Mobile Marketer: Twitter looks to native mobile video in bid to extend reach

By Michael Barris

Twitter hopes the introduction of native mobile video will boost the number of people who use its service, supplementing its new search partnership with Google and other moves aimed at broadening its appeal.

With its recent rollout of native video, which allows users to capture, edit and share videos within the Twitter mobile application, Twitter is taking its cue from Facebook, which is pressuring YouTube as the go-to destination to upload and watch video. The importance of finding ways for new users to immediately derive value from Twitter was dramatized in the microblogging site’s fourth-quarter financial results, which showed a lower-than-expected increase of 20 percent in monthly active users (MAU) for a total of 288 million.

“We’re clearly at the very beginning of mobile video sharing, and we’ll see with video what we’ve seen with photos, an abundance of creation and consumption happening from the device we have with us all the time,” said Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO, in a conference with analysts to discuss the results.

“We have a lot more coming on the mobile video front and I am personally investing a lot of time in this area.”

1.5 billion loops

Twitter’s initial video foray, its Vine short-form video service, is seeing more than 1.5 billion loops a day. 

Twitter also is receiving video through both its Amplify program, which lets media companies and brands capture TV video and distribute it to fans and audiences across Twitter, and its rollout of video.Twitter.com tools to professional publishers.

“The data all tell us that people love watching video via Twitter, and marketers are seeing great engagement along with tons of earned media,” Mr. Costolo said. 

The native video rollout is part of Twitter’s campaign to boost engagement and retention of new and occasional users. 

Twitter’s biggest opportunity is to double down on video to develop how both marketers and ordinary people use its platform.  

“Facebook has proven over the last 9 to 12 months that watching video on a social network can be a good user experience,” said Jordan Bitterman, chief strategy officer with Mindshare North America. “The more Twitter enables video viewing – and the monetization of those views – the more they will benefit.”

Twitter, which has searched for a reliable revenue model, saw fourth-quarter revenue soar 97 percent to $479 million, above analysts’ expectations.

Advertising revenue maintained its upward track, totaling $432 million, up 97 percent, with mobile representing 88 percent of the total. Advertising revenue per thousand timeline views surged 60 percent for a total of $2.37.

Earnings, excluding expenses related to company stock plans, came to a better-than-expected 12 cents a share, up from 2 cents a year earlier. Including expenses, Twitter had a net loss of $125 million, or 20 cents a share.

January’s trends suggest Twitter’s stagnant user growth is a blip that will be replaced by stronger numbers similar to those seen during the first three quarters of 2014, Mr. Costolo said.

Nevertheless, Twitter’s user-growth issue turns up the spotlight on its new search partnership with Google, which would make tweets more searchable online, increasing Twitter’s value to marketers. The deal, confirmed during the earnings call following its initial revelation in a news report, means Twitter’s 140-character tweets will be visible in Google’s search results once posted. 

“This is not something you’re going to see launched or rolled out for several months,” Mr. Costolo said.

The partnership is seen as having the power to help Twitter broaden its reach to attract marketing dollars from big brands, a challenge given Twitter’s significantly smaller user base compared with Facebook.

“Making tweets more accessible via the largest search engine on the planet can only mean good things for growth,” Mr. Bitterman said. “And it will help get a monkey off their backs – if only for a while.” 

Given Google’s reputation as a source of information related to fast moving events, the move is a big win for Twitter.

“This will help get further visibility of Twitter and in some ways, treat Twitter like a newswire type service that is generated by its users,” said Ken Wisnefski, founder/CEO of WebiMax. “I like this deal quite a bit. I think it’s a real coup for Twitter.”

Twitter’s other efforts to broaden its appeal include a plan to begin syndicating Promoted Tweets. The new service will allow Twitter syndicated ads to be seen by users within Twitter content sections on third-party properties, as well as within third-party content areas.

Boosting engagement

In another engagement-boosting move, Twitter late last year launched Fabric, a collection of SDK’s designed to make it easier for developers to bring tweets into apps and which has attracted brands such as McDonalds and Spotify.

“Twitter has begun to speed up deployment of their product roadmap, including new elements in video and analytics,” Mr. Bitterman said.

“Each of those releases offer users new ways to use the platform, but – importantly – it also arms marketers with a new way to advertise.  That’s obviously in Twitter’s best interest as it seeks to drive more revenue into their pipeline.”

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