The subject line here could also be titled “What I, a sales/biz dev guy, think about Twitter’s market position”, but I’m going with a punchier title. I’m totally addicted to twitter, but I feel like there’s something missing here – what’s missing goes beyond the obvious scale issue everyone else is talking about.
Twitter has been a bit of a whipping boy lately on the social software circuit. Some choice samples:
There’s even an open letter out there to twitter from Shel Israel. With all due respect to him, claims that tweeters are mostly talking about twitter and the chatter is not positive is quite overstated. That said, the trend is decidedly from twitterpraise to twittergripe.
But let’s put this in context – Twitter hasn’t had much competition since the Goog bought out Jaiku and basically put them in cryostasis. That’s changing, and fast. SAP is on the move. The Automattic team will likely capitalize off the wordpress community to build adoption of their Twitter-like tool. Other vendors are likely to follow as well.
Michael Porter’s five forces model is an instructive if aging benchmark to identify areas where any organization is competitively vulnerable. I would submit the following “back-of-the-envelope” analysis is instructive despite being MBA-ish:
Threat of Supplier Influence – Low. Twitter is on an OSS/RoR stack.
Intra-industry Rivals – Low. Rivals are fairly marginalized right now.
Threat of New Competitors –High. There’s quite a bit of interest in casual awareness of activity, which seems to be a key pillar of the social graph. I expect a whole lot of activity jumping in during 2008.
Threat of Substitutes – High. We’re already seeing a number of social graph players flirt with casual presence applications mixed with other core competencies. I expect more to follow with features like conversation threading.
Buyer Propensity to Switch – Medium. My take from geeks leaving Facebook in droves is that social graph users are fickle lot (I know I am). However it’s easier to port yourself than to port everyone you speak with, so I’ll call this an orange level threat.
What falls out of this analysis is that Twitter’s challenge ahead will be differentiating itself using something other than “We were first”. There’s more than just a business model or monetization model to consider. I’d be interested what your own napkin-analysis of Twitter is based on Porter’s Five Forces, and your takeaways from it.