Better ad experiences will be key to saving Twitter’s revenues

Stock in Twit­ter has fall­en recent­ly after the com­pa­ny announced slow rev­enue growth. What do mar­keters and indus­try experts think the micro-blog­ging plat­form should do to improve its stut­ter­ing rev­enues?

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

After report­ing slow rev­enue growth and decreased demand from adver­tis­ers, Twit­ter may be fac­ing a grim future – per­haps even of the MySpace vari­ety.

Ear­li­er this week, the micro-blog­ging plat­form also announced in a blog post that they are open­ing up Moments, the platform’s curat­ed news-feed, to a broad­er group of cre­ators and one includ­ing “influ­encers, part­ners, [and] brands”. It shows a greater deter­mi­na­tion from the com­pa­ny to increase ad rev­enues.

To gauge cur­rent opin­ion on the strug­gling social network’s future, we asked our dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing col­leagues to look into their crys­tal balls and divine whether Twit­ter has the capac­i­ty to save itself.

Here’s their take on what’s good, what’s bad – and what’s still uncer­tain:

The Good

Lucky for Twit­ter, it’s still arguably the best plat­form to dis­trib­ute news.

In fact, Mal­colm Gray, social media man­ag­er of enter­tain­ment com­pa­ny Live Nation, not­ed Twit­ter is the first place many con­sumers go for break­ing news and trends.

Twit­ter still punch­es far above its weight in cur­rent events and news,” agreed Christo­pher Penn, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy at data-dri­ven PR agency Shift Com­mu­ni­ca­tions. “In an elec­tion year, Twit­ter receives dis­pro­por­tion­ate atten­tion, which means greater audi­ence aware­ness and engage­ment for every­one.”

How­ev­er, Matthew Kaskav­itch, social media man­ag­er and lec­tur­er in the Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Col­orado Den­ver, not­ed Twit­ter is con­sid­er­ing imple­ment­ing an algo­rithm instead of show­ing tweets in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order, which would help adver­tis­ers, but come at the detri­ment of user expe­ri­ence.

Twit­ter users turn to Twit­ter for the lat­est news, par­tic­u­lar­i­ty when things [web­sites] are break­ing. How­ev­er, for Twit­ter to mon­e­tize, [it needs] to lure adver­tis­ers with the tools need­ed to tar­get spe­cif­ic audi­ences and keep peo­ple con­sum­ing and avoid infor­ma­tion over­load. Those two things are at odds with each oth­er, which is why Twit­ter is stuck in a tough spot.”

Matthew Kaskav­itch

At the same time, access and engage­ment is anoth­er huge weapon in Twitter’s arse­nal.

No oth­er social media site makes it so easy to get instant access to celebri­ties, key influ­encers and fans around the world,” said Liz Kel­ly, founder of Goody PR and UCLA Exten­sion instruc­tor on new media mar­ket­ing. “The main les­son is that engage­ment is the most impor­tant thing on Twit­ter. Twit­ter could be even more pop­u­lar if [it] pro­vid­ed users with more lis­ten­ing tools to inter­act with more like­mind­ed peo­ple.”

The Bad

How­ev­er, Twit­ter is a noisy plat­form, said Eric Quanstrom, CMO of sales prospect­ing soft­ware Kit­eDesk.

Once any indi­vid­ual reach­es more than a few hundred…followers, the ratio of noise to sig­nal is quite heavy,” he added. “Any­one that has hun­dreds — let alone thou­sands or mil­lions — of fol­low­ers knows they can­not even remote­ly keep up with the feed.”

And that’s part of the rea­son Twit­ter has strug­gled with adver­tis­ing, Quanstrom said.

If you can­not get peo­ple to pay atten­tion to their own feed, you can­not reach audi­ences cost effec­tive­ly,” he added.

