Raymond Nasr is the former director of executive communications at Google, and has played an advisory role for Twitter since its 2006 launch. Prior to Google, Nasr also spent nine years working in Apple’s PR team. After a lively session at the Arthur Page Spring Seminar, he spoke to the Holmes Report about Twitter, culture and the next big thing.
What are the cultural similarities between Twitter & Google?
I actually find more similarity between Apple & Twitter. In Silicon Valley, most of the companies are tech-driven, like Sun Microsystems, Cisco and Intel. And the marketing people are there to support the effort. Sun Microsystems is a classic case. Very few companies are the opposite - humanities driven, where the tech follows to support that. Similarly with Twitter, it’s not so much the triumph of technology but the triumph of humanity. Google is a classic tech-driven company. Once you get past the kindergarten-coloured logo, its all about speeds and feeds.
What is Twitter’s biggest reputation challenge?
A year ago, the issue would have been revenue. And also uptime. The big issue now is managing growth and retaining the culture. It’s ultimately up to the founders and the CEO.
Give me one good use of Twitter in a crisis
US ambassador John Roos in Japan. The way he used to Twitter to keep American nationals aware of where they could go for water, evacuation, cargo planes going back home. And he posted in English and Japanese.
Does it bother you that so many companies just use Twitter as another marketing channel?
It doesn’t bother me at all. But I do think it’s much much more than that. I do think it trivialises the service.
Do you see niche versions of Twitter coming or do you think Twitter should add that functionality?
I’m sure there are a boatload of third-party apps that can do that. I think Twitter has enough to do to keep the public service up and growing. You can be sure that Salesforce.com is developing an architecture so that its customers can communicate with other customers. But the content of those tweets won’t be much fun.
Has corporate America been slow to recognise the value of Twitter?
No. But I think leadership has been taking its time. I think they should be on Twitter.
As a certified sommelier, how helpful has Twitter been to you?
I make decisions based on what people recommending. I wouldn’t have exposure to Robert Parker and Jancis Robinson, apart from books and the Wine Spectator. The best one I’ve bought through Twitter is a Cru Beujolais Moulin-A-Vent 2007.
You’ve worked with Apple, Google and Twitter. What’s the next big thing?
I think user interface issues are huge. We think we’ve cracked the nut on UI but I’m impressed with every refresh to the Twitter site and homepage. I think that applies to video technology - I think YouTube is in for a big refresh as well. A combination of human interface, video and mobile - somebody is going to do something interesting at the confluence of three.