Since the preparation for the IPO began, this has been the question. If Twitter’s valuation is based on the number of users, then we need to figure out how many accounts are actively penned by real people? If the valuation is based on engagement (retweets and favorites), does passively following celebrity accounts for years count?
There are many questions and many answers to the valuation question. At least most of us agree that Twitter has an important social and political impact (for better or for worse). But pinning down Twitter’s value is still quite difficult, even compared to similar companies such as Facebook and LinkedIn.
When news of the IPO first came out, I gave a reason for what I thought the foremost valuation factor should be. Then I called it the value of a positive tweet. Given the recent news of all the many non-positive tweets (e.g., Williams, Foley), and Twitter’s effort to take down posts and suspend accounts as a result, the question has amplified: How do you valuate Twitter?
I am not the finance expert, but as I wrote last September, the question centers on the results. Allowing people within a country to join together in an uprising is only valuable if the uprising is just. But if an ill-motivated anarchy results from these collaborations, then it calls into question the value of Twitter’s grand ability to allow people to easily collaborate with the masses.
But isn’t this the democratic way? That people should decide whether to overthrow a government or not or to hold public protests despite curfew orders? Again it depends. If the government is acting in a good and just way, then this leads us to question which groups the members of these uprisings most align with?
So this is the question. There is no doubt that Twitter, as with other social media platforms, helps the world connect and rally around topics and causes. But while promoting the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a wonderful thing, as we have seen this week, not every tweet yields a happy ending.