Twitter is in the middle of a major development cycle that will culminate with a series of new features, design changes and ad products. There are multiple objectives at play, but Twitter's most pressing needs — increased user engagement and ad revenue — are driving almost every move the company will make for the foreseeable future.
Advertisers that have been anxiously waiting for new ad products from Twitter got their first preview last week in the form of mobile app ads, a format that's been successful for Facebook of late. The mobile app promotion suite, which is still being tested in private beta, combines Twitter Cards and Promoted Tweets to encourage users to install new apps or re-engage with apps that may be languishing on their mobile device.
Ads for mobile apps are an obvious next step for Twitter. While Facebook hasn't broken down how much revenue it generates from these ads, there's no question the format played an important role in Facebook's rapid ascent on mobile.
"I think ecommerce will either be big for Twitter or Twitter will not be successful at advertising." — Bob Buch, SocialWire
Twitter is expected to widen the offering over the coming months, but in the meantime users are already seeing mobile app ads from some of its early beta partners such as Spotify, HotelTonight, Kabam, Deezer and SeatGeek.
MoPub Rises to the Surface
Twitter also announced a deeper integration with MoPub, the mobile ad exchange it acquired last October, which gives advertisers the opportunity to run marketing campaigns on and offTwitter. The new interface now enables advertisers to run simultaneous campaigns on Twitter and MoPub at much greater scale. MoPub's exchange reaches more than 1 billion mobile devices and fulfills more than 130 billion ad requests inside Android and iOS apps every month.
MoPub gives Twitter the scale it desperately needs for mobile advertising. So in a roundabout way Twitter can now claim an audience reach that approaches that of Facebook. Of course, Facebook is testing ways to sell mobile app install ads outside of Facebook as well.
"Twitter has always been pretty aggressive in testing out new ideas and especially on the advertising side," says Nate Elliott, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. "I think this is something that's been brewing for quite a while."
Still, Twitter's approach to advertising and the overall user experience of the product has been much slower and deliberate than Facebook's. While Facebook made dozens of ad products available to marketers before culling its offering in an attempt to remove unnecessary confusion for marketers, Twitter has been testing its innovations more thoroughly, says Elliott.
"Twitter is much more deliberate and takes much more care in the rollout of its ad products," Elliott says. However, he says he's not sure that either company has struck the right balance yet.
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