clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jack Dorsey Says Twitter Product Team Needs to Step Up

It's true. Twitter is too hard to use.

Marisa Allegra Williams (@marisa) for Twitter, Inc.

Twitter Interim CEO Jack Dorsey used the first few minutes of the company’s Q2 earnings call Tuesday to reiterate something that most who follow Twitter already know: The product is too hard to use.

Twitter has spent the last six months trying to shed the reputation that it moves too slowly on launching new products. Now it appears that the products it has launched haven’t done their job. At least not in Dorsey’s eyes.

“Product initiatives we’ve mentioned in previous earnings calls like Instant Timelines and logged-out experiences have not yet had meaningful impact on growing our audience or participation,” Dorsey said just minutes into the call. “This is unacceptable, and we’re not happy about it.”

This focus on product was foreshadowed just before the call, when two top Twitter execs unexpectedly announced they were leaving the company. Christian Oestlien, Twitter’s VP of product management in charge of growth, announced that he’s headed to YouTube. Todd Jackson, who ran Twitter’s content and discovery team, is going to Dropbox.

In an interview with Re/code after the call, Dorsey said that some of the product issues are structural, like the way responsibilities are set up internally. Dorsey said the company needs to do a better job “clarifying ownership” over specific products and instilling more discipline. These are issues he hopes to fix despite his “temporary” role as company CEO.

“We’re not pausing,” he said. “I’m not taking on a stance where we’re waiting. We know what we need to fix. We know how we need to improve and we’re doing it.”

That doesn’t mean it will be a quick fix. On the call, Dorsey reiterated the need for patience, meaning you likely won’t see a turnaround in the current quarter or even by the end of the year. CFO Anthony Noto added that short-term user growth will continue to be a problem. That kind of talk may have killed Twitter’s stock price, but it was a pretty sweet gift to whomever takes over as permanent CEO. Expectations are already pretty low.

One of Twitter’s responses to this problem actually started gaining steam under former CEO Dick Costolo three months ago: Advertising. Twitter is preparing to launch a new timeline feature called Lightning, a way for people to more easily follow tweets around specific events regardless of whether or not they have an account.

To accompany that launch, Twitter is planning a full-blown marketing campaign to promote the product and help people understand how to use it, Noto said. (Noto recently took over marketing responsibilities at the company; on the call, he mentioned Twitter is searching for a CMO.)

The campaign will include digital ads (including video ads) across the multiple Web properties, not just Twitter. In 2016, Twitter will even bring the campaign to television, Noto said.

It’s the first time Twitter has done any kind of marketing campaign like this, and it’s pretty clear the company is desperate to fix its growth and product issues. Twitter has been a beneficiary of free marketing since the very beginning, when celebrities, athletes and journalists began using it to broadcast their work. That word-of-mouth strategy has helped Twitter build a brand recognized around the world, but ultimately that does it no good if people can’t figure out how to use the product.

Twitter stock is down more than 10 percent in after-hours trading, after posting gains of 5 percent throughout the day leading up to the earnings release.

This article originally appeared on