Why Has Twitter Launched Facebook-Like Mobile App?

Prasant Naidu
Prasant Naidu Founder, Lighthouse Insights

Posted on April 20th 2014

Why Has Twitter Launched Facebook-Like Mobile App?

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With 241 million monthly users on Twitter, the company is under pressure to show that its young advertising business is deserving of its current market cap of $26.9 billion. Hoping to win the confidence of the advertising business which is inclined towards Facebook, it was said that Twitter is to debut 15 types of new ad products and improved ways to target users in the upcoming six months.

Twitter didn’t confirm the development but rumours were rife that the first batch of the ads, that would be rolled out in the coming week, will include a product that will coax users to download apps through Twitter. Hoping to win the confidence of the mobile game developing companies, it was said that Twitter will launch a mobile-app install ad unit.

Finally, Twitter has officially confirmed the roll out. Revealing on its blog Twitter states that: “We are excited to announce new ways for marketers and developers to drive app installs and app engagements using our new mobile app promotion suite: both on Twitter and off-Twitter through thousands of mobile apps that use MoPub’s mobile advertising exchange.”

Twitter says the new feature leverages both Promoted Tweets and Twitter Cards to show these promotions as a “rich, native ad unit. The feature has earlier been tested by beta partners such as Spotify, HotelTonight, Kabam, and Deezer.

Twitter further states that the new offering will allow advertisers to run simultaneous marketing campaigns to more than 241 million active users on Twitter, and to more than 1 billion mobile devices off-Twitter, through one interface at ads.twitter.com.

But if you keep a close eye on the social media developments in the network space then you would know that it isn’t a path breaking idea but a complete rip off of what Facebook did in 2012. Leaving the prolonged debate apart what features both the social networks – Facebook and Twitter are copying from each other, the latest move from Twitter is a thoughtful and smart one. While it could be labelled as a Xeroxed product offering by Twitter, it has genuine reasons to do so.

Facebook had 245M app downloads in 2013

Last quarter during the earnings call Facebook had revealed that it now earns 53% of ad revenue from mobile, or $1.37 billion of its $2.59 billion revenue. The social network turned mobile ad firm also stated that mobile is witnessing 556 million daily mobile users up from 507 million in Q3, and 945 million monthly mobile users up from 874 million.

However, Facebook’s mobile success didn’t happen overnight and not especially after the disastrous IPO debut it had. Launched at the end of 2012, Facebook’s Mobile App Install Advertising product is the brain child of Deborah Liu and Vijaye Raji.

It may be argued that Facebook woke up late towards mobile but when it got started there has been no looking back. The number of installs served through Facebook’s Mobile App Install ads grew to 245 million at the end of the year, from 145 million at the beginning of October, Liu told BuzzFeed in an interview — with about 100 million installs happening in the span of the past few months.

In October, when the first install number came out, Macquarie’s Ben Schacter estimated the segment was already hitting an annual run rate in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and upped his price target at the time on the strength of that advertising business.

Twitter wants to focus on being a mobile-first company and to do so it also needs to tap the success of Facebook’s mobile app install ad.

However, Facebook isn’t the only company to experiment with advertisements for installing apps from Google Play and the Apple App Store. There are competitors like larger firms such as Millenial Media, and smaller firms like Flurry but with Twitter jumping into this space it becomes a direct competitor to Facebook.

Focus on being mobile-first company

With 75 percent of its users coming from smartphones and tablets Twitter wants to focus on being a mobile-first company. Speaking during a panel at VentureBeat’s fourth annual Mobile Summit, Alex Roetter, Twitter’s VP for engineering and revenue stated that,“Three fourths of our users are on mobile. Our focus is on being a mobile-first company.”

Laying out the vision Roetter said, Twitter “takes the view [that] things are going more and more mobile. We are very disciplined in building high-quality ads.”

Twitter which was destined to work on mobile has slowly built a mobile first business largely. Twitter never had a problem with user adoption; it was the ad revenues that have been a worry for the network.

While Facebook had a bad start on mobile, Twitter has slowly built in its ad functions one-by-one, working conservatively to monetize the platform in a sensible fashion, writes Pandodaily.

Last year during the early part of September, Twitter acquired MoPub, a mobile ad technology firm offering a variety of services. Twitter was interested in MoPub’s system for allowing advertisers to bid in real time, in an automated fashion, for ad space on mobile apps.

“We are for the first time connecting MoPub and Twitter directly,” Kevin Weil, Twitter’s vice president of product for revenue,” said in an interview to New York Times. “The power of this is about the scalability and the flexibility of being able to configure your app install campaigns in one place.”

Additionally, advertisers who can now set up campaigns on ads.twitter.com to run across the entire Twitter Publisher Network was launched in February this year. Weeks before that, Twitter added promoted accounts to search results, to “help businesses build a follower base of highly engaged users.”

Theoretically, with this new roll out from Twitter, advertisers now get access to around a billion potential viewers of their ads — roughly the same size audience that Facebook can offer.

With the power of context it remains to be seen whether Twitter can replicate Facebook’s success with app install ads. At times being second is not bad, you get to learn a lot and Twitter won’t shy off in doing so.

Prasant Naidu

Prasant Naidu

Founder, Lighthouse Insights

Founder and Blogger at http://lighthouseinsights.in, Indian social and digital media news.

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