What’s more, accord­ing to Tom Siebert of PPC, SEO and con­tent mar­ket­ing agency Wolf­gang Solo, Twitter’s biggest — and most­ly unac­knowl­edged — prob­lem is that a lot of its users are “bots and shills.”

The bot echo cham­ber dur­ing the elec­tion sea­son so far has been crazy,” he said. “Most peo­ple know it [and] Twit­ter is losing…credibility for it, but refus­es to admit it.”

To wit: Look no fur­ther than the recent expe­ri­ence of SNL and Ghost­busters actor Leslie Jones.

Long term, I think they get increas­ing­ly mar­gin­al­ized,” Siebert added. “And it’s such a cesspool of anony­mous hate, it’s tough for adver­tis­ers to real­ly want to get on board, espe­cial­ly when the ROI is ques­tion­able.”

Fur­ther, John Turn­er, CEO of feed­back tool User­s­Think, not­ed even basic changes in the prod­uct, such as requir­ing email ver­i­fi­ca­tion when set­ting up a new account, could do a lot to stop trolls from set­ting up new accounts.

But Turn­er also said Twit­ter has an onboard­ing prob­lem and “Twit­ter seems to be avoid­ing deal­ing with either con­cern, by both adding extra fea­tures to [its] prod­uct that only con­fuse things, and by seem­ing to make no prod­uct changes to deal with trolling and harass­ment.”

As a result, Turn­er said he thinks Twit­ter is still a won­der­ful plat­form for mar­ket­ing and inter­ac­tions and the pseu­do-anony­mous nature can be ben­e­fi­cial for some users who don’t want to ful­ly rep­re­sent them­selves, but if they don’t do more to help new users and deal with harass­ment, it will begin to shrink.”

And it is Twitter’s reluc­tance to change at a pace rel­a­tive to oth­er net­works that might be hin­der­ing its progress as well.

Users always com­plain that Face­book is chang­ing things, but you’ll notice they’re the ones who have fig­ured it out and are con­sis­tent­ly grow­ing and mak­ing prof­it,” Kaskav­itch said. “Twit­ter needs to con­tin­ue to take cal­cu­lat­ed and bold action to progress [its] plat­form for­ward.”

The Uncertain

But Gray not­ed Twit­ter retains an advan­tage over oth­er plat­forms when it comes to live events.

Whether it’s a Black Lives Mat­ter protest, a polit­i­cal con­ven­tion, the NBA finals or The Walk­ing Dead, Twit­ter is the place for com­mu­ni­ties to gath­er and talk about their inter­ests in real time. This is still very impor­tant,” he said. “Twit­ter is also still impor­tant for keep­ing peo­ple hon­est. Dur­ing the recent police shoot­ings in Dal­las, Dal­las PD tweet­ed out a pic­ture of a man who they sus­pect­ed to be the shoot­er, but due to videos post­ed on Twit­ter dur­ing the ral­ly, Twit­ter users quick­ly iden­ti­fied that their sus­pect was on the ground and not the actu­al shoot­er. This is still the most pow­er­ful way for com­mu­ni­ties to watch and engage with each oth­er.”

And so it’s per­haps not sur­pris­ing that live con­tent has been an area of focus for the plat­form late­ly. In fact, Twit­ter has made a big push into live sports in par­tic­u­lar, includ­ing live streams of upcom­ing MLB and NHL games, as well as a night­ly sports high­lights show called “The Ral­ly.” This fol­lowed announce­ments of a stream­ing part­ner­ship with the NFL for Thurs­day Night Foot­ball and a live con­tent part­ner­ship with the NBA.

Twitter’s live sports push is its best chance at stay­ing rel­e­vant and gain­ing mar­ket share in video,” said Andreas Goel­di, CTO of video adver­tis­ing plat­form Pix­a­bil­i­ty. “Twit­ter is already the plat­form for adver­tis­ers who want to cap­ture view­er atten­tion dur­ing a par­tic­u­lar event with a lot of focus and imme­di­a­cy, so extend­ing this to live video stream­ing is a log­i­cal next step.”

