Why isn't Content in Twitter's Strategy Statement?

Ever since I read Good Strategy/Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt I was struck by how simply he would pull apart a strategy and call it 'bad strategy'.

This quote stands out as the starting point to build a strategy:

If you fail to identify and analyze the obstacles, you don’t have a strategy. Instead, you have either a stretch goal, a budget, or a list of things you wish would happen.

It is critical to identify the real problem you face and this can be a challenge itself, especially if the leaders in the company can't agree on what that problem is.

In the film Moneyball (2011), Brad Pitt's character, Billy Beane, realises what the real problem is with his team, and has to force his insight upon his management to give them a real strategy.

This scene brilliantly shows what he's up against, with everyone just going through the motions of 'what they've always done' to solve the problem of replacing three of their best players. The real problem is that they have a fraction of the Yankees budget so building a team the way that the Yankees would, results in just getting leftovers every single time.

Beane managed to push his strategy through, and they built an unlikely team.

After a slow start they went on to win 19 consecutive games, tying for the longest winning streak in American League history.

Beane had clarity over the real problem and knew he had to find a way to overcome it to compete with the wealthier and stronger teams.

That's how to build a strategy.

Twitter's Strategy

Reach the largest daily audience in the world by connecting everyone to their world via our information sharing and distribution platform products and be one of the top revenue generating Internet companies in the world.

This is not a strategy statement. It is a mixture of (muddled) vision and a loose financial goal of generating revenue (not even profit!). There's strange grammar and it feels like a committee all had input into it.

Another quote from Rumelt's book comes to mind:

Mistaking goals for strategy. Many bad strategies are just statements of desire rather than plans for overcoming obstacles.

Twitter's statement is much more like a list of goals vs a clear strategy.

Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.

Ben Thompson said on a podcast recently that Twitter's strength is that it knows the interests and passions of people on the platform. As you (the user) curate your own list of people/companies/subjects to follow, this provides a bigger insight for Twitter's advertisers than Google's or Facebook's. Why? Because Google, in a general sense, knows what you're searching for. Facebook, also in a general sense, knows who your friends and family are and what you share/like with them. Twitter is about your interests. Interests are powerful as that's what drives you. Searching about a nearby restaurant on Google, or Liking a picture of a friend's baby is nothing compared to knowing what people (and subjects) you have chosen to follow and interact with in an always-on state.

Twitter has the potential then, to provide advertisers with much more valuable data of its user base and therefore offer better targeting, better ROI for its clients and become a very attractive proposition for marketeers.

I'm not in a position to know how technically Twitter can do this, I'm sure that is what they are doing on some level in the way they now serve ads. But by solving this, and making it work like magic for users and advertisers with parity, they'll then start seeing dollar bills pour in.

Here's my crack at Twitter's strategy statement. As it tackles advertising head on, I admit it wouldn't be the most public facing statement, but it's not really for the public. It's for people that work at Twitter and the shareholders.

Connect people to their passions and interests and serve them promoted content which is relevant, authentic and valuable.

It mentions content, advertising and it fits in a tweet. It shows awareness of the problem it has to overcome - to generate revenue (and ideally profit) and not piss off its user base.

It echoes what Google's aim was with AdWords too, which was to have the paid advert be the BEST search result for the user. It wasn't to be an interruption, it was to be the best and most valuable information you needed. This feels like the best strategy for advertising in general!
Whether it is entertaining, shocking, educational, informative - advertising which provides inherent value from its content and the relevance of when it was delivered to you, will make you click/view/purchase, make the brand generate a sale and generate revenue for the platform which connected these dots. It might even make you like the brand!

The strategy could also say "Treat our audience with the respect it deserves and only push tweets into their feed that feels authentic to them".

It's fascinating to think how great content from advertisers served to the right audience on Twitter's platform could be the route to financial success. Getting advertisers and agencies to make the great content is the next challenge.

Know the problem. Make everyone aware of it. Then fix it.