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Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 14:43 - Kevin Garber @ke_ga

Twitter Turns 6 - Kevin Garber CEO of 89n Interviewed by ABC Gold Coast

If you can't play the audio above you can download an MP3 version here by right clicking on this link and choosing "save file as" or similar.

On the 21 March 2006 at 3.50pm Jack Dorsey the developer of Twitter sent his first tweet.  All it said was "just setting up my twttr".

That was 6 years ago.

Twitter now has nearly 150 million users and there are nearly 1 billion tweets sent out every few days.

I was interviewed by Bernadette Young on ABC Gold Coast and we chatted about Twitter's 6 birthday.  You can listen by clicking play on the file above or you can read the transcript below.

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Bernadette Young: [sings] Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Twitter, happy birthday to you!

Now I have to tell you, I was originally thinking, you know, we're not going to do Twitter's birthday every year, are we? I mean, sure, we do that for our children. But that's our children, not our Twitter accounts.

But then last year we talked about it at the five-year mark, and now one year on, only one year on, already the stats have, well, gone crazy once again. There were a billion tweets a week at their fifth birthday. They've now turned six, or Twitter has turned six, and there are nearly a billion tweets every three days, doubling, pretty much, the amount of tweets that are happening around the world at any one time.

My next guest from Melon Media contributes to many of them. It's your fault that these stats are going up, Kevin Garber. Welcome. Hello from New York. You're in New York now. Hello!

Kevin Garber: I'm in Midtown Manhattan and yes, I certainly can't be to blame. I've only tweeted about 10,100 times, Bernadette, and there's many people that have tweeted much, much more.

Bernadette: It only takes... You say you're only 10,000 but there's someone else there with 10,000 and someone else. What else has happened in one year on Twitter?

Kevin: It's been a pretty significant year for Twitter, Bernadette. As you mentioned, the tweet volumes have gone absolutely insane. In 2007, would you believe per quarter - now this is only per quarter - there were 400,000 tweets posted per quarter. And now there are 340 million tweets posted a day.

One of the interesting stats that Twitter put out is, you'll notice their wording is very careful in this stat they put out today, that there is 140 million active users on Twitter. Now that choice of the word active is very significant because there's probably about double, if not more people on Twitter than are inactive.

So one of the challenges that Twitter has had and they're working very hard at is there's a lot of people that sign up, they're not quite sure what to do, and drop off pretty fast. So they do actually still have a few challenges their way, even though the growth has been so spectacular.

Bernadette: Yeah. So half of the people who have accounts are using it and using it a bit too, an absolute lot, and the other half are like, "Yeah, I don't know what to do with this thing." What would you do, Kevin, to try and capture that other half? What do you think you would say to that other 140 million people who have bothered to sign up but haven't tweeted?

Kevin: I think a lot of people are quite intimidated by tweeting. I meet a lot of people and they say, "I'm on Twitter but I'm scared I don't have any... People aren't interested in what I have to say." And somehow there's this lack of confidence.

And I say to them, "Well, everyone has had something interesting to say that someone else is interested in. It's sort of not your problem if someone else doesn't find that interesting." So I hear that quite a bit from newbs, as the tech term is, from Twitter newbies.

Bernadette: Yeah. I use Twitter a lot to get information. I try to tweet a little bit more myself, especially since I've been using Twitter in a way that I follow people that I think are interesting. I will go to things that they tweet. And they'll send a link to something, and I'll think, "Oh, that person usually puts up interesting links. I'll go to it." Then I think, "Well, I never do that myself."

Kevin: I think what's interesting is a particular type of psychology in a person that enjoys sharing. For instance, when email came out I was one of those people that just loved hammering out group emails with interesting links.

So when Twitter came along, I was absolutely... I loved the convenience. I don't know why, but I love sharing information that I'm interested in. It's some sort of makeup in my DNA. And yet other people are not so interested in that.

But I think you hit on the most interesting points and one of the most interesting uses of Twitter, which I find, too, is that it aggregates your information for you. One of the challenges in the information age is the massive amount of information that is thrown our way. Apparently there has been more data that's been generated in the last couple of years than in entire humanity, or something ridiculous.

Now how do we consume that data? And Twitter, by following the people that are relevant to you, it aggregates that information incredibly efficiently for you.

Bernadette: Kevin Garber is my guest. He's the CEO of Melon Media. Hey, Kevin, so let's just look at the business side of things with Twitter because we look at it perhaps as users or potential users. They don't advertise as such, not in a way that seems to affect my daily life anyway. I mean, yeah, I see way more ads via Facebook than via a Twitter account.

So where is the money coming from? A Saudi prince put in several hundred million dollars just last year.

Kevin: Yeah, the Saudi prince put in over $200 million, which is an interesting investment. One of the most well-funded companies in history, they've got over $1 billion in funding. That's venture capital funding, investments in their company.

So they've got a very, very long runway to play with. They're not under a lot of pressure to turn profit or to list or anything like that. They can actually put it on a slow brew and work out how to make money out of this animal.

That being said, they are making about $300 million a year, and that's from mainly two avenues at the moment. One is promoted trends. When you see something trending, sometimes you'll see a promoted trend by a company or a movie. And there are promoted tweets. Now you may or may not see the promoted tweets. They're targeted to a certain type of account.

Just to keep it in perspective, Facebook turned over last year $1.4 billion versus Twitter's $300 million. So Facebook is still a juggernaut relatively speaking, compared to Twitter. But Twitter have said they are going to take their time in really working out how to monetize, because they're very aware that if they monetize incorrectly or try to monetize too aggressively, they're going to cannibalize their own product. The fickleness of social media means that things could collapse very quickly on their platform.

Bernadette: Yeah. Well, the other thing, too, is this Pinterest. Now I've got to say, I don't know anything about Pinterest. I'm seeing it pop up around the place. You said to me in an email that Pinterest is sending more traffic to websites than either Twitter or Facebook. I find that phenomenal. I can't even really believe that.

Kevin: It is astounding. Pinterest came out of nowhere. It was created by a group of ex-Google employees. Interestingly, the demographic that is driving the growth of Pinterest are women in the Midwest of America. The growth, compared to where Twitter and Facebook were in the time period, I think six months into the product, Pinterest is just breaking all records of such an early stage product.

Now the interesting reason is why each social media platform is increasing the growth at a faster velocity than the previous one is that they leverage the other social media platforms. So people share their Pinterest on Facebook and Twitter, so hence they capitalize on the previous social network's networking effect.

Bernadette: Yeah. So Pinterest is really piggybacking in many ways off the back of the Twitter and Facebook. So you'd be unlikely to have a Pinterest account if you don't have Twitter or Facebook, then.

Kevin: Exactly right. Pinterest is very interesting because it's driven by a female demographic, almost entirely. So I've got a Pinterest account and I haven't yet found many other male colleagues that are on Pinterest. It's a very visual medium. It's very interesting to play with it. It's by invite only. I can send you an invite. It's here to stay already and brands are already making money out of Pinterest.

Bernadette: You better send me an invite. I don't know how long it will take me to get onto it. It took me give years to get onto Twitter. Facebook, I was much earlier on. But we'll see how we go. Who knows what will be happening in the world by the time I'm singing "Happy Birthday" for Twitter's seventh birthday.

Kevin Garber, hey, we'll catch up next week because you're in New York for something very exciting. But I'm not going to go there yet. We'll talk next week.

Kevin: Look forward to it.