As Twitter gets ready to become the Next Big Social Media IPO, the short messaging service is dealing with skepticism about its business model. Recent SEC filings show the company losing money, and analysts are poking holes in a revenue model currently built around things like Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends.
The social network is set to begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange Thursday, and early Monday the company raised its projected price per share range - from $17-20 to $23-25 a share. With the new pricing, Twitter could raise more than $2 billion with a valuation approaching $15.6 billion.
Yet the results of a new Associated Press/CNBC poll could bring the Twitter bird back down to earth. Twenty-seven percent of those polled don’t think favorably of the social network, and 47 percent said buying Twitter shares would not be a good investment; 36 percent would invest.
It’s possible that the communications department at Puget Sound Energy might argue that Twitter does indeed have value beyond advertising.
Saturday’s windstorm that hit Western Washington knocked out power throughout large portions of PSE’s service area, which stretches from Olympia to the Canadian border. More than 100,000 of the company’s 1.1 million customers were without electricity for several hours as PSE crews worked to restore power.
It just so happened to be Ray Lane’s turn to monitor the @PSETalk Twitter account during the windstorm. Lane, who spent 13 years working for Seattle TV news stations before moving to corporate media relations, sent out a stream of tweets from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, updating customers and the media on an hourly basis on the number of outages and customers affected and the areas hardest hit by the storm.
“For us, it was just easier on Saturday to have me doing media outreach, connecting with media and with customers, by using social media,” Lane told KING5 News. “It was a terrific way to talk to both audiences.”
“Talk” is a good word to use regarding social media, which facilitates a true conversation between its users rather than one-way lectures. Before Twitter, PSE’s customers would call a toll-free number to hear updates on outages, and couldn’t leave any messages. On Twitter, customers and the media not only get the latest information, but also get a chance to vent or pass along compliments regarding the situation.
“We take those comments, whether good, bad or middle of the road,” Lane said. Those discussions can sometimes help PSE with more information for its crews. “If we see some strings or patterns, maybe there’s a certain area we need to focus on.”
As the day wore on, PSE crews began sending Twitpics and Flick photos showing the extent of the damage.
“We had some awfully big trees come down. It can be dangerous work, dangerous conditions for the crews out there. If we can get our crews to document it, it can help explain the narrative,” Lane said. “I think at times we need to map out the bigger picture for the average customer out there, sitting at home in a dark house, to reassure them, to let them see that we have our crews out there and what they’re up against.”
For this particular power company, “knowledge is power,” he added. “We’re trying to be as transparent as possible.”
And therein may lie another source of Twitter’s value, one that can’t necessarily be directly monetized.
Twitter is already enabling the next stage of customer service. It’s allowing companies to narrow the gap with their customers in real time—to humanize them in the eyes of those who pay for their products and services.