg to help traders uncover early trends and sentiment shifts, and it inked a deal with one of Indonesia’s largest carriers to allow users to buy data, SMS, and minutes through a direct message (DM).

And, perhaps most tellingly, it still freaks us the hell out when it goes down.


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But as Wall Street tries to figure out what the future has in store for Twitter, is it time for us all to rethink how we think about the service, and, more perhaps importantly, how we measure its reach?

That’s what essentially seems to be at the heart of comments made by Twitter’s chief financial officer Anthony Noto on Wednesday, speaking at a Deutsche Bank AG technology conference in Las Vegas.

Clearly irked by the ongoing media storm around Twitter — and the idea that it faces some sort of Twitter-pocalypse if it doesn’t pull its head out of the sand and figure out how to grow by more than just a couple million users per quarter — Noto let loose somewhat.

The microblogging platform’s audience could very well be bigger than Facebook’s nearly 1.5 billion users “depending how you look at it,” he told the banking technology conference, according to Bloomberg.

Noto floated the idea that perhaps we ought to measure Twitter’s users and engagement with less traditional metrics — something more akin to reach — which also includes people who see tweets through mediums like TV, news sites, or in a Google search, for example.

“[Facebook] only have that 1.4 billion to report — there’s no other number. We have other audience numbers that no one talks about. If you add them up, it’s a big number. In fact, in some scenarios, you could argue that it’s bigger,” he said.

In some ways he’s not wrong; while Facebook is on the whole a lot more about content shared within private networks, Twitter is built on the premise of it being a loudspeaker for anyone who wants to get their views out in the public sphere.

Bloomberg wrote:

Noto said he understands that investors don’t focus on Twitter’s wider audience because the company isn’t making money off it. But with new initiatives like Project Lightning, which will make it possible for people not logged into Twitter to tune into events, Twitter could start to make those broader numbers more meaningful.

Raymond Caver wrote a now-famous 1981 short story collection titled What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. It’s since been played on by other artists and writers, including Japan’s critically-acclaimed author Haruki Murakami, who wrote a 2007 memoire on running titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

My question, then, is what exactly are we talking about nowadays when we talk about Twitter? The point of Carver’s short story that the collection is named after is that we don’t really know what we talk about when we talk about love.

Likewise, are we losing site of what Twitter really is, and can be? Do we need to rethink how we think about Twitter?

There’s no silver bullet for the question of how the company and product evolves from here, but it’s a debate well worth having — and one that is already causing some very different views, from those who think it needs a radical overhaul, to others who think we all just need to shut up because Twitter’s product is f#cking fine.

Twitter is a real-time information network that connects you to the latest information about what you find interesting. Simply find the public streams you find most compelling and follow the conversations. At the heart of Twitter are s… read more »

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