A Bolder Twitter Moves Forward

A new vision is brewing at Twitter. A vibrant product strategy designed with the hopes of breathing life back into the social network, when just two weeks ago it was darkened by the news of former CEO, Dick Costolo’s, imminent departure. We all recognize that Twitter has had fingers pointing at it for some time now, for reasons ranging from slow innovation, to lackluster advertising capabilities, to noticeably stalled audience growth.

Even from the beginning, the potential for Twitter’s capabilities wasn’t fully realized. And the users weren’t necessarily at fault for being stumped. When you think about it, Twitter represents all kinds of experiences to all kinds of people – to some, it’s a professional network, while for others, it’s a place to follow celebrity gossip. Some use Twitter as a modern-era source of breaking news, and others still, use it simply as a place to connect with friends. With so many ‘identities’, Twitter has struggled to make meaningful connections with all of the different consumers on its platform. And that struggle has since translated in how it interacts with advertisers.

But, Twitter seems to be turning a new page. Amidst rumors of a Google takeover and questions about who will ultimately take lead of the company, Twitter has been creating hype. While a new chief executive has not yet been named, a new vision is being kicked into high gear. The future is now – for Twitter to gain back faith from marketers, consumers and investors, it must be.

Over the past weeks, two major announcements have come from Twitter, each that appear to address needs of both consumers and advertisers. While advertising dollars are a major priority for the network, they do recognize that the magic simply cannot happen without a thriving user base.

Fresh Advertising Opportunities through Bold Video Content

Let’s first look at the rollout of auto play video ads, an initiative that stacks Twitter up against some hefty video advertising competition: Facebook and Google. Across mobile and desktop, this key enhancement will fill users’ feeds with automatically playing video ads. Once clicked on, sound is added to the high-impact, full screen content, very much like Facebook auto play ads. This move makes a lot of sense – with an already well-established video viewing audience, (82% of Twitter users watch video content) auto play ads are a way to engage consumers instantaneously. Of course, there is always the case to be made that these ads will be irritating; but nonetheless, this is the kind of thumb-stopping content that people continue to crave. It’s a step in a positive direction.

We can’t argue against the fact that Twitter has some wooing to do when it comes to advertisers, and this new initiative does point towards the network’s dedication to building better relationships with them. Aside from the improved visual qualities of auto play ads, Twitter is simultaneously making a unique promise about viewability: advertisers will be charged only after 100% of their video content has been viewed for at least three seconds. Attribution and viewability are known pain points for advertisers, and Twitter is now trying to leverage them.

While there’s a question about whether or not Twitter can actually guarantee viewability from a technology standpoint, there is one factor that makes it slightly more appealing than Facebook or Google. Unlike the two media giants, who take viewing measurement in-house, Twitter plans to use metrics provided by Moat and/or Nielsen (still in decision phase). With an external data source, advertisers may feel more comfortable spending their dollars with Twitter. But in playing devil’s advocate, from a sheer numbers standpoint Twitter is far behind both Google and Facebook in users, and both continue to demonstrate their dominance in video content.

Twitter seems confident in its auto play ad strategy, yet we will need to see how the new capabilities ultimately play out, from all POVs. What marketers can do at this point is ensure that their video content is on par with consumer needs, and focus on bringing strong messages to the front. With these fresh opportunities on the horizon, marketers can prepare to make the boldest impact possible.

Project Lightning: ”This will fundamentally change Twitter.”

More recently, former Twitter CEO spoke with Buzzfeed about an exciting new project set to roll out later this year. Costollo described “Project Lightning”, an initiative inspired by months of product development, and even more months of consumer pleas to dramatically better the user experience. Finally, Twitter is allowing its real-time platform to converge with real-time events, through a curated feed of rich images and videos.  I think we can agree, we’ve wanted this from Twitter for a very long time.

The curated feeds will launch with a revamped Twitter mobile app, but will exist in an entirely new button separate from traditional tweets. Pressing the button will take users to a new feed of events that people are buzzing about – either pre-scheduled (award shows, big sporting events, etc.) or happening in that moment (breaking news). When a particular event is selected, users are brought to a beautiful flowing display of content, made of tweets, videos and images. Each piece of content will be viewed in full screen, which users can easily swipe through. Not only will the feeds be made from what’s on Twitter, but also from Vine and Periscope. And for consumers still altogether perplexed by the app itself, the Project Lightning experience will extend to other websites and applications.

This is a huge consumer experience win. People crave instantaneous content of all kinds, and Project Lightning certainly answers this need. But it answers something else as well, something equally as important. Consumers value the sense of community. There is something inherently exhilarating about sharing an experience – whether it be a mass, global scale event or a small, local happening. People want to feel a part of something greater, and this seems to be exactly what Project Lightning is aiming to offer.

While Twitter certainly has a lot of ground to make up and a lot of minds to change, these product announcements prove that the network is not going to let criticism overshadow the potential of its bright future. We will watch Twitter with a keen eye to see what kind of comeback it’s capable of.


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