Despite Wall Street’s Impatience, Twitter’s First CMO Will Have to Play the Long Game

No quick fixes, agency execs say

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Twitter is looking for a chief marketing officer a couple months after Anthony Noto, its chief financial officer, took over marketing on what turned out to be a temporary basis. Noto revealed the hiring plan Wednesday during his company's second-quarter earnings report, which underscored an ongoing problem with attracting new users that has spooked investors.

It will actually be Twitter's first CMO, as the company's marketing duties had previously been handled by execs with different titles. At any rate, the CMO's primary task will be to attract new eyes to the platform, thereby encouraging marketers to spend more money on ads while, consequently, quelling Wall Street's growing concerns. Twitter's first integrated campaign is slated for later this year, so the incoming marketing chief will also have to immediately react to the creative work and targeting strategy that's already in the can. It's likely going to be a hard gig, so we asked marketers what Twitter should consider as it interviews candidates.

"What I will say is that this isn't about bringing someone in who can develop some really killer campaigns or finding a 'big name' that gives them a pop in the market," said Christopher Burns, a managing director at Digital Kitchen. "As an organization, I believe they have a more fundamental, strategic challenge that needs to be worked through and need a CMO who can bridge strategy to operations and drive real internal change that provides the foundation for the external shift I believe they are looking for."

Noah Mallin, MEC North America's head of social, said, "Twitter needs someone who 'gets' the strengths of the platform inside and out and can evangelize for what makes it different from other social networks. Most of all, [it needs] a great storyteller who can be innovative in how to tell that story."

People who join Twitter—or even think about it, after reading many tweets on other media channels—are often intimidated by the process of communicating with others on the platform. Victor Pineiro, vp of social media at Big Spaceship, said the primary challenge the CMO will face is to answer the questions "what is it?" and "why?" for millions of new consumers.

"Twitter needs a translator," Pineiro explained. "It needs someone who can focus on positioning and play an active role in making sense of the platform for the mass-market audience. A decade in and Twitter still scares the average person or completely confuses them."

Sam Becker, creative director at Brand Union, also stated a need for Twitter to take a long-game strategy in order to leap over its user hurdles. "I think there's a huge educational component to any marketing going forward," he said.

And Burns of Digital Kitchen warned against any new marketing leader having his or her mind too much on Wall Street.

"They'll need to find some quick wins without losing sight of the bigger issue," he said. "When you are in a recovery situation like this, the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately pressure is huge."

Rich Guest, president of North American operations at Tribal Worldwide, pointed to the elephant in the board room: Twitter would be wise to first find a permanent chief executive officer after firing Dick Costolo from the position nearly eight weeks ago. Co-founder and former CEO Jack Dorsey has been running the show since then, but he's not widely seen as a long-term solution since he's also the CEO at payments company Square. And Twitter's falling stock price today isn't making a case for him.

"I hope that they address their CEO vacancy prior to progressing the search for a CMO," Guest said. "For Twitter to realize its immense potential, the CEO and CMO will have to be in lockstep. It would be as unfair as it would be futile to deny the future CEO of Twitter an opportunity to fill the CMO position."

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.