Jack Dorsey piloted his first-ever public earnings call after Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) released its second-quarter results on July 28. The company produced better-than-expected revenue and earnings, but Dorsey was still disappointed in the company's ability to grow its audience and engagement.
Since taking over for Dick Costolo as interim CEO on July 1, Dorsey says he's been able to get a deeper understanding of where he needs to focus Twitter's team. He outlined the three areas he intends to concentrate on at the beginning of the earnings call: "One, we need to ensure a more disciplined execution. Two, we need to simplify our service to deliver Twitter's value faster. And three, we need to better communicate our value."
Dorsey says management hasn't done a great job of aligning the entire company around its strategic goals. Specifically, every employee should be focused on growing the total audience -- logged in, logged out, syndicated. Management is fostering better discipline and accountability when it comes to implementing new products to reach the most people and improve participation.
We may have already seen some of this shift under Costolo, after he put Kevin Weil in charge of product. New products from Twitter are popping up seemingly every month, most aimed at increasing engagement among current users, but also enabling a wider reach (Curator and the new logged-out homepage come to mind).
Dorsey is intent on continuing product rollouts focused on users, noting, "The people, the organizations, and the companies that use Twitter must come first and be at the center of everything we do."
Deliver value faster
When Dorsey says "deliver Twitter's value faster," he means that the most recent tweet in a user's timeline doesn't always provide a lot of value to the user. Instead, he'd prefer to see the most valuable tweet at that moment at the top of the timeline. He thinks new features such as While You Were Away and Project Lightning will help deliver the information users want more quickly.
Twitter is investing in AI companies and developing its own in house to ensure that its While You Were Away feature produces valuable results. Project Lightning will use human curators to ensure an excellent user experience. Investors should watch for increased spending on AI through either acquisitions or internal research and development as Twitter moves further away from the reverse chronological timeline.
CFO Anthony Noto brought this to investors' attention at the J.P. Morgan technology conference earlier this year. Twitter has incredibly high brand recognition, but very few understand why they should use Twitter. This is the problem Dorsey wants to solve by better communicating the value of Twitter.
Noto became the head of marketing earlier this year, and it's his charge to improve the messaging around Twitter's flagship product. While 95% of people in Twitter's most important markets can recognize Twitter's name and associate it with a social network, Twitter only has 30% penetration in those markets. Part of the problem is that Twitter has done a poor job communicating to users why they should try Twitter. Noto will lead campaigns to fix that issue.
The other part is that Twitter is still too difficult to use. That's where Dorsey's second point -- deliver value faster -- will come in. He noted that Instant Timeline -- which is designed to get users up and running quickly -- has failed to have a meaningful impact on audience growth or participation. Improving Twitter so that the first features users see are easy and intuitive, as Project Lightning promises to be, could help Twitter reach the mass market.
As the co-founder of Twitter, Dorsey holds a lot of weight when it comes to his vision for the company's main product. "You should expect Twitter to be as easy as looking out your window to see what's happening," he says. "But Twitter can't just the best window to the world, Twitter also has to be the most powerful microphone."
This idea that Twitter is the best place to find out what's going on in the world and also send a message to a huge audience is only true for a select group of Twitter power users at this point. Dorsey wants to make their experience better and bring it to the masses.
As Dorsey said himself, "If we meet these expectations, and we will, Twitter will become the first thing everyone in the world checks to start their day and the first thing people turn to when they want to share ideas, commentary, or simply what's happening." The revenue and advertisers will follow from the product, which is something Twitter's old management has been trying to skirt for a couple of years now.
Dorsey's forthright attitude on the call was refreshing, displays a keen understanding of the problem facing the company and its main product, and shows that he's willing to take steps to fix those first before focusing on advertisers and revenue.