twit·ter - a short inconsequential burst of information; chirps from birds.
It's a humble name from a simple beginning, but Twitter is on a roll that could challenge its basic mechanics. Unless you live under a rock, you know the micro-blogging network began trading in the New York Stock Exchange on Nov. 7, 2013, with an initial value of $26.
Investor enthusiasm soared, and the offering price flew up 73 percent, closing that day at $44.90 a share. Social sites were inundated with congratulatory messages, including a tweet from Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey. And the agency and marketing executives that we caught up with are looking forward to seeing Twitter reach all of its advertising and marketing possibilities.
"Every day you can see its potential, especially in the way it has grown public involvement in creating subcultures around live and produced content," says Kinney Edwards, executive creative director of Tribal Worldwide, an Advertising Age A-List Agency based in New York.
"The IPO is great for marketers because the development roadmap gets expedited during this time, so there are more frequent advancements in user experience that help us continue to perfect our social strategy," says Lynn Sladowski partner and senior director social at MEC in New York, one of the world's leading media agency networks.
Keep It Simple
What about the 230 million users of the micro-blogging platform? They expect the usual content that's interesting, helpful, or entertaining, sprinkled with some colorful commentary. They're used to promoted tweets and trends, and Twitter ads. And they know these services will keep evolving, just at a faster pace. But they are also counting on one thing in particular: for it to stay, mostly, the same.
"Keeping the business end of the IPO contained was smart," says Edwards. "I think overall people felt there would be less dramatic day-to-day impact on the functionality of the platform than they did with Facebook's (IPO)."
Twitter has also been really good about retaining its core value without convoluting the platform with foreign features. "The company is humble and smart about how it makes announcements and sets expectations for new features and functionality," says Craig Elimeliah, VP and director of creative technology at RAPP NY, the world's leading full-service marketing agency. "Now that it is a public company, it should continue doing what it has always done to make sure expectations are set and changes are sound."
In modest fashion, Twitter just announced on its blog enhanced mobile ad targeting. That's wise since 76 percent of its users reach for their mobile phone to use it. Plus, 60 to 65 percent of Twitter's ad revenue is generated from mobile.
"Ads on Twitter will be acceptable to users as long as it complements the user experience, instead of trying to interrupt the experience," says Sladowski. "Users are open to hearing from brands, but if brands are going to insert themselves, it must be for the purpose of further enriching the conversation through relevant or entertaining content, utility, or value of some form."
Edwards believes that the agencies that approach this change in a shotgun, one-size-fits-all manner will fail. "The key is smart precision. Native to more obvious advertisement opportunities will need to be crafted to suit the individual brands."
Sky's the Limit
Twitter has already made a huge impact on advertising, as well as entertainment and mass media. "For many of our clients, we use Twitter as a way to begin lightweight conversations that are relevant for the brand," Sladowski says. "The required brevity of Twitter actually gives brands an excuse to be informal and human, allowing users to feel like they have a more authentic relationship with the brands they love."
Once the conversation is started, Twitter extends the lifecycle of stories, and creates richer two-way experiences as the story is being told. The pound sign makes it easy for users to find those stories and topics.
"Hashtags are becoming the new tagline and are starting to get significant attention in campaign development," Elimeliah says. "They're becoming a pillar in creative presentations. The traction and momentum will only continue to swell as hashtags take hold as real-time CTAs.
"As the network matures, we are going to see Twitter become the de facto companion to other media channels. This has obvious implications as to how we start to explore new ways to engage via advertising and generating revenue."
Ads Bring Backlash
With nearly every announcement from Facebook, starting with the introduction of the newsfeed, we've seen a negative reaction from its user base as it introduced ways to become profitable. Now the newsfeed is one of the favorite features of the platform. Providing Twitter stays committed to keeping the user experience the priority, the company shouldn't expect any backlash.
"Whenever a platform sees success like Twitter has, there is concern of backlash when changes are introduced, as users are loyal to the existing product and don't always understand the change at first," Sladowski says. "As long as Twitter holds true to its vision, then their ad product developments will drive brand connections in ways that elevate the user experience, not harm it."
Advice to Investors
After JPMorgan's recent Twitter Q&A #fail, investors hopefully get that social media is controlled by the consumers.
"They need to take it easy," says Edwards. "Don't push the platform too hard too quickly to meet financial goals. Embrace your audience as part of the decision-making process. You'll risk changing something people have embraced and changed organically with love into another 'the suits are here, party is over' downturn."
The IPO gives the platform more legitimacy and the ability to start making serious business decisions based on the value that Twitter brings, "But the best advice would be to frame the way they look at the company as a media channel - not to pigeonhole it as a technology startup. See it as a media channel that is less a social network and more an information network," says Elimeliah. "This requires investors reframing the way they look at their mechanics and potential for partnerships moving forward."
Twitter has the ability to reach into the depths of real-time data, giving us deep insight into how culture is shaping up and influences the way we communicate. "There is a great opportunity to work with agencies and clients to fully leverage the platform and its reach," Elimeliah says. "By working with others they have the potential to keep people interested in what could be done next versus what has been done."
(photos, top to bottom: Craig Elimeliah, Lynn Sladowski, Kinney Edwards)