Blog Post

Telefonica Seeks Social Media Mojo With Twitter And Layar Integration

Telefonica (NYSE: TEF), the multinational operator with mobile networks spanning across Europe and Latin America, is now fully focused on squeezing more revenue out of its substantial assets. After a month in which it formed a new business unit, Telefonica Digital, to further this strategy, the operator is rolling out more details on developments. This week, it has announced mobile content deals with social media giant Twitter and augmented reality startup Layar.

Twitter has now integrated APIs from Telefonica’s operator in the UK, O2, which let users on the O2 network send photos to Twitter through the phone’s MMS service. Once taking a picture, users can now send those pictures directly to their Twitter accounts by associating their mobile number with their account (through the Twitter account settings) and then sending the photos to a specific short code, the not-very-catchy 86444. These calls are charged at O2’s normal MMS rate.

This development will probably be most important to those on the O2 network who love to tweet but do not have fancy smartphones. That’s because on smartphones, there are already apps that allow users to post images to Twitter — for example the Instagram app for iOS and Android, and Twitter’s own apps. Some, like Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), are even integrating Twitter directly into the native OS. However, users on other devices who had wanted to post photos from their handsets would have potentially had to pay a cumbersome visit Twitter’s mobile web site. That would have likely been a gating factor for many.

As such, this is one more step in Twitter’s strategy to make itself more accessible on mobile: Twitter already had deals in place with operators to enable SMS-based tweet posting, and many also offer an option in which users get free texts with any direct messages and @ mentions from other Twitter users.

For Telefonica, it will potentially mean more revenues from MMS traffic as well as more stickiness: getting users to reach for their handsets to post pictures rather than, say, waiting until they return home to sideload them through the PC.

Jose Valles, the head of Telefonica’s developer platform BlueVia, said in the release that the plan is to extend the Twitter MMS integration to other operators in the Telefonica footprint.

The Layar news, meanwhile, looks like it is less about direct consumer services, and more about a bigger project in the area of commercializing visual recognition technology. Layar, which offers an augmented reality platform and app that it says is currently installed by 10 million users, is partnering with Telefonica I+D, the operator’s R&D lab, to bring together the two companies’ visual search products.

Telefonica will be using Layar’s technology as part of its “IRIS” project, “to develop a service that provides information related to an object just by taking a picture of it,” according to the release. That service, which works on products, posters, logos and other images, can potentially be used for advertising and other kinds of marketing — something that other A/R companies like String are already exploring.

While Telefonica has yet to roll out anything commercial based on the Layar partnership, you can bet that this is what they are gearing up to do, too.