It’s all about the benjamins, baby. And one of the biggest debates in social media centers around the question of where those benjamins will come from. Primarily, how will free platforms sustain themselves over time without advertising? So yesterday there was a lot of buzz over the SXSWi keynote with Twitter CEO Evan Williams (@ev). Rumor was that a revolutionary Twitter advertising platform would be revealed. The crowd started lining up over an hour before the keynote and I was lucky enough to score third row seats in the packed house. There was a palpable excitement in the air.
Eventually @ev hit the stage with interviewer Umair Haque of the Harvard Business Review. Within the first two minutes, Williams unveiled the news that everyone was waiting to hear, Twitter’s @anywhere platform. Williams quickly provided very loose details as screenshots were shown to the audience. @anywhere will provide web sites with a framework that functions like a mini-Twitter. The premise is to make Twitter content more readily available throughout the Web so that people can access tweets and feeds outside of Twitter.com and of third-party Twitter applications. A sort of Facebook Connect for Twitter. Ok, so what’s groundbreaking here? It seems nice and useful, but not @anywhere near revolutionary.
Quickly after the confusing reveal, the interview took a drastic turn toward the boring and captive audience members turned critical. This interview sounded a lot like a Twitter fluff piece which insulted the crowd of early adaptors and Twitter fanatics at SXSSWi. Within 15 minutes, uninterested audience members flooded out of the Exhibition Hall and the Twitter stream was alive with snarky comments. There was an outcry for more proactive questions and audience members whispered that they wanted to hear more about @anywhere or more on Twitter’s vision for the future. Shortly after the event ended, Williams personally tweeted, “I heard on the backchannel that people want me to answer tougher questions. What’ya want to know? Will answer 10. Go.” But not much resulted from that either, as @ev continued with the fluff. One of his 10 responses? He answered @starbucks that he’s “a soy latte man.” Oh, so maybe branded Twitter responses ARE the new answer? Ok, so maybe not, but perhaps WIlliams and Haque should have had few soy lattes before taking the stage.