Why Does Twitter Love John Legere? It's Not Just Because He Tweets a Ton

Twitter to CMOs: We're for Data, Not Just Ad Impressions

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T-Mobile CEO John Legere
T-Mobile CEO John Legere Credit: Courtesy of T-Mobile

When John Legere has something to say -- and the loquacious, outlandish T-Mobile CEO is, if anything, never without words -- he does it on Twitter. He has sent out more than 10,000 tweets. They range from the mundane to the formal: He recently outlined the company's position on the federal regulation of net neutrality with a "Tweet-storm," a lengthy series of character bursts.

And Twitter couldn't be happier.

As the social company becomes a regular fixture of media budgets, it's attempting to upsell advertisers to its data offerings. The pitch positions Twitter as not just a tool for impressions, but one for shaping broader decisions about inventory, merchandising and investment. To make the case, Twitter is starting with the industry whose battle has unfurled through tweets.

For Twitter, Mr. Legere is a model CEO. Every day, he's vocal on the service, where he recently crossed 1 million followers (then surpassed Apple's Tim Cook and is approaching Twitter's own CEO Dick Costolo). He's also receptive, reading and analyzing the tweets users send him, said Brent Herd, Twitter head of telecom and travel. "They're tweeting at him every day," he noted. "He literally takes it to his weekly staff meetings and takes the data to help run his business." T-Mobile also pays Twitter for its data product, deploying it on the platform for customer service and acquisition, such as targeting potential subscribers based on location.

One of the operator's signature "Un-carrier" initiatives, the move to scrap typical phone upgrade cycles, emerged from customer feedback on Twitter, said Marketing Senior VP Peter DeLuca. "Our strategy starts and ends with listening to customers, and Twitter is central to how we do that," he said. "Our CEO tells everyone that if they want to figure out what our next Un-carrier move is, just read the customer feedback on his Twitter."

Twitter wants more of its advertisers to follow suit. Mr. Herd is beginning with the major telecoms, but said the sales team is planning to begin lobbying CPG brands and other categories.

Twitter's ad business is performing well. Its data business is growing at an even faster rate. Last quarter, the company earned $47 million in data and licensing revenue, a 107% annual increase and nearly twice its total since acquiring social data provider Gnip last year. And it is set to receive another boost from IBM, which inked a deal to license Twitter data in October. The two companies are about to release their first joint products, a set of developer and cloud tools to harness Twitter's firehose for IBM's corporate clients.

Advertisers may be interested in paying Twitter for its data. As with all its paying clients, Twitter is lobbying T-Mobile to upgrade to deeper data features for use beyond the platform. "Twitter is an important strategic partner for T-Mobile, so of course, we're always exploring new ways to work together," a spokesman for the carrier said.

But Twitter may find it difficult to replicate a brand personality as engaged with its platform as Mr. Legere. The CEOs of Verizon and AT&T, the largest operators and frequent targets of Mr. Legere's ire, are not planning to echo his tweeting habits soon. "They're figuring out their way," Mr. Herd said.

And Twitter still has to compete with other platforms with their own reams of data and, increasingly, more eyeballs and interactions. Mr. Legere is fond of Twitter, but a T-Mobile spokesman said he is also ramping up his presence and his company's on Facebook and Snapchat.

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