Keynote Conversation – John Borthwick, Betaworks SMX East 2012 #smx #keynote
Search Engine Optimisation

Keynote Conversation – John Borthwick, Betaworks SMX East 2012 #smx #keynote

4th October 2012

If you’ve spent any time in social media you’ve probably used a product from Betaworks. Starting with Summize, which became Twitter Search that later added TweetDeck. Betaworks are also behind theBitly URL shortner. Currently involved in SocialFlow, Chartbeat and more recently Digg revival.

The SMX keynote conversation with Danny Sullivan  & John Borthwick gave insight into how Betaworks make decisions in the rapidly evolving world of social media.

“Google Plus is drifting in and out of Neverland” – John Borthwick – Betaworks

Discussing how did real time social came about for Betaworks, John saw that search was developing and that social was an opportunity to provide traditional search channels. Google was not doing a great job at the time.

With the web continually changing, Google will still be important but the web is likely to be organised through social connections and become less useful. Mark Zuckerberg has said that search is changing and that Facebook has all the social data. Social is also changing and all aspects of business and the web is becoming social.

Danny asks how do you decide what tools go through and what makes sense? John says that when they were working on the Twitter search product Semis, they realised that they wanted to do tweet search and see what else was happening in the world of Twitter. They then also saw TweetDeck and asked if they could buy the company. Initially it was not for sale, but Betaworks helped to build the product making a great partnership

“It is an innovative process of finding out what is in the market place and then developing it…We created these things – found opportunities.”

When asking about .bitly John said that they realised short URLs would be important with currently the best TLD being Iceland due to the .is suffix.

Real Time Analytics

Real time analytics was missing so ChartBeat was built to provide social analytics, telling you in real time how many people are on your website.

The conversation then turned to Social Media and what could be different. John suggested that what is missing is effective monetisation saying that if Facebook had figured out how to monetise earlier, things may be different again.


Google have just killed their Adsense for Feedburner, but the consensus is that people still seem to be using feeds. Feeds are not dead as it is a vital infrastructure however the news interface is the bigger challenge.

Danny asks about start ups and fear suggesting that Google has moved into two areas that Betaworks are working in – URL shortener and real time analytics. John points out that Google have a lot of resources so people get nervous if they move into their area but that it is not that simple.

“These monolithic companies, they are doijng lots of thing, when they are doing one thing, they emphaisize the category leader in that space. They help promote the already companines in there… Google pretty much just cloned bitly, I guess that is flattering but now 2 years later, bitly has 60 – 70% of the URL shortener but Google market share is less than 5%. So they have not made a dent in there”

Takeaway: Be the category leader

Betaworks are in the throws of platform wars – as data needs to move across these services, there will be tension. Twitter made an important decision 2 – 3 years ago to be a media company and monetize it. However, Twitter did allow for multiple interfaces for multiple users, but Twitter want it to flow in their role. What Twitter people are doing is moving against the grain.

Facebook are struggling with showing people they have value – Is social media dead?

Facebook IPO was over hyped. It went public a year and a half ago. The fact that the bubble has been burst is a good thing. It has highlighted the importance of monetization. FB should have figured out monetization earlier on. Social is transforming how we do business. So many of these business think of social as a marketing device, an improved lead generation

Digg Revival

Digg was once one of the hottest sites. It was the site that started crowdsource. In 2006 Digg was claimed to be worth over $500billion. Betaworks acquired it for $500k.

“The site would have been shut down in Aug. We acquired it and had to rebuild it in 6 weeks.”

If you are using you can tell the system that you are on Twitter and FB and each day you get an email containing the most important content. You can go to Digg and do that for everyone. The data under Digg, bitly, ChartBeat, betaworks, FB and Twitter and then RSS. Betaworks have a couple of editors at Digg sifting through the news. Reddit guys def took a lot of the DNA from the original Digg.

5 – 10% of the stories are real. 90% is spam. Mostly cause last 3 years people were using Digg to improve their own Page Rank.

For more information on Betaworks tools and products visit


Written By
Jackie Hole is an Award Winning Search Marketing consultant specialising in Paid Search, Conversion Improvement and Organic Search / SEO for the USA, Canada and European markets. Starting out in Multimedia & Interface Design, Jackie has over 15 years experience in online marketing and was recently awarded European Search Personality...
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