How Twitter Could be 10X Bigger, 100X More Profitable, and 1000X More Awesome

Read my new article about how to evolve Twitter, on VentureBeat

 

I’ve spent many years studying, writing about, building, and funding companies (such as Bottlenose, Klout, and The Daily Dot) in Twitter’s ecosystem.

Despite the media chatter, I am still bullish on Twitter – as should be any investor who understands the social network’s fundamentals and true potential. Twitter has the highest revenue growth rate of any tech firm with over $2 billion in sales over the last year. And at today’s market cap, Twitter is an incredible bargain.

The company has enormous untapped potential to impact the world and create value for investors and partners — far more than short-term investors probably realize. But to unlock that hidden potential, some significant product and business model evolution may also be necessary.

I truly want the Twitter ecosystem to succeed. And it is in that spirit of support and optimism that I’m offering a number of ideas below that could help Twitter not only regain its former growth curve but surpass it. I’m breaking down my detailed playbook for the company into three sections:

1: Improving the signal-to-noise ratio on tweets
2: Enabling better search and collection of tweets
3: Focusing on being a network not a destination

 

My Forbes Interview – People May be Brands, but Brands are Not People

I was recently interviewed by Blake Morgan at Forbes, on the subject of “Building Influence in the Digital Age” — listen to the interview here:

Peter Drucker’s grandson Nova Spivack, CEO of Bottlenose, says that Drucker would have felt today that real influencers are not spending a lot of time on social media. In The Modern Customer Podcast this week we talk to Spivack who is an entrepreneur and investor who at six years old remembers being in line behind Jack Welch for an appointment to spend time with his grandfather, one of the most famous management thinkers of our time Peter Drucker. These memories are vivid for Spivack who today spends time thinking about the big business questions we face today. Spivack believes his grandfather felt real influence is not visible but built through face to face interaction. From personal branding and influence to building a brand’s influence, we cover it all in this podcast.

How to Solve Twitter’s Engagement Problem: Add Semantics

The fundamental problem that Twitter has is engagement. If engagement can be corrected, the whole Twitter ecosystem (and their stock price) will improve.

Improving Twitter engagement comes down to fixing the core consumption experience.

First of all what’s wrong with the consumption experience? In a nutshell, two problems:

  1. The signal-to-noise ratio of Twitter has declined dramatically as the service reached social saturation. There are simply too many messages from too many people in the stream — I call this “The Tragedy of the Comments” (yes, that was a pun). The issue is that since there is no economic disincentive to spam Twitter, nor any incentive for anyone to police or manage the common message space, it’s filling up with irrelevant / junk content and the amount of such content is growing rapidly. For users, it becomes very difficult to filter signal from all that noise. Users simply give up when faced with that level of overload. Why spend a lot of effort searching for needles in the haystack, when there are other ways (other apps, sites, etc.) to get a higher ratio of needles?
  2. The participation-to-reward ratio of Twitter has also declined dramatically with saturation. Because of the poor signal-to-noise ratio, the likelihood that anyone will see or respond to a Tweet you post, if you are not a major celebrity or media outlet, has declined far below the threshold of incentive. Why bother to Tweet when there is only a negligible chance anyone will see it or respond? The reward for participation has fallen too low for the majority of the user base to spend the effort.

There are several relatively easy steps Twitter can take to solve both of these problems, with better metadata and analytics in their apps. Making these changes would increase the usability of Twitter for most users and could radically improve Twitter’s metrics.

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Let’s Put the Wikipedia in Space: The Arch Project

In this article, I propose an achievable project to seed the solar system and eventually the universe with digital copies of humanity’s most important knowledge — stored in digital archives that I call “Archs.”

There are many reasons to attempt a project like this – for one thing, it’s an inspirational idea if nothing else — but beyond that it could be of benefit to future generations on Earth.

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Twitter’s Future is Actually Its Past – Where Twitter Went Wrong and How to Right It

With the resignation of Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, there has been a sudden burst in commentary on what is wrong with Twitter, and where they should focus next.

There are suggestions that Twitter should focus on live real-time events. There are suggestions that Twitter should focus on algorithms to filter content so they are more like Facebook. There are also comments from Twitter’s leadership that Twitter will not change its present (broken) strategy.

