Everyone's Down on Twitter. Should Businesses Be?

Chris CrumBusiness

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Twitter reported its Q4 and full-year financials on Wednesday, and while they met or exceeded expectations on revenue and earnings, user growth stalled and threw up a huge red flag for investors. The company's shares have plummeted to the lowest they've ever been.

Add to that the fact that they just announced new timeline functionality that has had a lot of Twitter users freaking out about the future of the service, and it just seems like everyone is down on Twitter. Should businesses be?

Do you think Twitter is or will continue to be an important platform for businesses? Share your thoughts in the comments.

If you ask the company, the new timeline feature is indeed good news for businesses. First off, the user freak-out is real, but it's hardly justified, and the dust should settle with relatively little fallout if it hasn't already.

The majority of anxiety related to this came before the company actually made the announcement, which made it clear that the feature is opt-in.

As Twitter explained, "Here's how it works. You flip on the feature in your settings; then when you open Twitter after being away for a while, the Tweets you're most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline – still recent and in reverse chronological order. The rest of the Tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always. At any point, just pull-to-refresh to see all new Tweets at the top in the live, up-to-the-second experience you already know and love."

According to the company, those who had early access tended to retweet and tweet more. Twitter says the new timeline is an improvement for consumers as well as for businesses and brands. In a separate announcement, the company talked up the brand implications. Product marketing manager Eric Farkas wrote:

Brands that create quality content have always performed well on Twitter. With this update, whether it comes from an SMB, large brand, consumer, or athlete you follow, the best content shines through. We've noticed in our early experiments that people who have this experience turned on Tweet and Retweet more on Twitter — and we believe this means that brands can reach a more engaged potential audience. Throughout our tests, we also saw an increase in engagement for brands' organic Tweets and an increase in engagement for Tweets about live events.

Promoted Tweets and Promoted Accounts will work the same way as always, and are not affected by this change. Brands will still have access to the same suite of creative, measurement, and targeting tools to make sure theirs ads display to the right people, at just the right moment.

Resolution Media's chief strategy officer said he's "incredibly excited by the opportunity this presents" for all the brands his company partners with.

360i's CEO called the change "beneficial for both consumers and marketers as the best content — including organic branded content — rises to the top, increasing both relevance and likelihood of engagement." She added that she hopes it will "also drive more users to Twitter more often, which will in turn be good news for marketers" and that she's "excited to get deeper under the hood to evaluate implications for our clients."

"It also gives creators, brands and publishers that produce great content an opportunity to engage more of their followers," said the CEO and Founder of Laundry Service. "As a user and advertiser, I’m psyched."

These comments are all highlighted in Twitter's blog post.

Twitter also introduced a new ad product this week called First View, which enables marketers to reach Twitter audiences as soon as they open the service.

"Each day, millions of people come to Twitter to engage in conversations about their passions and every topic of interest that continually shapes culture," said Twitter revenue product manager Deepak Rao. "At the same time, marketers come to Twitter to reach this live, premium audience through Promoted Trends and Promoted Moments, creating significant brand moments for their product launches, event sponsorships, and film premieres. Now, with First View, marketers can scale their efforts even further."

"First View helps marketers achieve significant audience reach with exclusive ownership of Twitter’s most valuable advertising real estate for a 24-hour period," added Rao. "When users first visit the Twitter app or log in to twitter.com, the top ad slot in the timelines will be a Promoted Video from that brand. Now, marketers can tell a powerful visual story across the Twitter audience."

This is rolling out gradually to managed clients in the U.S. Twitter plans to expand it globally in the coming months. They're also testing skippable video ads.

Recently introduced Conversational Ads are also aimed at helping advertisers drive more earned media and brand influence. We talked about these more here.

It remains to be seen if Twitter can grow much bigger. After this most recent earnings report, it's not looking good. But it doesn't have to be the biggest thing in the world to be a great place to reach consumers. It has 320 million monthly active users, and that's still a lot of people - many of them using the service every day if not many times throughout the day. Hard core users are literally using it all day long.

COO Adam Bain told CNBC, "For marketers, that reach in scale is over 800 million people. Over 300 million log into Twitter on a 30 day basis and a whole lot more (over 500 million) come to Twitter in a logged out state. So we just started turning on ads and advertising in this logged out state. So for marketers, we have more than 2.5 times our reach in scale just in the last quarter."

CEO Jack Dorsey talked about this some on the company's earnings call as well (via Seeking Alpha):

In Q4, we began a pilot to run our promoted tweets, to logged out users. The pilot was with a small amount of marketers and was with two advertising units essentially our promoted video and one of the DR units, promoted website card. And what we found actually, we were pleased with. The click-through rates on – and the view rates on the logged out ads were nearly identical to logged in, and I’d recall was nearly identical to logged in as well.

And so we’re happy with the early tests that we’re seeing in terms of logout ads. Obviously, there’s more work to be done in terms of growing the amount of impressions that are there. But from a marketers perspective, the total addressable reach of Twitter got large – got very large in the quarter.

Coming changes to character limit (not to mention the recently expanded limit to direct messages) make Twitter a better platform for customer service as well, even if businesses still have a long way to go to improve their efforts. Twitter recently found, by the way, that faster responses lead to greater revenue.

Do you believe Twitter is improving for businesses? For marketing? For customer service? Discuss.

Image via Twitter (Facebook)

Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.