The people at the top of Twitter must be having exciting days, to say the least. As the company prepares for its upcoming IPO, it has faced a torrent of media coverage. All eyes in the tech and business worlds will be focused on the run-up to November 15 — the big day was unintentionally released in Twitter's S-1 filing (the SEC document required for IPO registration). They say any publicity is good publicity, and the recent Twitterstorm has taken both positive and negative twists for the microblogging company.
This month began with increased scrutiny on Twitter, as reporters began to investigate the nature of the tech giant that's about to go public. A stain was hidden in plain sight from the start: There isn't one woman on Twitter's board of directors. Twitter makes the right noises, saying they want to hire more women and that putting a woman on the board is a priority, but they aren't moving forward. The CEO, Dick Costolo, claimed there were not enough qualified women, but the New York Times came up with a list of 25 who could easily fill a board seat. If Twitter is as dedicated to greater female representation it should move to close this gap quickly, before it alienates a potential half of its customers.
The ghost of Facebook's not-quite-successful IPO hangs over Twitter's. With the companies so firmly linked in the public's mind, and in the social media widget of nearly every website in existence these days, this was inevitable.
Thankfully for Twitter, it seems they tweeted the ghostbusters. There are basic differences between the IPOs. Twitter has made sure not to take unreasonable risks with its IPO, it's sticking to a more traditional company structure, keeping everyone invested in the company, and as a result is being taken far more seriously than Facebook.
A spotlight has been cast on Twitter's past by the IPO announcement. Investors want to know what the nature of the company their money is going to — and once again, the New York Times obliged. A nine-page story puts the history of Twitter under a microscope, warts and all. Similar to Facebook, the story of Twitter is a drama of betrayal and success, something shocking to no one familiar with the way capitalism works.
A far bigger problem than a questionable foundation myth festers at the core of Twitter, however. Advertisements, and how to incorporate them into the Twittersphere remain a crucial problem. The same S-1, mentioned at the start of the article, included, "Not a peep on advertiser numbers, quality, or renewals. Not a peep on the sales force, except to state that there will be a 'significant increase' to the sales budget that exceeded $77 million for the first six months of 2013. Not a peep showing the actual effectiveness of Twitter's advertising, save for stating that more effective ads will bring in more money."
This is perhaps the crucial problem for Twitter to solve. Without ads there will not be profits, without profits there will not be a Twitter.