With its upcoming initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), Twitter becomes a little more white collar and a little less hooded sweatshirt. With collars, ties, and suits (at least belonging to investors), comes expectations — earnings reports and growth targets. Breathless talk of innovation and disruption, of plans and potential, rings a bit hollow in cavernous Wall Street boardrooms.
Twitter has always been a bit rowdier than its social networking neighbors, and much of its smartphone-wielding user base seems to relish the challenge of shouting in a crowded room. Farhad Manjoo of the Wall Street Journal begs Twitter to resist corporate pressures to normalize and “just stay weird” after its IPO.
This has long been a divisive point between users and non-adopters of Twitter. Those not using it can’t wrap their brains around why it’s so popular. Those using Twitter regularly can’t imagine living — and sharing — without it. Twitter has a loyal and active foundation of users, but going public brings pressure to monetize and expand that base by making Twitter less enigmatic. Both of those paths would promise to garner some viciously viral hashtags.
Long before Twitter or Facebook considered going public, MySpace graciously demonstrated exactly how to destroy a thriving social network, and no one is stepping up to repeat their mistakes. However, with maturation and homogenization, all businesses with loyal followings risk a paradoxical fragmentation. As the execs don suits, the product itself has to be kept out of a comfortable pair of Dockers. If this happens, early adopters and passionate, particular users will depart for a newer, unblemished service.
The company itself stands to benefit greatly from the IPO. All signs look rosy for the event, and for the company’s immediate future. Twitter’s increasing revenue and upcoming offering on the NYSE further indicate that social media is here to stay — and it’s growing up.
Although the product may soon have to exit its rebellious teenager phase, the grown-up Twitter could prove revolutionary yet again.
Recent services have managed to archive every tweet since Twitter’s inception — nearly a half trillion of them. As a corporate entity, Twitter will find encouragement to corral its notoriously garrulous data set, making it searchable and usable. With increased capital from its IPO, Twitter can continue to grow, building off of its influential role in events such as the Arab Spring, and reshaping the future of news.
If Twitter sails into the stock market as successfully as it appears poised to, then a myriad of other social media and tech companies will eagerly line up to join the party. Box, Dropbox, Square and Hubspot seem poised to capitalize on a Twitter-induced bull market. This isn’t the top of the tech and social media bubble, but it could provide enough hot air to create one. If the economy stays healthy (a more iffy proposition every day that Congress plays its current suicidal game of chicken), then expect to see a slew of technology-based IPOs in the coming year or two. Seeing as the biggest, most valuable social media companies (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and Tumblr) will all have sold or gone public, its questionable if there remains enough value to sustain the market’s excitement.
This much is certain: incorporation and stock market scrutiny will change the Twitter you know today. Will Twitter become a bedraggled streamer, falling down alone after the party is over? Or will Twitter utilize its financial clout to attract more users, continue innovating, and find a profitable way to revolutionize news? That remains to be seen, but signs point to the latter.