Twitter needs more than just a Facelift

Twitter’s redesign, which resembles Facebook, may gain more traction with advertisers but not necessarily with users


Twitter’s advertising revenue more than doubled in the fourth quarter to $219.6 million from the same period a year ago but the social networking website is yet to turn a profit. Photo: AP
Twitter’s advertising revenue more than doubled in the fourth quarter to $219.6 million from the same period a year ago but the social networking website is yet to turn a profit. Photo: AP

Microblogging website Twitter Inc. has undergone a major redesign since its launch on 21 March 2006. The new cleaner look with space for bigger profile snapshots or selfies perhaps, with good reason, is being compared with the feel that one gets when visiting social networking site Facebook Inc.

New users and celebrities are the first ones to get the new look though it’s not clear how Twitter defines new users since some who have been on the site for more than five years, too, have been receiving notifications to try out the new look.

That said, those who access Twitter through third-party apps like HootSuite and SocialFlow may not notice any difference. Also those who tweet primarily on their mobiles, an estimated 60% globally and around 75% from India, may not notice much of a difference because of the smaller screen as compared to that of a tablet or personal computer—a phablet may give a reasonable experience.

For those with smaller screens on feature phones, it may be almost a miss.

The 100 million-odd Facebook users in India and over one billion active users globally, on the other hand, get a consistent experience to share across devices—PCs, tablets and smartphones. Twitter with its over 200 million users (estimated 25 million in India) may address the issue over the coming weeks.

Potential advertisers on Twitter, meanwhile, may have reason to be happy with the new tweaks to profiles. For one, users (which means advertisers too) can pin one of the tweets (could be a product or campaign, for instance) to the top of the page, making it easier to highlight the tweet and get more attention. Users can also filter profiles by choosing which timeline to view when checking out other profiles. Also, tweets that receive more engagement get highlighted in a bigger font, so are easier to locate.

According to a 24 March report by Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., nearly 50% of active Twitter users access the site more than once a day, slightly below Facebook’s 60%. Many users seem to think ads are regular content, which the report said is “a big positive”. The report added that 85% of the current users reported that ads are not relevant, suggesting future opportunity to improve ad selection and targeting.

Twitter may address these issues soon.

According to a 4 April report by the Wall Street Journal, Twitter will debut 15 types of new ad products and improved ways to target users over the next six months in a bid to win over e-commerce companies and mobile-game developers. The report cited people familiar with the company’s plans, adding that the first batch of the suite of new ads will be released in a few weeks and will include a product that will coax users to download apps through Twitter.

The microblogging site’s advertising revenue more than doubled in the fourth quarter to $219.6 million from the same period a year ago but Twitter is yet to turn a profit. In the same period, Facebook’s mobile revenue accounted for more than 50% of the total for the first time.

On 7 April, Twitter also announced the acquisition of Cover, an app-maker for lock screens that, among other things, also match locations and times. Twitter hopes to make the mobile experience of users more contextual. These combined moves may help Twitter gain more traction with advertisers but not necessarily with users.

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