It’s clear that Twitter’s growth has stagnated. But to solve this problem, Twitter doesn’t need to invent a new strategy, because they already found the right strategy years ago. The problem is that they abandoned it.

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Why Twitter’s Engagement Has Fallen

I have been thinking about Twitter for many years. One of the interesting trends that many of us who share an interest in social networks have been tracking is the decline in engagement on Twitter.

Indeed this decline is not only evident from Twitter’s own metrics and reporting, but also to anyone who has been an active user of Twitter since the early days of the service.

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2014: A Turning Point for the Semantic Web

Read my article in Semanticweb.com about the significance of 2014 in Semantic Web history.

 

Google is moving away from hand-made ontologies — they were never a fan of them. From the early days, Google’s philosophy has been biased towards big data over manually constructed knowledge. The end of Freebase, and the rise of Knowledge Vault, are just examples of this bias. However,Schema.org‘s impressive growth and adoption can’t be ignored either, and the jury is still out as to whether decentralized ecosystems can ultimately out-scale more centralized data-mining approaches like Knowledge Vault to reach Semantic Web dominance. Although Freebase is being handed off, it is not necessarily over — it is going into the Wikidata project — which could be an increasingly important repository of open knowledge in the future. The war for the Semantic Web is not over.

It’s Time for an Open Standard for Cards

Cards are fast becoming the hot new design paradigm for mobile apps, but their importance goes far beyond mobile. Cards are modular, bite-sized content containers designed for easy consumption and interaction on small screens, but they are also a new metaphor for user-interaction that is spreading across all manner of other apps and content.

The concept of cards emerged from the stream — the short content notifications layer of the Internet — which has been evolving since the early days of RSS, Atom and social media.

Read the rest on TechCrunch

The Next Step for Intelligent Virtual Assistants

When we talk about the future of artificial intelligence (AI), the discussion often focuses on the advancements and capabilities of the technology, or even the risks and opportunities inherent in the potential cultural implications. What we frequently overlook, however, is the future of AI as a business.

IBM Watson’s recent acquisition and deployment of Cognea signals an important shift in the AI and intelligent virtual assistant (IVA) market, and offers an indication of both of the potentials of AI as a business and the areas where the market still needs development.

The AI business is about to be transformed by consolidation. Consolidation carries real risks, but it is generally a sign of technological maturation. And it’s about time, as AI is no longer simply a side project, or an R&D euphemism. AI is finally center stage.

Read the rest on GigaOm

Bottlenose Nerve Center 2.0 Released – Milestone for Real-Time Big Data Analytics

I’m happy to announce the release of Bottlenose Nerve Center 2.0 today. Analyzing 3 billion messages an hour (72 billion messages a day), and doing real-time predictive analytics on nearly 300 million data points an hour, it’s a big step in real-time big data analytics.  

Think about it for a moment: 3 billion messages is several times more data volume than the entire daily Twitter firehose, and we’re analyzing this much data every single hour, continuously. For one thing this level of real-time big data analytics cannot be done today with Hadoop — Hadoop is actually not capable of doing huge data aggregations this fast — so we’re using new technologies, like ElasticSearch (our team actually contributes to the ElasticSearch codebase) and Cassandra under the hood. We’re now analyzing in under a second what would take about an hour with Hadoop.

It’s an impressive technical accomplishment and I’m very proud of the incredibly talented engineering team that built this. I just want to give a shout out to my amazing co-founder Dominiek ter Heide and our product and engineering team for their work. This level of real-time analytics is truly game-changing.

Read more about the release here, see screenshots here, and check out the coverage about this release in TechCrunch!

 

 

How Bitcoins Could Restructure the World

Read my article in VentureBeat about how Bitcoins may restructure our civilization, and the need for advocacy to support this transition, if it is going to happen. Here’s an excerpt:

Bitcoin is a trend with all the ingredients necessary for changing the world. It spreads virally, funds its own growth, and can’t be controlled from any central point. Like the Web, it could eat the world.

Bitcoin could be the beginning of a massive transfer not only of wealth, but of power — a shift to a new social order. If you change the money system, you change the economy; that in turn changes society, government and industry. The shift to Bitcoins would be more than an economic shift, it would be a shift to a new social order — one built around a “freer market” economy.

