Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

My frustration with Twitter

First off, a huge hat tip to MG Siegler who wrote this sentimental post on TechCrunch the other day about the early days of Twitter and how far we’ve come (on the occasion of the President’s Twitter town-hall).

Aah, those were the days. Were people scoffed at the idea that Twitter was a passing fad. I remember those days when Steve Ganz would walk all the way up to my cubicle to try and get me using Twitter more actively. I relented, attended the next SXSW, got hooked on Twitter and have never looked back.

Since then, Twitter became a media phenom in the spring of 2009, culminating with this TIME cover. They scared the bejeezus out of Facebook who copied some of their innovations (@mentions anyone?), fended off apparent threats from Friendfeed and grew to over a quarter of a billion users making me and every other early adopter – a proud user.

But, what frustrates me till date is Twitter’s inability to corner the brand identity ecosystem that they were made to win.

You break my heart, Twitter! (Note: If you don't get this movie reference, you'll be breaking my heart too, dear reader)

The Brand Identity ecosystem

Twitter’s model (following) is far more well established to create a brand identity ecosystem vs. Facebook’s model that lends itself far more easily to creating the personal identity ecosystem (for more on the difference between the network models, I recommend an earlier post of mine). But, I digress.

Since the very beginning, I’ve shied away from liking or promoting brands on Facebook since it feels inauthentic to sell or promote (even inadvertently) to people I really care about. Twitter, on the other hand pioneered (kinda like Blogger) the follower model that was more about building your brand identity that makes it far easier to share your thoughts on the services you’re most passionate about to people who care for your thoughts. Guess what? I do it every single day and it feels natural for me to love or hate brands and products publicly on Twitter. It’s got an in-built reward mechanism for both individuals and for brands.

That’s also the reason, I feel it poses such an opportunity for Twitter to pioneer the lead in building out this brand identity ecosystem for brands.

Instead, I’ve been surprised and impressed by Facebook’s relentless second mover foray into the brand identity ecosystem. They’ve successfully and despite many concerns, impressively built out many a subtle innovation for brands along the way. Whether it is making it easier for all of us to build out brand pages (much like personal pages), tag brands in photos (my thoughts then), and give brands as close to a human identity as possible. Facebook has single-handedly created the online equivalent of treating brands / corporations like people. Brilliant, elegant solution.

Herein lies my frustration with Twitter.

Why haven’t you guys nailed the brand identity ecosystem. Given the obvious intent of folks who use your platform, you’ll be permitting a far more organic use case of the system. Everybody on your system is a brand — be it companies or marketers:

So, why don’t we see the following:

  1. Why can’t I create an auto-fill for brands when I update my status? Not just brands I follow. Make auto-fill possible for every single brand in your database. Kind of like Quora does today on all questions, names in their system. Or, like Facebook does when you go to their search bar and start typing in a name. Make it as easy as possible for me to find and share brands. You know the part that’s aggravating. I rarely go to Facebook to pimp my brands, but I talk about brands all day on Twitter and till date I don’t have an easy way to @auto-fill those brands. That’s like a golden opportunity waiting to happen.
  2. Why isn’t this auto-tagging of brands available across all your twitter products and services (tweetdeck, tweetie,, etc.)?
  3. Why can’t I tag brands on any picture or video shared through your ecosystem?
  4. Why can’t I tag brands on my phone right after I take a pic or video? (Hopefully, with tighter iPhone integration these things would be possible)
  5. As a brand myself, why isn’t there a way for me track my twitter stats? I’m sure other brands are wondering the same. And, why do I have to turn to a slew of social media monitoring products to help me do this when this is obviously your bread-and-butter. Or, at least should be.

I could go on… but you get the idea. I know, you twitter elves are busy at work probably making many of these dreams come true. And, I know making changes in a company (startup or otherwise) takes effort and serious planning. But, given the obvious advantage you have in this segment, it’s about time we see some magic.

Signed, a loving 4 year old Twitter user.

C’mon, Twitter! We love you guys. Now, chop-chop.

Filed under: Twitter

2 Responses

  1. muskie says:

    If you become a fan of brand or band or celebrity on Facebook you’re giving them permission to annoy you. Ideally they won’t, but some brands pester me to like them on Facebook and after I do I regret it. Even if I do in fact use the product. Based on my experience you should only fan or like products/brands/bands on Facebook that you’re really passionate about. That you always want to know more about. I also think you should avoid the larger brands, they already have the ability to reach you through other means. Facebook works best for smaller brands/bands where you can have some sort of interaction or intimacy.

    Twitter is the opposite. You don’t follow brands, but you mention them in passing. You check in at McDonald’s. You buy an iPad. You drink a Heineken. You’re not giving those brands permission to annoy you. You don’t want to interact with those brands. It’s this casualness on Twitter that I think makes it more likely that users will provide free advertising for brands. If you fan, like, or follow a brand on Twitter or Facebook you’re giving them the ability if not the right to market to you directly and some do so entirely too frequently. I suppose I do follow the odd brand or company on Twitter but again it is the smaller ones, the ones I can have more interaction with. I tend to follow news sources or thought leaders, or people active in my community on Twitter.


    • Mario Sundar says:

      Agreed. Which is why I’m very careful what I fan on Facebook. And, frankly, I insist on not liking blog posts either.

      Twitter is more like Google, cos at some point (I think they just did last week) are gonna start serving you ads based on what you tweet. But, that’s inevitable.


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