Noto has admitted Twitter has an image problem. Hundreds of millions of people have heard of it, he said. It has 90% global awareness. But only 30% of people on social media use Twitter.
Twitter wants to close that gap and it knows it needs to do that by having a “clear brand proposition”. Noto has identified the lack of brand vision as one of the reasons why Twitter hasn’t been able to close the gap between awareness and usage and suggested a big marketing campaign could be on the horizon.
Hunting for a marketing boss
However Twitter has struggled to attract marketing talent. The social network has reportedly been on the hunt for a CMO for months but so far failed to appoint one.
That means the marketing department has been drifting around the company.
It used to fall under chief comms officer Gabriel Stricker. Then in January it moved to become the responsibility of Kevin Weil, the vice president of product.
Noto is the third marketing boss in a year. His background is firmly in finance having previously been a banker at Goldman Sachs.
The marketing function seems at odds with his other responsibilities overseeing finance, accounting, real estate, security, venture, corporate development and corporate strategy.
The role of a CMO
Speaking at a JP Morgan conference yesterday Noto attempted to explain the move. He said it was part of efforts to elevate marketing to board status and ensure it “permeates” the entire company.
Ben Stevenson, associate director of marketing recruitment at Walter Roberts, says he has seen a trend of marketers needing to be able to explain the numbers to have credibility in the board room, meaning it could make sense for a CFO to take on the role.
However he says data and number crunching is a skill that many marketing leaders have picked up while the ability to understand what a good marketing campaign looks like can be harder to teach.
“Twitter needs to balance whether the CFO is the best person to lead creative strategy,” he says.
Scott Mclean, COO at the Intelligent Marketing Institute, says the “more logical approach” would be for a C-level role that was more customer focused.
“As we move into the world of commercial marketing then it can be understood why a company might put marketing under the responsibility of the CFO. In that role, the business can ensure greater commerciality of all activities.
“However, a more logical approach would be for a joint C level role focused on the customer which could tie marketing and sales functions together. It is a rare CFO who has his or her finger on the customer pulse and this will certainly be the challenge in Twitter’s case,” he adds.
Twitter’s main challenge is slowing revenue and user growth. Last quarter when Twitter reported its weakest quarterly revenue growth since going public its stock plunged by around 20%.
CEO Dick Costolo spent that earnings call trying to explain how the social network is working to attract more users.
Twitter has 302 million monthly active users but it is dwarfed by others in the social media space. Facebook has almost fives times as many active users while WhatsApp has almost 800 million. Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest are all bigger and are all making forays into advertising.
The situation at Twitter’s marketing department is brought into sharp focus when it is compared to Facebook. It has built up an extensive department with layers of expertise in both consumer and business marketing all headed up by Carolyn Eversen who has a background in advertising at media companies from Walt Disney to Viacom and Microsoft.
The social advertising space is more competitive than ever. For Twitter to keep growing it needs to attract new users and advertisers through a clear brand message that explains the service and its benefits both to consumers and brands.