On Monday, Twitter announced that it has named Jack Dorsey its permanent CEO.
Although Dorsey, the company’s co-founder, has been serving as interim CEO for months, the move is not without controversy because Dorsey also serves as CEO of another company, Square, which is expected to go public soon.
The stakes are high for Twitter, which many observers say is struggling with an identity crisis. The stakes are also high for marketers, many of whom have invested heavily in Twitter.
Here’s what new leadership could mean for them.
The good scenario
While Twitter is one of the most popular social platforms in the world with over 300m monthly users, the company has struggled to keep up with Facebook and upstarts like Snapchat. If Twitter is to remain a viable platform for marketers, it has to find a way to maintain relevance and boost user engagement.
Twitter is the most powerful communications tool of our time. It shows everything the world is saying rn…10-15 minutes before anything else.
— Jack (@jack) October 5, 2015
Some, including major investors in Twitter, believe that Dorsey, as one of the company’s founders, has the visionary chops required to do this.
In a series of tweets, Dorsey alluded to that vision. “We’re working hard at Twitter to focus our roadmap on a few things we can make really great. And we’re strengthening our team along the way,” he wrote.
“Our work forward is to make Twitter easy to understand by anyone in the world, and give more utility to the people who love to use it daily!”
One of the biggest criticisms of Twitter is that new users often don’t see enough value from the service quickly enough, and leave as a result.
As one of Twitter’s largest investors has noted, “Almost one billion users have tried Twitter and not stuck around.”
Twitter simply can’t afford that level of churn going forward and if Dorsey’s product-focused leadership is effective, it’s possible that Twitter will find ways to keep new users and get them to engage.
That would do a lot to maintain Twitter’s viability as a social platform marketers feel comfortable investing in.
The bad scenario
The big question is whether Dorsey’s product-focused leadership will be effective. Although Twitter says that Dorsey is a full-time CEO, skeptics aren’t convinced that Dorsey will be able to solve Twitter’s problems when he’s also serving as the CEO of another company that is expected to go public in the near future.
They also point out that Dorsey had a mixed track record when he previously served as Twitter’s CEO and product chief.
If Dorsey is unable to execute and deliver results, and do so in a reasonably short period of time, Twitter could see Facebook continue to grow its lead as the world’s largest and most engaged social platform, and it could see the likes of Snapchat eclipse its user base.
Both would erode Twitter’s relevance and some marketers would probably be forced to rethink the nature and level of their investments in the platform.
Preparing for change
Will Jack Dorsey lead Twitter through a resurgence, or be at the helm when the company sinks? Time will tell. In the meantime, marketers should expect potentially significant changes on Twitter as the company works to figure out what it wants to be.
One of the biggest changes could be the removal of the 140 character limit for tweets. The company already removed that limit for DMs and according to a recent report, Twitter is looking at ways to do the same for tweets generally.
That, obviously, would present new opportunities and challenges for marketers.
But even more subtle changes could affect marketers. For instance, changes to search and discovery could influence follower churn, which has a real impact on Twitter ROI.
The question marketers must ask is just how willing they are to continue investing as Twitter embarks on a new journey of self-discovery.
The fact that Twitter has chosen to bring back a co-founder who is CEO of another company suggests that the company believes drastic change is needed and change, while constant in social media, is not created equal.
If Twitter can’t reinvigorate growth, reduce new user churn and boost user engagement, some marketers may decide the risks associated with Twitter’s change simply aren’t worth it.