I’ve noticed an eerie silence in the digital marketing community. Very few are talking about the pending Twitter IPO. Why is that?
Yes, I’ve seen the obvious article about how more ads will kill Twitter and how they’ll have to “strike the perfect balance” to meet the greed of Wall Street while not alienating Main Street or Madison Avenue. But where are the insightful discussions around the next phase of digital marketing, the rapidly maturing social advertising market and the mind-boggling speed at which consumer internet time is moving to mobile?
Personally, I’m excited about the post-IPO Twitter and more specifically the next phase of social advertising, but others might be bearish. From my perspective here’s what Twitter needs to do to get marketers, not just talking, but advertising on the service.
- Prove it. While some marketers I’ve spoken with have seen promising results from Twitter advertising, many more haven’t even tried. This doesn’t mean they won’t, it just means Twitter advertising is seen as unproven. Twitter needs public success stories from big advertisers to convince brands to look deeper and test budget. Twitter must spend some of its IPO windfall creating and promoting success stories.
- Make Twitter a safe bet. For the most part, marketers see Twitter as a great place for customer service, real-time news distribution and attaching to trending topics or real-time events. Excitement is also building around the idea of “social TV”–reaching consumers while they’re tweeting their favorite shows–and delivering targeted TV-like ads at scale. For many brands and their creative agencies, social is viewed as a sub-niche within the digital niche. While marketers know they must reach and convert social mobile consumers, Twitter must address the fact that marketers already operate in a complicated ad-buying ecosystem, one that could deem Twitter as too complicated, too difficult, and therefore, too risky.
- Achieve real scale. Did you know that Amazon is estimated to generate more ad revenue this year than Twitter? But Amazon isn’t an ad platform. Or is it? While Twitter seems ubiquitous, it is still relatively small compared to traditional and even emerging digital ad platforms. By the end of 2013 Facebook will have more mobile-only users than total Twitter users. Twitter should highlight this tremendous growth opportunity, juxtaposing it to Facebook’s position quickly approaching saturation.
- Find ways to catch up. Twitter’s campaign management tools or performance data hasn’t overly impressed. Considering how innovative Twitter has been generally, it has not invested near enough in marketing resources. While Facebook’s ad management tool evolved slowly, it also invested heavily in its Preferred Marketing Developer ecosystem and building APIs for ad management and insights. While Facebook still has major work to do, Twitter has to play catch-up and innovate. This isn’t just about native tools and access to data. For modern marketers to shift significant working dollars, Twitter must make buying easy, programmatic, effective and scalable. Plus, Twitter must integrate into existing data systems, aligning with existing success metrics. This is the path to “enterprise” value and pricing.
These are big challenges, but ignoring Twitter isn’t an option. Consumer audiences have already made the shift to social mobile. To not reach and engage them there is foolish at best and suicide at worst. And Twitter has some plusses for marketers as well.
- Twitter is innovative and a fast-follower. Twitter has consistently struck the balance between innovating and being savvy, fast-followers. A post-IPO Twitter will be a savvy counter to incumbents and will force Facebook (and Google, too) to innovate more quickly. Competition in the consumer-focused social ad market is nothing but a good thing.
- Twitter is adored by users and media. Unlike Facebook, people love Twitter. They think it’s cute and fun, and man, have hashtags gone crazy. Since Twitter has successfully moved away from the perception that it’s filled with meaningless tweets , it has become more and more ubiquitous in the collective conscience. We see @s and #s everywhere now.
- Twitter is diverse and global. Did you know that Twitter use among African Americans and people of Hispanic decent is higher than Caucasians, at 28 percent, 14 percent, and 12 percent respectively? Chief among the many reasons is the high rate of smartphone use among African-Americans, highlighting the inexorable link between Twitter and smartphones.
Known for its international adoption, it’s still shocking to learn that China, India and the U.S., in that order, have the most Twitter users. This is fascinating considering Twitter is banned in China. Lightweight social mobile communication platforms have massive appeal in both established and emerging markets as mobile use rates skyrocket. Twitter is well positioned as the future of media emerges.
Now you understand why I’m excited about a post-IPO Twitter and the implications for digital marketing. It’s clear that Twitter is an unstoppable force that will have a significant impact on the future of media consumers and marketers. It’s time to start discussing the implications of a Twitter IPO in the greater social mobile advertising context, because ready or not, here it comes.
Matt Compton is the CEO of ShopIgniter.