Twitter India witnessed peak revenue this year: Maya Hari, Twitter

Considering Twitter to be the conversational layer of Internet, VP & MD, Asia-Pacific, Twitter talks on how India due to its vibrant user base, turns out to be a perfect platform

Maya Hari Twitter

They say, Conversations that last long are made up of memories and instances deep and true. Yes, we are talking about the platform Twitter where long threads and powerful hashtags have become a popular trend leading to quite a few 9pm prime time debates on most television channels.

exchange4media caught up with Maya Hari, VP & Managing Director, Asia-Pacific, Twitter who spoke about Twitter India’s growth aspirations and how the Indian market, which is crucial both from an audience as well a revenue perspective, witnessed a peak revenue this year. Considering Twitter to be the conversational layer of Internet, Hari talks on how India due to its vibrant user base, turns out to be a perfect platform in the market. 

Edited excerpts:

How important is Twitter India in your APAC growth plans? 

APAC has been the growth engine for Twitter globally and India is one of those top priority markets for us. Globally, India is not only one of the largest but also among the fastest growing market. So, both from an audience and a revenue perspective, there’s a lot of focus, as well as attention and investment that we are planning for this market. It’s quite an exciting time for us in India.  

How is Twitter India thinking about engaging better with the Indian user base? 

Speaking globally, Twitter is rather a platform of interest which motivates people to rally behind a cause. It allows users to discuss and learn about various upcoming trends that they would like to follow. 

Talking about India, we have a very vibrant user base that is happy to converse. This works very well for the country, because we consider ourselves the conversational layer of the Internet that we want to build on continually. India is a perfect platform for this, where people are happy to talk, happy to express opinions and there’s a huge diversity in our user base which lets them talk on various topics. With respect to this varied user base, we are seeing some interesting trends that we think will continue to evolve. We are transcending from beyond the top 4 cities being the core market to other cities in order to have a strong adoption there. Even beyond this, we have started seeing some of the smaller towns that really light up with Twitter. This is just the beginning of a longer term trend that we would continue to see.

With respect to the use of languages, just about half of our tweets coming from India are in English, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Kannada, among others.

Twitter India recently reported a 14% decline in its sales. What are some of the initiatives planned to put Twitter India back on the growth trajectory?

Let’s set this record right, we haven’t seen a decline in sales. In our history of revenue as Twitter India year to date, we have in fact witnessed peak revenue this year. The reference here, might be regarding the ROC filing that we do. We do not book our sales revenue out of India. It’s a marketing entity and so we are booking a lot of our cost base out of here. Hence, you will find a difference between what the ROC filing represents vs. how the health of India business looks like.

While the Internet user base in India has grown heavily, monetisation has been an issue plaguing the industry. How does Twitter India make sure to monetise user traffic effectively?    

We at Twitter always believe that monetisation follows audience, hence with a strong growing audience base monetisation becomes important. Let’s say, if a brand does a launch with Twitter in the marketing mix Vs. without it, the persistent awareness is stronger in the case where they have used Twitter at the launch phase. With our audience being incredibly influential this has essentially been our super power in the marketing mix. Therefore, our message to brands has always been, ‘To start with the audience’, who can be more influential at launch and thereby help you leverage the speed of the platform.

We are quite bullish about monetisation in India and we continue to focus on ‘launch’ as the core marketing value that we bring to the table, in addition to sponsorships around connecting at the right moment with the latest.  

How does Twitter plan to deal with misinformation such as spread of fake news, hate speech, harassment etc. to avoid exploitation of Twitter's core features, more so with elections coming up in India?

The overall topic of misinformation is something that the whole world is tackling at present. We at Twitter care deeply about this issue. Our intent is always to be able to surface all perspectives around the topic. To be able to tackle spam and address issues of fake news sooner, continues to be an endeavour. At a global level, building better and healthy conversation is one of our top priority. Hence, the ongoing effort is around a combination of product, policy and policing of reports in real time. You will find, Twitter has been able to detect such cases much earlier and hence taken action much sooner.

Speaking about elections, it’s actually quite an exciting time for Twitter. As a platform we want to represent every side, we want to be able to carry the debates, we want to be able to get people to discover what the candidates represent, discuss policies and topics they would like to stand for. On one hand, we are going deep into the state elections in different states of India, in order to be able to support them. We are going into 6 to 7 towns for e.g. Raipur to help state level parties aid benefits like education, sanitation etc. for the locals. On the other side, we are also partnering with BOOM Live to be able to spot fake news and resort to fact checking. Alongside, with the launch of #PowerOf18, we encourage today’s youth to express freely and voice their opinion regarding who they want to see as their leader. All in all, we are taking a holistic approach to the elections, to try and fix such issues.

What are some of the measures that are being employed to bring forth creative content partners onto the platform, in order to leverage content across Twitter?

The effort to be able to bring a holistic set of Video content to the platform, has been a multi-year strategy for us. Whether it is Quickbuzz here or some of the local news and entertainment partners, or Red Chillies Entertainment, for whom we recently live streamed their ‘Zero’ movie trailer launch, you will continue to see us work with a very rich partner ecosystem to bring content onto the table. In addition to this, we are also constantly evolving the formats from an advertising standpoint to be able to get brands to express creativity. For example, how does one merge video along with conversation instead of just choosing one. This is very unique to Twitter. Another example would be that of a conversational card, where you can get a consumer to view a video and then engage in a particular hashtag and a conversation to be able to spread the word on the same. These are some of the unique only-on Twitter formats, which will continue to be a major part of our strategy.

With the Video First approach expanding rapidly, how is Twitter making sure, that almost every consumer gets a Video touch point on the platform?

From a consumer standpoint, the consumption of video globally as well as in India continues to rise. We in fact, see doubling of video consumption on the platform. What we also see is that, video as a format represents over 50 per cent of our total revenue. Video has actually become the currency and we can find it all around us. In terms of engagement, it certainly has become the favourite format for consumers.

When it comes to brand advertising, how does Twitter ensure it will be competitive enough in a brand-data-centric world?

Speaking about data, Twitter has tweets that are real time, public in nature and are conversational. Put in another way, it’s the largest collection of human thoughts that a brand can actually tap into real time. This sets up a good base for incredible data net insights. Brands love to hear from us about the topics that interests a particular set of audience, for instance, what does a set of gaming audience care about or what are the core areas a tech-savvy group would discuss in all likelihood? The sentiment involved here is to predict whether the brand we are conversing with is positioned correctly or not. This becomes a very strong foundation for us, in having a data-centric conversation with the brand.

When you marry this sentiment and the launch factor, the two super powers of Twitter it tends to be the best well rounded offering that we have for the brands.

Any Twitter trend that took you by surprise this year?

Being an Indian who has lived here, the whole #MeToo movement has pleasantly surprised me to see how it came to the surface and drove incredible impact in society. We have also had few other trends where women over the last couple of years have come out and expressed a lot on several hashtags like #Ain’tNoCinderella and #GirlsWhoDrinkBeer etc. These mini moments have definitely pushed the society to believe that we as women have deep trust in the ability to express ourselves and have freedom. The #MeToo movement, has been the culmination of series of emotions for me.

It has also been lovely to see all the fun moments playing out on Twitter. For e.g. when Golden girl Hima Das broke a big record at Commonwealth, news moments like the debate around Aadhaar etc.

Our audience has the ability to shape culture and when people shape culture, they certainly have the power to change the world for the better. It is indeed a privileged position for us to be in both for the society and marketers we connect with.
 

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