Twitter has been something of a dark horse for years. Despite a lot of potential and a dedicated user base, it has lacked a clear business case for advertisers to spend money on. However, this has changed over the course of 2015.
A strong focus on increasing advertising revenue, along with a number of new advertiser friendly features and products, has boosted the business potential of the microblogging platform, as brands are increasingly turning to it for marketing activities.
Twitter has been also making some gains in terms of its users, and India is now the second largest user base for the company in APAC after Japan with 22.2 million users (January 2015, eMarketer). This is still much lesser than close rival Facebook, which has in excess of 120 million users in the country; its second largest market globally after the US.
eMarketer in its January 2015 report mentioned that Twitter accounts for 17 per cent of the Indian social media landscape. “In India, growth this year is more than twice as fast, at 30.4 per cent—and while it shows signs of slowing, it will still be climbing by 16.5 per cent in 2018,” said the report.
Since last year, and especially in 2015, Twitter has been making great efforts to increase its share of revenues. This includes the launch of new products for brands as well as increasing partnerships. For example, it tied up with Star Sports and Vodafone for the launch of ‘Twitter Amplify’ in 2014. The acquisition of Zipdial also brought more capabilities to its target users.
Just this year, the launch of the ‘self serve ad model’ made it easier for SMBs to experiment on the platform. Previously, many of the smaller brands used to be put off by the $10,000 minimum RO that the company insisted on.
“The launch of the self serve ad model has created curiosity among brands. Interest has been increasing, not only in 2015, but even in the year before that, primarily because Facebook is restricting organic reach. Twitter has also been tying up with a lot of media entities, which also increases their brand visibility. The minimum guarantee used to stop brands earlier, but the self service model will only fuel experimentation,” says Chetan Asher, Founder and CEO of Tonic Media.
“Every CMO I speak to mentions Twitter in a branding conversation,” informed Gautamm Mehra, Business Head (Social Media) of iProspect India. He further opined, “We have seen an increase in the number of advertisers across categories. The newer ad products will add to this momentum. I see these platforms being used in performance campaigns, something which we didn’t really see in 2014. It marks a big shift, and now with lead ads on Facebook, lead gen ads on twitter and lead nurturing on LinkedIn, I see all of them take a chunk away from performance budgets that we typically reserved for Google.”
Sanjay Mehta, Co-CEO of Miriam, also agreed that new ad products like ‘Promoted Trends/Tweets’, ‘Twitter Cards’ etc., offer more options to advertisers who are also getting comfortable with creating and running campaigns on the platform. However, he also admits that it is difficult to get clients to experiment with new products like Periscope and Vine. “Compared to spends seen on Facebook, Twitter still has a fraction of overall spends, but in general, digital budgets for Twitter have gone up for this year,” he told us.
Speaking about the self serve model, Mehra explains that while it will definitely benefit clients, restriction of Facebook’s organic reach has not caused any major shift in the thinking for brands. “Reach is subjective. For example, you would assume the reach of a tweet is higher because Twitter doesn’t “restrict it”, but on the other hand, the Twitter newsfeed is way more cluttered than Facebook,” he said.
However, others like Zafar Rais, CEO of Mindshift Interactive, agreed that with Facebook’s norms constantly evolving, it does throw up challenges for advertisers. Speaking specifically about ad spends, he said that more clients were open to spend money on Twitter ads in 2015 as opposed to previous years, when Twitter was mainly used for influence marketing. “Conversations have always been the USP of Twitter. The ‘pay-as-you-go model’ that was introduced also enabled industries like FMCG to take more interest. We have seen 20 per cent increase in spends on Twitter this year,” he said.
Asher also opines that the social media scenario might change in coming months if the Twitter self serve model becomes popular. When asked whether the increase of spending on Twitter promotions is at the expense of Facebook, Mehta said that it is more a case of media planners and clients hedging their bets by spreading budgets across platforms. “Earlier the clients used to think there is no quality audience on Twitter, but this perception has changed now,” he said.
However, even though it is agreed that budgets allocated to Twitter have increased, agency heads we spoke with did not expect it to become any concern for Facebook. For example, Mehta opined that Facebook’s innovations and experiments with ad products has put them way ahead of any competition. Another way of looking at it, says Mehra, is that Facebook has advanced so ahead of its peers that it is now competing with the likes of Google for ad dollars, and not with other networks and social platforms.
“Ad spends (on social media) are still dominated by Facebook. The consumer-centric brands only focus on Facebook. However, we might have the likes of Instagram and Twitter see an increase in ad budgets in the coming months,” said Asher. Similarily, Rais was of the opinion that Twitter Ads have emerged as a viable alternative to influence marketing, especially for short term targeted campaigns.