Here Comes United Plankton!

I'm really excited to tell you about a new product we're builing that's going to change the way you share and communicate across Social Media networks like Twitter, Facebook and Google+. As some of you may know, I'm the guy behind @SocialMedia411 and a couple other accounts on Twitter. For the last 5 years I've been a keen observer of Social Media, and over that time I've been waiting for Twitter and Facebook to give us tools that provide more granular control over who we share things with, along with the ability to share privately or semi-privately. It's become clear to us that the solution we're looking for is not going to be built by the existing platforms, so we've decided to build it ourselves!

Our first step is the formation of a group called United Plankton. United Plankton's mission is to build exceptional consumer-centric Internet products that give control back to the people and free users from some of the constraints that Social Networks impose on their members. And to be clear, we're not building another Social Network; We're building tools to help you communicate more effectively across existing Networks.

How Americans Use Social Media - The Social Habit 2011

The Social Habit is a new study conducted by Edison Research and Arbitron, and is derived from the 19th Edison/Arbitron Internet and Multimedia Research Series, one of the longest-running studies of consumer adoption of the Internet and new media in existence.

This study was originally presented by Edison Vice President of Strategy Tom Webster at Blogworld in New York on May 25, 2011, and presented new, unreleased data for 2011 on America's adoption of social networking sites and services, with a detailed look at Facebook and Twitter usage, mobile social behavior, and location-based apps and services.

The Probability of Facebook Acquiring Twitter is Exactly 0.0%

The WSJ ran a piece yesterday entitled 'Twitter as Tech Bubble Barometer' in which they reported executives at both Google and Facebook have had "low level talks" with executives at Twitter about a potential acquisition of Twitter. In the very next sentence they state that "the talks have so far gone nowhere". Ok let me get this straight: Low level talks that went nowhere - wow, that's quite a scoop! Their fascination though was on the rumored $8 - $10 billion dollar valuation of Twitter and on whether Twitter would be more likely to end up with Facebook or Google. Well let me answer that question, at least partially: 

The probability of Facebook acquiring Twitter is exactly 0.0%.

The only thing that Facebook and Twitter really have in common is the status update. However, the respective environments in which these updates are created, exchanged, and acted upon are radically different. Twitter is a public space and Facebook is a private (or semi-private) space. It's almost incomprehensible to imagine how a combined entity would resolve these two spaces in to anything that would provide any real value to its users. In short, a Twitter/Facebook combination would be a functional / experiential train wreck.

An acquisition by Google on the other hand is an entirely different matter. Twitter's orientation around the "Interest Graph" makes it ultimately much more monetizable over time than does Facebook's Social Graph, and it dovetails quite nicely with Google's subject-matter / intent-based value proposition. Twitter and Google are in this sense highly complimentary. No such synergistic relationships exist between Twitter and Facebook.

If Twitter ever figures out that its primary value proposition is in its broadcast / notification capabilities and starts to re-orient its product around the channel metaphor as outlined by Joshua Kerievsky at Industrial Logic, they (Twitter) have the opportunity to ultimately become substantially more valuable than Facebook. Unfortunately the Twitter product has essentially drifted sideways for the last two years. Until they get someone on board who has a strong vision toward driving the product (and revenue) beyond the "Promoted" suite of ad products, they risk falling disappointingly short of realizing their full potential value.

For the time being I don't see Twitter entertaining any acquisition overtures. They have $300 million in the bank which gives them plenty of runway to figure some things out. If they can re-orient the product in the next year like I hope they will, they'll have no problem getting to an IPO. And remember, neither Twitter's current nor former CEO are especially fond of Google - both had their companies acquired by Google (Evan Williams with Blogger / Dick Costolo with Feedburner) only to watch Google essentially bleed them to death.

The only way that Twitter sells to anyone is if Dick can't get the revenue machine cranking on all cylinders within the next 12 - 24 months. If he can't, I think the board takes it out of his hand and takes an offer from Google at between $15 - $25 Billion dollars. My bet (and hope) however is that Twitter eventually finds its groove and goes it alone. 

UPDATE: Felix Salmon from Reuters wrote an excellent piece today entitled "Understanding Twitter's Valuation". I highly recommend it, especially if you've wondered how a rational person could value a company with relatively meager revenues of less than $50M at an enterprise valuation of $10 Billion dollars.