BOSTON — Two keys to building a successful business are early communication and predictability, Twitter CFO Ned Segal told crowds at the MIT Sloan CFO Summit in Boston Thursday. Segal said, "We’re a purpose-driven company; we want the whole world to use Twitter." The focus in the Twitter c-suite is how these things impact their stakeholders, consumers, and that’s about it, according to Segal.
During a fireside chat with MIT Professor of Management Sinan Aral, Segal asked of himself and his colleagues, "How can we be transparent with people, so they know what they can expect from us over the long-term?" He believes this question should be integral to both long-term and short-term success discussions.
Segal oversees accounting, business development, corporate development, financial planning and analysis, investor relations, internal audits, real estate and workplace, and tax and treasury for Twitter, a company he said that, while only 13 years old, "has lived through several lives."
"Platform health has been our number one priority. We want people to trust the info they see on Twitter and feel safe expressing their views," Segal said. "We want to give authors of tweets the right and responsibility to moderate replies and hide things, and make our policies really clear to people."
Segal explained Twitter operates on a "health first" basis, which means fixing obvious problems as they arise, without neglecting the overarching priority of getting more people onto the service.
"More people will use Twitter more frequently if they trust the information that they see," Segal said. "It may be hard to measure its direct impact, but we’re confident that it has real impact on how people use the service."
In terms of digital advertising, Segal believes "there’s a tremendous amount of industry change that needs to happen." He said that with most digital advertising, "there’s direct response, which is much easier to measure." But the other side of the coin, brand advertising, is much harder to measure. It asks questions, he said, like "Did they watch the video or not? Did they click through? What was behavior on our website right after that ad was shown? Most of the advertising on Twitter is brand focused."
Asked about Segal’s prospects for the future of Twitter, he said that when it comes to consumers, they hire Twitter to do three things: "Stay informed, discuss what matters, and inform others."
"Those won’t change," he said. "Our delivery is what may change. We could allow them to follow topics and events, not just accounts. Similar for advertisers, the way we do it and the way we measure value against those things will hopefully continue to evolve."