How Twitter plans to move beyond its 288 million monthly active users
With tweet syndication and video, the social media giant is looking to spread its influence across the wider web and this is good news for marketers.
In a series of recent announcements, Twitter has started to flesh out its vision for commercialising its massive off-platform reach. Syndicated tweets will allowmarketers to take their real-time content efforts and spread them right across the wider web, while the increased focus on video hints at longer-term opportunities.Facebook managed to turn its mobile weakness into one of its biggest strengths, the question now is whether Twitter can capitalise on the opportunity that its wider cultural footprint offers it to do the same.
It’s easy to admire Twitter’s vision to be the closest connection between people and what’s most important to them, but it takes something of a leap of faith to believe they’re going to do that for more of us than any other service. The 288 million monthly active users announced on their recent earnings call is a mightily impressive number, but less so when compared with Facebook’s 1.39 billion usersor the numbers for platforms you might never have heard of including QQ, QZone,WeChat or even Instagram, all of which have at least 300 million users.
Far from being a distant pipe dream though, the most surprising fact is perhaps that Twitter may be pretty close to achieving its world leading ambitions. Around 500 million additional logged out users visit the site each month, and in Q3 2014 alone there were approximately 185bn impressions of tweets off of Twitter. These tweets appear in newspapers and magazines, get quoted on TV, are embedded across the internet, and even pop up in Google search results, in fact the only way to completely avoid Twitter’s wider reach is to avoid these other media outlets altogether.
It’s a powerful story, and one enticing to marketers who know that ultimately they need to get their messages in front of as many of the right consumers as possible. This high visibility across other media, and heavy personal use within the industry, are some of the reasons brands have already begun heavily investing on the platform with its quarterly earnings hitting nearly $500m. Twitter’s challenge, and the reason Wall Street investors remain hesitant, is that to date there has been little opportunity to commercialise this off-platform reach.
While the idea of brand messages spreading out to an audience of hundreds of millions of non-users is appealing to marketers, the unfortunate reality is that it isn’t their tweets currently benefiting from this scale. Around big sporting events for instance, mainstream media picks up messages from the players, sporting experts, or even whichever member of the Kardashians happened to attend – unfortunately they don’t typically also include your favourite car brand’s latest promotions. Traditional celebrities, established experts and a new world of social influencers are driving this scale, not the brands who most want to benefit from it.
The new syndicated tweets product allows brands to take any of their Twitter content and push it out as native advertising to millions of consumers across a series of partners, starting with Flipboard and Yahoo! Japan. This presents a powerful opportunity to scale up all content campaigns and will help silence critics who in the past have used suggestions of Twitter’s low local user penetration to dismiss the platform.
Real-time marketing isn’t right for every brand, but for those who do go down that route, being able to break that activity out of social jail makes it a lot more disruptive and impactful. Brands looking to respond to big events have struggled, with very few exceptions, to get much share of voice but being able to take their latest content and push it right across the internet will help drive truly meaningful scale.
Of course just as Twitter themselves have started to talk about the broader opportunities on the native platform, syndicated Tweets will also do much more – helping drive direct response initiatives, CRM work and more general campaign & sponsorship extensions. When you consider how Twitter has evolved the tweet over the past couple of years (with cards bringing a range of functionality from website previews to interactive elements) you start to see the beginnings of a vision for a completely new ad format, anchored by a brand’s Twitter presence.
And as for video? Both Facebook and Twitter have made heavy advances in their own native functionality and built out powerful propositions for marketers, but the latter’s additional reach might yet be its trump card here too. Journalists are used to embedding tweets into their articles and as more of this content becomes video based they will naturally start embedding that too. Twitter will begin to find its video content playing out in the far corners of the web right where so many of its Tweets are already being read.
While embedded text ultimately offers little commercialisation opportunities, we’re far more used to seeing advertising associated with video – over the coming months Twitter will begin serving hundreds of billions of video impressions right across the internet, each one potentially an opportunity to engage consumers with carefully targeted pre-roll videos (although they’ve made no announcement of such a product to date). It’s an area that Facebook lags behind in and although YouTube has a long history of being the embedded video format of choice Twitterlooks set to be its most credible threat in years.