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For the birds

29 July 2015 By Robert Cyran

Twitter’s mealy-mouthed strategy is getting harder to follow. Interim boss Jack Dorsey said the micro-blogging site isn’t satisfied with its user growth despite a 66 percent increase in second quarter revenue, to $502 million. His prescription for what ails Twitter, however, is cryptic. Companies that can’t express goals clearly, especially ones seeking yet another chief executive, find it difficult to succeed.

The $23 billion social media outfit has had its share of drama in its short nine-year life, with insider fighting, fleeing and firing. The hope was that installing Dorsey, a co-founder, as interim CEO to replace departing Dick Costolo, would add a bit of stability.

Give Dorsey credit for bluntly assessing Twitter’s primary shortcoming – getting more people to tweet. Unfortunately, how he says to do that sounds like a bunch of consultancy gobbledygook. The three primary objectives he outlined in the earnings report: “Ensure more disciplined execution, simplify our service to deliver Twitter’s value faster, and better communicate that value.”

Twitter isn’t difficult to use. It takes only a few minutes to set up an account. Even if there are newfangled ways to deliver more ads, simplifying the model itself seems nearly impossible. The opacity became clearer a bit later during the earnings call with analysts. When Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto explained boldly on Tuesday that it would take a considerable amount of time to gain users, the stock tumbled. It was down about 10 percent in after-hours trading.

This lack of clarity can’t help the CEO search either. Who would want to join a company that can’t exactly say where it’s going? For now, investors will have to wonder if even Dorsey knows where he’s heading. When asked in June if he would become the permanent CEO if asked, he said on CNBC: “My focus right now is to make sure our product cadence and momentum of execution continues within the company.” That’s a tweet-ful of gibberish worthy of an unfollow.


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