Why Jack Dorsey and Adam Bain May Just Give Twitter the 1-2 Punch It Needs

Social net stabilizes its executive leadership

Twitter today named co-founder and interim chief Jack Dorsey as its permanent CEO. The San Francisco-based company also elevated Adam Bain to chief operating officer from his former role as president of global revenue and partnerships. 

There had been speculation in recent weeks that each were at the top of the Twitter board's CEO candidate list. Dorsey brings highly regarded digital-products chops, while Bain has been lauded for his ability to pitch Twitter advertising to marketers. Twitter needs to both scale its audience and grow its ad sales—so it appears the microblogging platform could be getting the executive-talent combination it needs by keeping each of them around via promotions. Bain, who came to Twitter from Fox Audience Network in 2010, was ultimately passed over when it comes to the CEO gig. 

"Assuming Adam's happy, they've got two great leaders positioned in their areas of strength," said Azher Ahmed, svp and director of digital operations, DDB Chicago. "Twitter is still volatile from a product perspective, and in Jack, they have a guy with the deep product knowledge who can go back and reassess their overall road map in the areas it desperately needs. With Adam, you have a guy great at scaling things up and who can continue to operationalize new products as Jack defines and refines them."

Noah Mallin, head of social for MEC North America, contended that promoting Bain to COO "is really as important as the CEO announcement—Adam has been able to lead a highly motivated team and has built up enormous goodwill inside and outside of Twitter. As the product innovation pace accelerates, he will be integral to helping marketers and advertisers understand the implications. It was exactly the right move."

At the same time, it isn't exactly the cleanest arrangement corporate America has ever seen. Dorsey plans to also continue being CEO of his mobile payments startup, Square, which is expected to file its IPO in the coming weeks, so he'll need all the strong internal partners he can get.

Rich Guest, president of North American operations, Tribal Worldwide, pointed to Twitter CFO Anthony Noto—who has been increasingly important to the company, overseeing its marketing as of late—as part of the reason a Dorsey-Bain duo could succeed. 

"If [Dorsey] is going to lead two public companies as CEO, he needs two incredibly strong leadership teams," Guest said. "It will be interesting to see the structure that is implemented at Square in order to complement the new structure at Twitter."

Guest added, "In that sense, the new role for Bain is table stakes, not future looking."

Twitter declined to elaborate on how Bain's role might change as it pertains to the advertising world. It's not terribly hard to imagine him modeling his COO tenure on that of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who has done a noteworthy job of being the face of the social network when it comes to advertising, consumer-facing issues and Wall Street. Bain's known for his affable nature, which could help Twitter's image among investors.  

"I've always wondered why they didn't put him on industry analyst calls, because he's so positive about Twitter," said Debra Aho Williamson, an eMarketer principal analyst. "Now, he will be on those calls." 

How well Bain's leadership talents mesh with Dorsey's could be key for their company, which will unveil a variety of products in the near future—most notably, the content-driven Project Lightning that's designed to make Twitter more attractive to use.

"Assuming they're both happy with their roles," Ahmed of DDB Chicago said, "you have a great one-two punch."