What brands need to know about Twitter's recent ad changes

David Carr: strategy director, DigitasLBi
David Carr: strategy director, DigitasLBi

Twitter has introduced a timeline for logged-out users, those who look at a tweet now and then without signing in, and is planning to sell ads against this. But what does this mean for advertisers?

Last week Twitter announced Tweets would now be searchable on Google and that it would expand promoted Tweets through partnerships with third parties such as Yahoo Japan and Flipboard.

According to Twitter’s 2014 results, revenues in the fourth quarter were $479 million (£315 million), a rise of 97 per cent year on year.

In 2014 Twitter had 288 million monthly active users, a 20 per cent year-on-year increase. However, the rate of growth is slowing. Twitter’s monthly active users in 2013 marked a 30 per cent rise on 2012. In 2012 it was up 59 per cent from 2011.

Campaign asked digital leaders in adland to explain what the changes mean for advertisers.

David Carr, strategy director, DigitasLBi

"Five hundred million people come to Twitter each month without logging-in versus 288 million monthly active users. If the service is to meet the rapacious growth expectations of investors and pundits then these are an obvious audience to go after.

"A timeline for logged-out users promises a way to show the unconvinced what Twitter is about in the hope of getting them to sign up, but it also offers a big canvas to monetise as social continues its race to become a new-old media of paid reach above everything.

"Can the new timeline become a front page of what’s happening online at that moment in time? A Reddit competitor with less risk for brands than an Ask Me Anything (but not that)?

"Coupled with the new syndicated tweets product this shows that Twitter is serious about giving advertisers new places for messages but is it enough to get them excited? That remains to be seen."

Isabelle Baas, managing partner, digital, Starcom MediaVest Group

"Twitter’s results for the last quarter of 2014 were a real mixed bag. They posted fantastic revenue growth figures that were ahead of expectations (up by 97 per cent year on year) but they are still not profitable and user growth fell back.

"What’s encouraging is the growing data licensing as well as international revenue side of their business.

"However, last year the management team overhauled their strategy with a focus on improving the overall user experience, as well as brokering deals to increase reach outside of the company’s platform.

"These deals include Google, which now allows tweets to appear in search results, Yahoo and Flipboard.

"There are some really interesting developments coming for both users and advertisers this year – data rich mobile app and device targeting for instance, focus on video and curation of content – and if they can get their user number growth back on track, as they have projected, they will be in a really strong position."

Mark Holden, head of futures, Arena MediaMark Holden, head of futures, Arena Media

"Twitter extending promoted Tweets outside of the logged-in timeline should, on balance, be a positive thing for both Twitter and advertisers – simply because it extends the reach of Twitter advertising beyond the increasingly busy timeline.

"Organic user growth has been slower than Twitter would have liked. At the same time, for many brands it’s become harder to get high natural visibility in the noise of the timeline.

"Any solution that helps to extend reach across Twitter or third party platforms should be welcome, provided that user experience, and therefore quality of advertising, is protected.

"I expect this is just the start of a strategy to extend ad reach directly (Tweets) or indirectly (Twitter-powered programmatic display) beyond the core platform.

"The only potential drawback is how compromised precision targeting might be off-platform, but for many brands I suspect this will be a worthwhile sacrifice to get more scale from Twitter advertising."

Eb Adeyeri, strategy director, We Are SocialEb Adeyeri, strategy director, We Are Social

"This move makes a lot of sense for Twitter. It’s recently been derided for not growing its user base in line with what investors expect; but the reality of how people use, and value Twitter lies just outside logged-in users.

"Twitter is essentially the news pulse of the web. Just as the newspaper buying audience isn't the same as the news consumption audience, judging the value of Twitter on users that have an active account does it a disservice.

"This change means that those advertising on Twitter will have more options when it comes to ad units, and therefore ability to reach more people.

"It will also allow advertisers to use social proofing to drive behaviour outside of Twitter in order to reach and attract more of their target consumers.

"As with any social network, advertisers will be at the whim of the algorithm Twitter will use.

"Measuring the effectiveness of reaching this logged-out audience will involve testing, analysing and learning along the way."

Jonathan Palmer, head of social, VizeumJonathan Palmer, head of social, Vizeum

"The move to push promoted tweets outside of the Twitter platform and onto any syndicated tweet stream, like it is doing with Flipbook, shows that Twitter is looking to broaden its range and targeting to offer advertisers greater reach.

"Considering that we typically see a plateau in new users on any platform over time, it’s a wise move to target people who are already seeing syndicated tweets but perhaps never actually sign in to Twitter themselves.

"With thousands of web and mobile applications already using syndicated tweets to add valuable content to their offerings, it may only be a matter of time before all these streams are commercialised.

"The question will then be, are these syndicated tweets still offering rich content for the application's users, or have the promoted tweets devalued the offering?

"As long as brands use the site in the manner people are expecting – to share information and news that people value – and as long as there is a limit to the frequency of the promoted content, then this can only be viewed as a clever and valuable move by Twitter.

"It provides a further reason to be running brand ads through the platform."

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