Twitter is positioning themselves as a broadcaster
Twitter is looking for ways to extend their reach beyond the twitter platform
(WSJ) Following slower than expected growth and a dip in their stock price, twitter is looking for ways to extend their reach and more specifically, find ways to target and reach individuals who are not logged into twitter. Twitter feels that if they can successfully accomplish that, they could have a much larger reach than just their 250 million users.
YouTube has successfully extended their reach outside of just the YouTube platform by allowing users to embed YouTube videos into any other website. That feature essentially made them the default host for online videos.
Twitter believes they have an opportunity to follow a similar plan with embedded tweets. It is possible to embed twitter feeds into websites through twitter or third party widgets. However there are few main issues to take into consideration before jumping to the conclusion that this technology can turn twitter into a broadcast player the likes of YouTube, facebook, or TV.
1. Content Hosting Options: With YouTube they provide a service that before their launch was not readily available. That was the ability to host video online. Video is a heavy digital file that has complex requirements, and was not something all web developers had access to prior to YouTube. Before YouTube if you wanted to host a video on your website you would need a video player, many of which cost money or weren’t reliable. YouTube filled that void and provided something few others did. Twitter however, does not solve such a problem. Most twitter content or content twitter links to, is text, which anyone can host on their own with no special tools. They don’t need twitter to share text and news like they need YouTube to host and share video.
2. Tracking KPIs/Engagement: When advertisers buy ads on twitter currently, they are buying and tracking engagements. Twitter can track that information on their platforms but they are having issues tracking it outside of the platform and in embedded feeds. Currently they don’t seem to have a solution that advertisers or investors are comfortable with, meaning they currently don’t have a good way to sell ads in this environment.
3. Limitations to inserting messaging: To make use of these widgets and twitter feeds outside of the twitter platform, twitter would need the ability to insert messaging (aka tweets) into custom feeds. They might be able to do that with widgets twitter owns, but third party widgets may be able to restrict what twitter could insert into their feeds. If twitter is limited by third party software platforms then they could essentially be cut off from a large portion of the audience they claim to be trying to reach
What does this mean for advertisers?
Overall the idea that twitter has reach beyond just those who login is valid, but monetizing and reaching that audience isn’t that easy. They face issues both from a technology standpoint and from a value add standpoint. Twitter needs to first convince a large portion of websites or other news outlets to use twitter feeds on a regular basis and prove that it adds value to what they currently have. Once they’ve done that, they need to tackle the technological barriers which could be hindered by third party developers.
At this point I do not consider twitter a broadcaster and would not recommend planning that way. Twitter does have value as a compliment to other broadcast mediums such as TV and that is where advertisers should be focusing their efforts. I will continue to monitor this idea though, and if circumstances change I will update my POV accordingly.