Twitter announced that it has reached an agreement to acquire Bangalore-based ZipDial in an effort to make Twitter more accessible around the world. The company says the deal "significantly" increases its investment in India where Twitter is already seeing great growth, and also gives it a new engineering office in the country.
According to Twitter, the acquisition will help it combat high data costs for those getting online for the first time in countries like India, Indonesia, and Brazil, where many are getting Internet access on mobile devices.
"ZipDial has built a mobile platform that lets people follow and engage with content across all interfaces," explains Twitter VP of Product, Christian Oestlien. "The user experience combines SMS, voice, mobile web, and access to mobile apps to bridge users from offline to online. For example, through ZipDial, it’s easy to engage with a publisher or brand by making a toll-free 'missed call' to a designated phone number. The caller will then begin receiving inbound content and further engagement on their phone in real time through voice, SMS or an app notification. These interactions are especially appealing in areas where people aren’t always connected to data or only access data through intermittent wifi networks."
Twitter has already worked with ZipDial on the Indian elections, Bollywood film promotions and @MTVIndia’s #RockTheVote “Dial the Hashtag” campaign.
"Today, people across India use ZipDial’s platform to access great content, including cricket scores, audio programming, Tweets from their favorite Bollywood stars – and much more – on their mobile phones," Oestlien adds. "Leading figures, including actors, politicians and athletes, also use the platform to instantly reach millions of citizens on Twitter through text and voice messages. By coming together with ZipDial, we’ll help more people around the world enjoy great and relevant Twitter experiences on their mobile phones."
While ZipDial might help increase accessibility for Twitter, it should have a significant impact on the company's advertising efforts. ZipDial says it has achieved over a billion connections with brands across 60 million users. The company ranked number 8 on Fast Company's 2014 list of the world's 50 most innovative companies.
Fast Company wrote about the company:
In India, friends intentionally call each other, let it ring once or twice, and hang up. That's their way of sending a signal, like "I'm home safe," without being charged for a call in a country with pricey telecommunications and limited Internet accessibility. California native Valerie Wagoner moved to Bangalore, noticed the missed calls, and is now responsible for 416 million of them: That's how many times people have used her company, ZipDial, to connect with brands including Gillette, Disney, Procter & Gamble, and IndiaInfoLine.
It works like this: She issues the brand a number, which it prints on its ads. Consumers call, hang up, and get a text or call in return—and thus are entered in contests, receive coupons, or place an order. In 2013, she expanded to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and is now setting up in Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Wagoner said at the time, “Our thesis has engagement at its core and is truly designed for emerging markets consumers. It amplifies consumer-to-brand engagement and therefore data at a personalized level. This then enables targeted marketing of the right message to the right user at the right time, thus maximizing ROI and impact for brands.”
ZipDial will continue building upon its existing platform, and as a part of Twitter, it will be able to expand on a global scale.
"Our ambitious goal is to make Twitter’s unique, great content accessible to 100% of the world’s mobile users, including those in emerging markets who will be experiencing the mobile Internet for the first time," the company says. " We could not be prouder to join the flock."
Gary Bourgeault, an analyst at Seeking Alpha, says ZipDial could help Twitter add value to non-logged-in users, and notes that the "missed call" advertising offering is a form of permission marketing.
"When consumers opt-in to a dropped call service, they are giving marketers permission to contact them. That signals a level of interest in future marketing communications — a vital datapoint for marketers," adds Lara O'Reilly at Business Insider. "The missed call format could also extend to sponsored units — Twitter’s bread and butter when it comes to ad formats. Twitter could give brands the option to sponsor some of the news or information services signing up to use the format. Twitter already has its Amplify program, in which it partners with media and sports brands like the NBA and the NFL to showcase video and images from live events, complete with sponsorships from brands like American Express and McDonald’s. ZipDial gives Twitter the chance to extend this initiative beyond the handful of US partners that have joined it to date."
The companies aren't disclosing terms of the acquisition, but analysts are estimating it to be between $30 million and $40 million.