First 4 moves Twitter must make post-IPOSeptember 18, 2013: 5:00 AM ET
The social network has begun its rapid march towards going public. But once it gets there, it faces unique challenges.
FORTUNE -- Seven years ago, Jack Dorsey created Twitter, scribbling the concept for 140-character status updates on a notepad. Now, the social network is poised to go public, likely later this year, with an estimated valuation somewhere north of $10 billion.
As Facebook (FB) discovered when it debuted on the NASDAQ in May 2012, going public merely marks another chapter in the company's history, albeit one where it is under more scrutiny than ever. The same goes for Twitter. Here what's Dorsey's brainchild, all grown-up, ought to do once it gets a ticker symbol (TWIT? TWTR?):
Actually, don't break things. Until recently, Facebook's philosophy abided by the Hacker Way and the philosophy, "Move fast and break things." That suits a rapidly-growing startup just fine, but some would argue it behooves Facebook less in its current state. The mobile app and in-house Snapchat competitor Facebook Poke was reportedly developed in just 12 days and released in December 2012 but since first hitting #1 in Apple's App Store on day one, it's fallen off the radar completely. (When was the last time you opened up the app?) In comparison, Twitter has introduced new features and products at a slower rate. According to employees, that was purposeful, to allow more time to get things right before they rolled out. That's resulted in fewer outright failures, says Brian Blau, Gartner Research's Research Director.
Offer a full-blown developer's kit for businesses. While we won't know the state of Twitter's revenues for another few weeks, the social network is expected to earn $582 million in global ad revenue this year, according to eMarketer, $308 million of which will come from mobile. (For context, that's a 123% jump on the mobile front compared with last year.) Twitter's lifeblood is derived from third-party businesses advertising or building on top of the social network. The latter in particular remains a still largely untapped opportunity. In fact, Twitter should take a note from Facebook, when it acquired the cloud-based platform Parse this April, which offers services and tools for developers to quickly build apps for mobile platforms and devices. Blau suggests Twitter should follow a similar strategy and go one step further, by developing and creating a full suite of tools for interested developers. Getting more developers off the ground more quickly means more features for the end user, which in turn potentially boosts user engagement. Twitter could also charge for its tool suite, creating another revenue stream.
International expansion. Twitter already has a strong overseas user base, evidenced by major international events, like the Egyptian protests in 2011. That said, it still has a long way to go. The social network is fast approaching 300 million actively users, according to The New York Times, but that's still roughly one-fourth of Facebook's 1.2 billion-strong active membership. And when it comes to ads, many of Twitter's global users live in emerging markets where there's very low-to-no ad dollar opportunities, argues eMarketer Vice President Clark Fredericksen. The company already has a sales presence in Japan, where Twitter is also popular, but many other developed companies remain untapped.
TV and movie integration. Earlier this week, AllThingsD reported that Twitter plans to roll out a revamped iOS app experience, one that ditches the four tabs at the bottom and emphasizes a more visual experience experience. The company is also reportedly tinkering with an in-app stream that focuses solely on TV-related tweets and discussions. Better integration of TV and movie content in the company's mobile and desktop will prove important. "Having a major presence in a television, movies -- clearly they've got that in music already -- these are things I always thought they go after," says Blau, who argues doing so fits Twitter's strategy. After all, the social network has unofficially billed itself as the real-time resource for news and information. One example? Movie trailers viewable directly within a user's stream.