There are reports that TweetDeck, the popular Twitter client has been acquired by Twitter for a price reported to be around $40-$50 million. That is fantastics news for TweetDeck (the people behind it and their investors) for surely a quality product that they have kept enhancing over the years. Some thoughts ran through my mind on this acquisition and I decided to write them up. They are in no order of preference.
The Early Mover Advantage
I do not need to dwell upon how Twitter has become mainstream media for us. Users started flocking in droves about 2 or 3 years back and since then there has been no stopping the Twitter train. TweetDeck and a host of other Twitter clients (Thwirl is another example) were some of the first off the blocks in providing Desktop clients to interact with Twitter. So it is really not a surprise that being among early adopters of a platform and building tools on it is important. The barrier to entry for any new Twitter client is really high. But TweetDeck has been there for a long time, has constantly kept improving and adding features.
Listening to Users
Is Tweetdeck the most complete Twitter client? Does it provide all the bells and whistles ? The answer varies depending on whom you ask that question to. But one thing that TweetDeck has done is that it has taken in scores of feedback from its users, put down its product roadmap and kept releasing feature after feature in its product. It has expanded the reach of its product to mobile devices and its associated platforms too. The TweetDeck product that you see today is vastly different from what it was in terms of features. And a large part of getting the product to where it is today is listening to users and implementing features requested.
Using the Right Tool for the Right Task
TweetDeck is now on a variety of platforms. But there was a time a few years back when there was a sudden spate of Twitter Desktop clients that everyone wanted to download and try out. And one thing that was common across most of them was their choice of tool/technology/deployment mechanism. And that was Adobe AIR, an excellent platform that took the pain out of developing desktop applications and brought with it several features like Auto Update of client applications, that was a sore point when you considered thousands (or millions) of clients installed on Desktop applications and wondered how you would push your updates to all of them. I think Adobe AIR did several things for these new breed of clients. It bought all the goodness of Flash, slick interfaces, storage, auto update features and much more to desktop clients. The moral of the story is use the right tool for the right task and even though there might be Flash bashers reading this, I still stand my ground that AIR is an excellent tool if you apply it right.
Dare to Dream
TweetDeck if I am not incorrect was initially the work of only one person (Iain Dodsworth). And then they moved on to small team. I might be wrong with the information but what is clear is that they are not a large established company or anything remotely close to that. If you are an individual, have the right product in mind and are willing to go about your work, sky is limit. Given the changing dynamics of the workplace and the elimination of various barriers, anyone is in with a fair chance of making it big. There is no recipe for success but surely there is nothing today to prevent you from planning and wanting to make it big.
Know Where The Audience Is
Facebook and Twitter are today known as sites where the audience is. It is not just a passive audience and vendors of all types are now beginning to tap into this humongous amount of people and sell them applications or items. It is not a bad strategy to understand these people, see what their needs are and build something around it. No amount of research will get you the correct answer for a product that will be lapped up by millions of users. You will have to try out something, see the feedback, tweak a bit more, release it and the cycle goes on. The fact is that people are there in these networks and are more than willing to try out something that could make sense to them. The important thing is to clearly answer in your product what value it will bring to them or what is the pain point you are addressing. That makes things much more easier to send the message across especially when every vendor wants a piece of the pie.
Concluding Notes : Assuming that the report is true and that Twitter will own TweetDeck in the near future, it is to be seen how well they integrate this and what this means to the entire ecosystem of other Twitter clients that are out there. It might even mean some sort of an unfair advantage to its own Twitter client since Twitter is well know for its API changes frequently. It might even mean a sort of scrambling for other good Twitter clients like Seesmic, Destroy Twitter and so on, by other companies. But thats not the point of this blog post.
I am sure there are a lot of other points of what we can learn about positioning our product for wider acceptance and then eventual acquisition but I thought of capturing the essence in the above 5 points. The big picture still missing to me in the above is how, if at all, Twitter plans to commercially exploit TweetDeck and that should make for interesting times this year.
I look forward to your feedback and feel free to add your points in the Comments section.