According to Wikipedia, “Twitter is an online social networking service and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as ‘tweets.’”
Twitter’s brand personality is that of a service that allows us to communicate with each other in short, text-based messages. One could argue that it has fundamentally changed the way people communicate around the world. Twitter has also been cited as an important factor in the Arab Spring and other political protests. That is an amazing attribute that brands that have been around much longer, and generate a lot more revenue, would be proud to boast about.
But, according to a recent article in Adweek, the “company, along with multiple Hollywood producers… are in serious talks about the possibility or launching several original video series via Twitter. The original series has been described as similar to MTV reality shows… The show could live on a stand alone Twitter page similar to the events page that Twitter launched in partnership with NASCAR.”
The article went on to say, “Twitter is said to be aiming toward changing the way people consume and discover media… building content on top of Twitter” and that it “would serve as a distribution vehicle and advertising middleman.”
In his book, Great By Choice, Jim Collins discusses the idea of controlled growth, which has proven to be a tent pole for successful companies across a variety of product categories. You need to ask whether entering the video business is an example of Twitter taking advantage of a growth opportunity, or lurching toward an unfamiliar business?
As Hunter Walk of YouTube described in a blog post about Twitter’s move into video, this process “has been driven in part by the venture financing the company has raised… That translates into a lot of pressure to develop not just a business model, but one that generates massive quantities of revenue and eventually profits.”
Too many companies, in a variety of industries, bow to pressure from their investors, and evolve from being a successful niche player into what is called “The Ditch” by Jagdish Sheth and Rajendra Sisodia in their book, The Rule of Three. Is Twitter headed in that direction?
A blog post on Giga OM suggested that moving in that direction would be a “critical mistake,” even if it could produce some ad revenue. It is not just that other technology companies that have tried to become original-content players in video have failed miserably (with Yahoo being the most obvious example), or that video can be an expensive and time-consuming distraction, but because Hollywood and the entertainment industry are used to chewing up outsiders and spitting them out.
The posting goes on to say, “Increasing attempts to control more of the content on the network could be fundamentally at odds with its value proposition for many years. If you use Twitter as a short and fast news-consumption or information-delivery system about topics you care about, are you really interested in seeing tweets for a Twitter produced television-style reality show in your stream?” The blog also suggests that this will result in “the kind of disaster we saw with MySpace and Digg.”
The temptation to participate in the rush of ad dollars into the digital video space is understandable, but it should not be done at the erosion of your brand and what it stands for.