Debra Aho Williamson

Twitter: All grown up, but can it find a job?

June 20, 2011: 11:42 AM ET

No need to question Twitter's bona fides as a useful service, but can Costolo, Dorsey and team figure out how to start paying the rent?

The first in a series of articles leading up to Fortune Brainstorm Tech, a conference from July 19-21 in Aspen, Colorado that will round up many of the best and brightest thinkers in technology. Our coverage will examine the progress of companies that presented last year and what to expect this year.

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo at last year's Brainstorm Tech conference. Photo: Matt Slaby

FORTUNE -- These days, it's hard to ignore Twitter even if you're not really sure what to use it for. The five-year-old social network made waves over the last six months with news of Apple iOS integration, not-so-secret boardroom shenanigans (remember my colleague Jessi Hempel's Trouble @ Twitter?), and the return of the prodigal co-founder, Jack Dorsey, as chairman and head of product. News like the death of Osama bin Laden's, the riots in Egypt, and even Shaq's retirement announcement traveled lightning-fast via Twitter, proving that Twitter is all grown up.

"What we're seeing is that people are using Twitter to instantly connect with things that are most meaningful for them," Adam Bain, Twitter's President of Global Revenue, recently said.

Still, one big question hounding Twitter remains largely up for debate: now that it's a grown up business -- let's say it's like a newly graduated college kid, armed with knowledge and a degree -- what's it going to do to pay the bills? Can Twitter find itself a job? In that respect, Bain has said Twitter is rife with potential, with 20%-40% of all users following some sort of brand. (In fact, for all-new users, one of their first 10 "Follows," or accounts they follow, is a brand.)

"It's usually people they know, people they wish they knew, and then brands they're familiar with," he admitted. And because of that, user engagement is supposedly through the roof: When Volkswagen decided to unveil the new Beetle exclusively on Twitter for instance, the auto maker saw a 52% engagement rate, meaning that more than half of users who saw VW's Tweet clicked on it. More

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