Such a shift would be a lot more likely if a new grassroots organization were formed to accelerate, promote and protect the emerging cryptocurrency economy. By helping the cryptocurrency economy to fund its own evolution and defense, it would have a better chance of surviving the inevitable challenges it will soon face.

As this new digital economy emerges, the mysterious Bitcoin creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, could turn out to be one of the most important historical figures of our time.

Did Apple Buy Topsy for Contextual Awareness?

The stunning news that Apple bought social search engine, Topsy, for more than $200M has many scratching their heads. Why would Apple want social data, and why would they pay so much for it?

There has been a lot of speculation about the reasons for this acquisition — ranging from making Siri better, to making the App Store smarter, to acquiring big data expertise to develop insights on the Apple firehose.

But I think the reason may be something else altogether: Personalization.

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Is Twitter’s Business Model Going to Work?

Twitter’s business model appears to have shifted from being a network to being a destination. The question I address here, is whether this shift in strategy is going to work, and what the implications are.

Twitter’s Declining User Engagement: Can it be Solved?

There are two primary ways that consumers engage with Twitter:

  1. Posting to Twitter.
  2. Consuming Twitter timeline content.

We are only concerned with (2) — because that’s where ads are displayed in Twitter today.

The success of Twitter’s strategy depends on whether Twitter can build apps that really engage users consistently, and that grow timeline engagement.

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Bottlenose Announces Free Live Visualization of Global Social Trends

Bottlenose has just launched something very very cool: A free version of it’s live visualization of trends in the Twitter firehose.  Check it out at http://sonar.bottlenose.com and get your own embed for any topic. This is the future of real-time marketing. And by the way it’s also an awesome visualization of the global mind as it thinks collective thoughts.

The Future of Virtual Assistants

Check out my article in Forbes on the future of Virtual Assistants. What’s after SIRI and IVR?

All of the interesting stuff happens when data collides. A voice-based interface to a single data set is a thing of the past. A voice-based interface that talks to over 400 applications, representing over 10,000 unique units of knowledge across over 3,000 discrete products? Now we’re talking.

Creating the next generation of assistance is in fact a data federation problem. It’s a brain problem. A data routing problem. A big data problem, even.

Bottlenose Series A to Bring “Trendfluence” to the Enterprise

Bottlenose Secures $3.6 Million Series A Round of Financing to Bring Trendfluence™ to the Enterprise

BusinessWire

Enterprise Offering Discovers Real-Time, Influential Trends to Drive Marketing Campaigns, Manage Brand Reputation and Spotlight Attention in Social Communities

LOS ANGELES, July 23, 2013 — Bottlenose, the first application for Trendfluence™ discovery in social streams, today announced that the company has completed a $3.6 million Series A round of venture capital financing.

The round was led by ff Venture Capital, with participation from Lerer Ventures, Transmedia, Advancit, as well as other leading funds and angel investors. The Series A financing will fund new hires in engineering, sales and marketing to scale operations for the formal entry of Bottlenose into the enterprise market this autumn.

“We are excited to have the opportunity to lead the A round, as we believe that Nova and the Bottlenose team are building a truly compelling and disruptive business”, said John Frankel, Partner, ff Venture Capital.  “After all, we traditionally partner with companies that are changing the way people behave, and we look forward to supporting Bottlenose with all of our internal resources as the team continues to flourish and thrive.”

An early, free alpha version of Bottlenose, released in 2012, spurred interest and demand from nearly 100,000  professional marketers seeking real-time solutions for mapping trends in social networks, in a way that allowed them to see through the fog of social media. Early enterprise partners helped shape Bottlenose for enterprise use, resulting in today’s robust system for revealing Trendfluence in firehose levels of data.

Several brands and agencies—including Pepsi, FleishmanHillard, Razorfish, and DigitasLBi — leverage Bottlenose Enterprise for tracking live and emerging trends and events, directing advertising and marketing initiatives, engaging customer communities and gathering industry intelligence.

The New Science of Trendfluence™ Makes Social Listening Actionable

Bottlenose has developed a new technology for isolating Trendfluence from the noise of social streams. Trendfluence enables Bottlenose customers to proactively identify, anticipate and instigate the trends that drive their businesses.

