Did you hear the pop? Twitter started trading on the Big Board today. It was priced at $26 a share but it closed at $44.90. That “pop,” in part, means investors assume that we’re going to see a lot more people using Twitter. With a bigger audience, Twitter can get advertisers to pay more.
The only problem is that Twitter is having a growth problem. According to a Reuters/Iposos poll, 36 percent of the people who join Twitter, don’t use it. That’s because they don’t get it. But that doesn’t mean Twitter can’t reverse that trend, says Pinar Yildirim, a marketing professor at the Wharton.
She says, you know that notion of “supply and demand,” that is, that consumer demand drives what’s sold. Well, marketers don’t really believe that.
“So essentially we believe in marketing consumers don’t know what they really want,” Yildirim said.
And business history is full examples of companies that have created products and then sold us on the idea that we need them, says David Stewart, who teaches marketing at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles
“The microwave oven is a great example of a technology that did not find initial market acceptance,” he says.
When microwaves first came out in 1947, Stewart says people didn’t see the need for them. They were doing fine with their conventional ovens.
“The microwave oven essentially was a product that required people to learn how to cook all over again,” Stewart says. “You couldn’t use your metal pots and pans.”
And people didn’t know what to cook in them. So marketers had to teach them what to do. They did in-store demonstrations and paid for people to have microwave dinner parties. Today, few homes are without a microwave.
Twitter could take a page from history, says Charles Byers is a marketing professor at the Santa Clara University.
“They do need to do some marketing as to why you should be on Twitter, what do you get from Twitter?” he says.
Buyers says most consumers think of Twitter like Facebook, a place to talk to friends and share pictures with family. But when they find out it’s not really like that, they walk. To keep them, Buyers says Twitter needs to promote its TV tie-ins and videos and it’s role as a go-to site for breaking news. And with its share price soaring, that education starts today.
Twitter learned a lot from its users. Now they have to get more of them on board. From #Twitter to $TWTR:
July 2006: Twitter’s official public launch day was July 15, 2006. Ahh, the old innocent days of Twitter’s birth. Here’s co-founder Biz Stone sharing his promo of the service to the world on YouTube.
November 2006: The @ sign was initially used on Twitter just as a shorthand for “at.” What peasants we all were. On November 2, 2006 Twitter user Robert Andersen (@rsa) threw this game changer into the world:
@ buzz – you broke your thumb and youre still twittering? that’s some serious devotion
— Robert Andersen (@rsa) November 3, 2006
Using the @ sign to reply to another user grew to became the informal standard. Now, it’s hard to imagine Twitter without the function.
April 2007: The first documented retweet (used in the way we think of the term today) was on April 17, 2007 by the user @ericrice. Although the move didn’t spread like wildfire at first, it eventually gained steam. But the actual shorthand, “RT” didn’t come until 2008 when @TDavid put the letters in a tweet about a Las Vegas fire. Now, Twitter lets users automatically retweet with a button (without having to manually type “RT” before the message), which helped content creators count and track how much something was shared. But it also angered many who felt the button restricted the way they could share and add their own commentary to other tweets.
August 2007: The Twitter #hashtag was born. Twitter use Chris Messina was the first to use # in a tweet on August 23rd with the message:
how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups. As in #barcamp [msg]?
— Chris Messina™ (@chrismessina) August 23, 2007
Twitter made hashtags an official feature of their site in July 2009. The rest, as they say, is #history.
June 2009: You know how we still debate about the pronunciation of GIF (here at Marketplace though, it’s not a debate at all. It’s with a soft ‘g.’ Sorry Obama). Back in 2009 there was some similar uncertainty around Twitter’s words. If you posted a message on the site, did you “tweet it” or did you “twitter it?” And did you go on “Twitter” or “twitter?” In 2009 Twitter’s popularity in the common discourse got AP to weigh in. On June 11th, AP added Twitter terms to its AP Stylebook.
October 2013: There was some speculation about what Twitter’s ticker symbol would be. Nope, not “TWTRQ”. The company revealed on October 3rd, that it would trade under the symbol “TWTR” and on November 7th, Twitter officially started trading on the NYSE.
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