The abil­i­ty to watch sports on Twit­ter while also fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions fol­lows a broad­er trend in media con­sump­tion, added Vas­silis Dalakas, Pro­fes­sor of Mar­ket­ing at Cal State San Mar­cos.

We’ll still have TVs and still watch, but I think all those oth­er plat­forms allow­ing us to watch is a good idea,” Dalakas said. “The cool thing about Twitter…is we go there for social inter­ac­tion and watch­ing sports for most of us is a social expe­ri­ence, so this will be like a vir­tu­al sports bar.”

Luke Wat­son, plat­forms expert at live stream­ing net­work Roker Media, agreed Twitter’s focus on sports as a con­tent type that demands real-time atten­tion and com­mands large-scale audi­ence con­ver­sions could help the plat­form main­tain main­stream rel­e­van­cy, not to men­tion solve a legit prob­lem for sports fans who are blacked out of watch­ing their favorite teams.

All of that said, will the strat­e­gy work? I think that it will require more than sports con­tent to save Twit­ter,” Wat­son said. “This, com­bined with an over­haul of its core prod­ucts, may be enough to main­tain rel­e­vance or even grow, but a com­plete inte­gra­tion of Periscope, which has remained vir­tu­al­ly unchanged since it debuted in March of 2015 despite the launch and con­tin­u­al improve­ment of com­peti­tors, would go a long way toward speed­ing pos­i­tive change and restor­ing the con­fi­dence of exist­ing users.”

Bri­an Shin, CEO of video ana­lyt­ics firm Vis­i­ble Mea­sures, agreed, say­ing Twit­ter needs to cre­ate a bet­ter view­ing expe­ri­ence as “from a con­sumer per­spec­tive, [Twit­ter] is still kind of a mess, even with Moments.”

For his part, Noel McCann, mar­ket­ing ana­lyst at short-term hous­ing site Home­Suite, is opti­mistic, say­ing the live streams and the removal of the char­ac­ter lim­it “give mar­keters an oppor­tu­ni­ty to cre­ate more demo­graph­ic-focused cam­paigns.”

This will also improve the effec­tive­ness of out­reach to poten­tial cus­tomers, thus bring­ing the plat­form back up to speed with oth­er plat­forms, he added.

Fur­ther, Penn said Twit­ter is test­ing reach and fre­quen­cy buy­ing, which will per­mit mar­keters to con­trol how often their ads are seen.

This fea­ture, once rolled out to mar­keters, will let us bet­ter con­trol spend on our Twit­ter ads by cap­ping our ads’ fre­quen­cy – a long over­due improve­ment,” he said. “Twit­ter also con­tin­ues to push for more video ads. If you’re cur­rent­ly exe­cut­ing video ads on oth­er plat­forms, expect to port them to Twit­ter with greater ease.”

In addi­tion, Penn point­ed to Twitter’s upcom­ing tran­si­tion from its exist­ing tag­ging solu­tion to a Uni­ver­sal Web­site tag.

If you’ve imple­ment­ed Facebook’s new con­ver­sion pix­el, you have some idea of what to expect,” he said. “Our advice is to use Google Tag Man­ag­er to imple­ment and con­trol these many new tags. Doing so will sub­stan­tial­ly reduce your mar­ket­ing tech­nol­o­gy bur­den.”

What’s more, Penn said Twitter’s Audi­ence Plat­form expects to offer new options includ­ing cross-device ads lat­er this year.

Twit­ter cit­ed a 52 per­cent lift in pur­chase intent for con­sumers who saw ads on mul­ti­ple devices ver­sus one device,” he added. “Over­all, Twitter’s focus on dri­ving down cost-per-engage­ment to be more com­pa­ra­ble with oth­er social net­works can only be good news for mar­keters with increas­ing­ly tight bud­gets as we move into the sec­ond half of the year.”

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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