Bottlenose applies big data cloud computing and analytics to continuously data-mine streams from social networks and enterprise data sources, to detect, visualize and monitor trends as they develop and move in real-time. As trends take shape in real-time, Bottlenose applies proprietary natural language and statistical techniques (16 pending patents) to calculate and visualize the live attention and sentiment around them.

With hundreds of millions of messages, topics, people and links analyzed to-date, and billions more being added on an ongoing basis, Bottlenose is constantly sensing the unfolding live conversation across major social networks, isolating the topics, people, issues, and content that have gathering speed, influence and shove.

Queries Return a 360 Degree View of Vital Trends Reflecting the Emotion of Your Market

The ability to detect real-time trends enables marketers to understand the emotional energy of the crowd and how that is affecting their businesses and brands, right now. It also helps enterprises discover and monitor the “unknown unknowns” on the horizon that may grow into threats, issues, or opportunities – up to hours, days, or even weeks before they are noticed by others.

Bottlenose customers gain an unprecedented ability to find and focus on the trends that matter, as or before they materialize, to inform their real-time tactics and strategies.

Major brand Fortune 500 customers are using Bottlenose to:

  • Detect emerging threats and opportunities

  • Inform advertising keyword buying strategies

  • Direct real-time content creation and curation

  • Visualize and track activity around live events

  • Monitor and predict brand health and crisis management outcomes

  • Conduct real-time market and opinion research

  • Extract customer insights and competitive intelligence

  • Cross-correlate social activity with business outcomes like stock prices, engagement, and sales

“We are thankful to have the support of forward-thinking investors and enterprise customers who share our vision and understand the growing importance of real-time discovery analytics applied to massive data streams. We’ve seen significant traction from Fortune 500’s since the enterprise version went beta in January, both in volume of inbound, and deal size.” said Nova Spivack, CEO and cofounder of Bottlenose. “Social networks have created an environment where rumors, breaking news stories, and customer sentiment can spike and spread globally in minutes. Big brands are now in an arms race to proactively detect and respond to these emerging issues in real-time, instead of after the fact.”

Previously available as a free, trial application, Bottlenose is in limited release on a subscription basis to enterprise customers. General Availability of Bottlenose is slated for autumn.

For inquires related to sales, case studies, or product offerings please visit: http://bottlenose.com/pro.

About Bottlenose:

Bottlenose is the first application for Trendfluence discovery in social and business data streams. Bottlenose provides an enterprise-grade dashboard for discovering, monitoring and acting on influential trends, beginning with social media communications affecting brands.

Bottlenose was founded in 2010 by serial entrepreneur, Nova Spivack, and Web technologist, Dominiek ter Heide. Bottlenose has offices in Los Angeles, California, New York City, and Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Learn more about Bottlenose here: http://bottlenose.com/.

About ff Venture Capital:

ff Venture Capital is an institutional venture capital investor in seed-stage companies. Since 1999, our Partners have made over 180 investments in over 72 companies. Our exits include Cornerstone OnDemand (IPO, CSOD) and Quigo Technologies (sold to AOL for a reported $340m). ffVC has twenty employees based in New York and New Jersey and extensive resources dedicated to portfolio acceleration, including strategy consulting, recruiting assistance, in-house accounting services, communications and PR strategy, engineering assistance, a pool of preferred service providers and an executive portfolio community.

To learn more about ff Venture Capital, visit: http://www.ffvc.com

 

The Post-Privacy World

Read my article in WIRED Insights about what the post-privacy world will be like. Here’s an excerpt:

Edward Snowden’s recent allegations regarding what most of us already suspected the NSA was doing, have ignited a huge controversy around privacy and the role of the State versus the individual. And while it is tempting to have a knee-jerk reaction against government intrusion in our lives, in fact it’s not that simple.

In the post-privacy world, privacy is no longer guaranteed or expected. Given that we can’t stop this shift from happening, the question becomes, how can we turn lemons into lemonade in this situation?

It turns out that the post-privacy world may not be as dystopian as some people seem to think. In fact, despite all the negative hype about it, it’s really not that different from the world we live in today. But a more transparent world even has potential to be better than a one of excessive privacy and secrecy.