I was catching up on some reading last night when a recent Roll Call story on Twitter’s need to hire a lobbyist caught my attention. The article links Twitter’s success to the rise of Microsoft and Google and asks a key question – when do you hire a lobbyist in DC? In Microsoft’s case, they moved quickly, responding to the Department of Justice’s interest in the company’s business practices. In Google’s case, they built their office slowly before any major issues arose. With that in mind, is it now time for Twitter to hire a lobbyist?
The answer is no. And the reason is clear: Twitter doesn’t need a lobbyist!
Twitter continues to be the hottest thing on the social web. However, let’s not forget that the company is not making any money. The resources necessary for representation would be better served elsewhere. For instance, hiring more developers to strengthen the quality of service (think FAIL WHALE) or growing the treasury for more acquisitions (think Summize) to make Twitter more valuable as a service are better investments for the company.
Twitter also has something that many companies (many of which have huge arsenals of lobbyists) are trying to build now — an active community! Twitter founders Evan Williams (1,129,147 followers), Biz Stone (964,023 followers), and Jack Dorsey (927,253 followers) could easily start a movement in response to a misguided attempt by a lawmaker to cripple the popular social networking website. On a related note, @Ev, @biz, @Jack already have relationships with lawmakers on twitter. They already engage in direct conversations with key policymakers without spending a dime at a fundraiser. Not to mention the attention Ashton “Mr. Twitter” Kutcher (2,858,856 followers) would draw to the legislation. He is already using his Twitter fame to mobilize around causes. Let us not forget his talent for publicity – his achievement of 1,000,000 followers before Larry King did and his appearance on Oprah was all over the news!
Companies such as Twitter are changing the world, and the Internet is changing the way business is done in Washington. Twitter allows us to connect directly with Congress and to build connections with people around the world among common interests. This is good for our democracy.
Twitter will need to play the traditional Washington game at some point in the future. It is a fact of life. However, they can play it differently. Once again, they have millions of users who can carry (tweet) their messages to Congress. Ashton will lead their battle and not the lobbyists.
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