About 1,000 social media executives from around the world attended the Engage 2015 conference in Prague last week, hosted by Socialbakers, the big Czech startup that handles a huge chunk of Facebook's international marketing clients.
Outside the main conference sessions much of the chatter among attendees was about whether Facebook or Google was more powerful in terms of reaching the audiences they need. Both have audiences in the billions, but Facebook seems to be innovating faster than Google right now.
There was less talk about Twitter.
That was partly because Twitter did not present at the conference (Google did), but it's also because Twitter's logged-in audience seems to have stalled at around 300 million monthly average users — making it a far smaller platform than Google or Facebook, despite its high profile in the media. (Nearly every TV show wants you to tweet, right?)
I own a little bit of Twitter stock. Like a lot of TWTR holders, I have been depressed about the company's prospects recently after its disastrous last earnings call, when revenue expectations came in lower than expected. Chris Sacca, a big investor in Twitter, just said the time for being gentle with Twitter is over. He says he will start to air his complaints about the company more publicly from now on. I suspect that Twitter's user-growth problem will be one his main issues.
So, I asked one of the more important executives at Engage, should I sell my Twitter stock?
His answer surprised me: No, definitely keep it, because it looks like Google might acquire Twitter.
I nearly fell off my chair laughing at this idea when he first said it. But as this executive talked his theory sounded so crazy ... it just might work!
Here is why such a deal makes sense. The caveat here is that this is speculation. Speculation by a guy who happens to be intimately familiar with both companies but who has no specific knowledge that either one would even consider such a deal. Because this exec does business with both companies I decided not to name him here. But his Google-Twitter theory was so interesting it's worth airing. Here goes:
There are a couple of "catalysts" coming up soon that might help Twitter regain momentum in the short term. ("Catalyst" is the word Wall Street types like to use when they mean "event that might move the stock upward.")
The first is upcoming presidential elections in the US, and an in-out European Union referendum in the UK. A lot of the news and debate is going to break on Twitter first, so the platform is going to feel a lot more useful through November 2016.
The second is that Twitter has a new deal with Google in which Google will display tweets as part of search results, allowing those search results to feel much more newsier and relevant — down to the last few seconds — than current news results, which may be minutes or hours old. At the same time, ad clients using Google's Doubleclick buying system will now be able to buy ads on Twitter through that platform. You can see there might be a virtuous cycle here: Google search results driving traffic to tweets on Twitter, and Twitter selling ads via Google against those eyeballs.
"Google should buy them," my exec says. "Twitter could give them a real-time element to search." The Twitter history, the time-line — that's an irreplaceable (or nonreplicable) asset that Google doesn't have and cannot use without Twitter's permission, this guy says.
The deal with Google can be seen as a test — if Twitter makes Google search better, and Twitter can generate meaningful revenue by selling ads via Google/Doubleclick, then Twitter becomes much more attractive for Google. "That looks like Google is trying to buy them," my source says of the new Google-Twitter experiment.
Twitter's location features are now powered by Foursquare's check-ins, making its local targeting more accurate, too.
And when Twitter users receive a direct message on Twitter, it can feel more important than other messaging platforms because that message is coming from someone with a public profile who may be more important or more famous than you, my man argues. We all get messages via text or Messenger, and your phone's notification panel acts as a central message service for you so it doesn't matter which app the message arrives on. Except Twitter: That might be a more important message than a work colleague saying "hi."
"Google should buy Twitter no question. I'd offer two to three times the market premium for it," he says.
Obviously there are a number of difficulties with the idea of a Google-Twitter deal. Too many to list here. (Feel free to use the comments to critique the theory.)
But some parts of this "Twoogle" merger do fit together. It's crazy but ...
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