Once Twitter announced its IPO, the company began dominating the tech and business headlines. Amid concerns of the company still being in the red, investors gravitated toward the initial offering. While Twitter’s ability to pull in global revenue remains a concern, the company racked up some key acquisitions this year, improved its advertising offerings, made significant changes to its platform across all apps, and added 11 new Twitter Certified Products to extend the platform’s value for businesses with more engaging experiences.
Although initially acquired back in 2012, video clip service Vine has become one of the most famous acquisitions for Twitter spurred by its momentous growth. Launched in January 2013, the loopable six-second video sharing service immediately took off as a mobile-only platform with deep integration in Twitter. Twitter later blocked rival Instagram’s display in Twitter Cards once its competitor Facebook picked that company up.
And with the launch of Nielsen’s Twitter TV Ratings, that measures the total activity and reach of TV-related conversations on Twitter, it only made sense that some of Twitter’s other acquisitions in 2013 hint at the company’s continued strategy to remain relevant in the Social TV conversation. With the acquisitions of Bluefin Labs and Trendrr, Twitter not only gains a foothold in being the lead player in analyzing social TV chatter, but it also gains some content engagement tools for developers. For instance, with Trendrr’s Curatorr developers can create rich real-time social engagement experiences for on-air, online, and in-app. Curratorr enables conversation discovery, display, and moderation for TV, media, and advertising.
Any investment Twitter makes into the Social TV market could prove a great investment given how the conversation on the platform about live TV has grown significantly in the past two years—19 million unique users in the U.S. composed 263 million tweets about live TV in Q2 2013, according to SocialGuide.
As well, in a move to expand its mobile advertising offerings, Twitter scooped up MoPub, a company that helps advertisers manage their mobile advertising inventory.
Twitter also acquired Crashlytics, a mobile app crash diagnostics company that many companies rely on to learn how their apps are performing on mobile devices. This acquisition highlights Twitter’s intentions to do more in the mobile space in terms of app development and deployment.
Focusing on its need to generate more advertising revenue now that its a public company, Twitter homed in on some key targeting opportunities for advertisers.
For a long time, demographic targeting on Twitter was based on the interest graph, but then came the launch of keyword targeting this year, enabling advertisers to reach users based on words used in recent tweets and with tweets they engage with. Then Twitter added broad match to keyword targeting, along with sentiment filtering and negative keyword match.
Advertisers now also have the ability to schedule tweets, either organic or promoted, for specific dates and times up to a year in advance. This aids in setting up product launches and overall promotions.
Enhanced mobile targeting was later rolled out allowing advertisers to segment users on iOS and Android by OS version, specific device, and Wi-Fi connectivity. Previously mobile targeting could only be conducted by operating system.
A final targeting feature added in 2013 was a Tailored Audiences re-targeting feature that lets advertisers reach users who have shown interest in a brand or category when not using Twitter. Ads can now be connected to information from web browser cookies. Advertisers can share browser-related details with Twitter that can be matched to a specific user. The information can include where the user is coming from, as well as the sites they visit to offer the user a relevant advertising experience.
Twitter also added a TV conversation targeting tool for advertisers that will better help them target users who post about specific TV shows with promoted tweets, whether or not the advertiser is running a spot in the program.
In addition, there was the launch of Twitter Amplify, enabling real-time dual-screen sponsorships for advertisers with in-tweet video clips. Both broadcasters and advertisers can leverage this new feature, as witnessed during the NBA finals and other sporting events with replays and real-time plays.
With the MoPub acquisition came Twitter’s foray into native advertising. The new product will enable thousands of mobile app publishers on MoPub’s exchange to use in-stream ads relevant to the content the user is already experiencing. With predictions that the social native ad market will grow 93% to $4.57 billion by 2017, this move seems to be a promising ad category for Twitter.
Tango is one of the first partners to make use of MoPub’s native advertising offering.
On top of all of these new advertising features, Twitter has also offered all advertisers conversion tracking tools and expanded its Promoted Account timeline format to all advertisers.
It was terribly difficult to follow conversation threads on Twitter, so the company introduced a vertical signaler with the addition of blue lines to connect related tweets in a conversation. What this does is organize the Twitter feed better and link all tweets in a thread together, no matter what time they were tweeted.
Continuing an emphasis on the visual aspects of the platform, Twitter enabled inline photos and videos within user feeds, making it easier for users to access this content. In the past, users had to click through to see images and video. Photo capabilities are also being better integrated into the composition of tweets with a new feature that rolled out on the iOS app. Now when a user begins a tweet on their iPhone, their photo gallery will display instead of their keyboard. To switch to keyboard, all the user has to do is tap on the blank text box.
Other new features came to iOS, Android, TweetDeck for Web, Chrome, and PC that bring more focus to images within direct messages. Now there’s a direct link to Direct Messages in the tab bar along with the ability to send photos inside DMs. Twitter’s move comes as a strategy to combat the direct messaging feature enabled in Instagram, as well as the host of teen messaging services like Snapchat that enable such capabilities. Along with the addition of Activity and Discovery timelines, and an icon tab bar, including Notifications and Direct Messages, the major new redesign in Q3 also included swipeable timelines. With a lot of these new features, Twitter positions itself in the messaging app avalanche of apps that are quickly gaining steam, like WhatsApp.
Homing in on the platform’s role in delivering critical information to people in times of crisis like Superstorm Sandy or the tsunami in Japan, the company released Twitter alerts, enabling various official organizations like FEMA and the American Red Cross visibility during a crisis so that users can sign up to the organization to receive special emergency pop-up notifications in-app or via text messages.
Also useful, but a little too aggressive for some users, was Twitter’s attempt at recommended notifications. The feature was built based on an experimental account @MagicRecs, that sends instant, personalized recommendations for users and content via direct message. Eventually, Twitter rolled out the feature to users not following the experimental account as a push notification service.
A pretty unsuccessful product launch by Twitter this year was the release of Twitter #Music in March. Australian-based music data company We Are Hunted provided the technology for this service that leveraged the activity from musicians and music fans, filtering all of their music conversations into charts. In April, the service was launched as an app on iOS and rose to #6 on the App Store charts. Most used by Internet radio services that make use of the #NowPlaying hashtag, the product never really gained much traction and was closed down within six months of launching.
On their developer blog earlier this year, Zach Hofer-Shall, manager of the Twitter Certified Program, introduced 11 new Twitter Certified Products to help businesses easily find tools and services that can make them more successful on the platform. These products included Brandwatch, BuzzFinder, Curatorr, Engage Manager, Flowics, NTT DATA, Offerpop, Scup, TRUE TELLER SocialDesk, SocialGuide Intelligence, and Wayin. The continued expansion of this program is a signal to developers of the kinds of products Twitter wants them to build.
There were also some updates to Twitter Cards, including mobile app deep linking and the launch of new cards including App cards, Product cards, and Gallery cards. App cards show information about an app from the App Store or Google Play, including name, price, icon, and rating. Product Cards show an image and description, and devs can customize two more fields to include price or ratings info. Gallery cards show an album or collection of images through a preview of the photo gallery.
In a move to enable third parties to integrate with the Twitter platform, the company launched the Twitter Ads API. This allows dev partners to use their own tools to manage Twitter Ad campaigns while easily integrating into existing, cross-channel advertising management solutions.
[Image: Flickr user Richard P J Lambert]