Rebuilding Twitter’s perception among advertisers is a massive job, and new CEO Linda Yaccarino has only been in the role for a few weeks. And based on her initial plans to turn this thing around, there’s still a long path ahead for the Elon-owned social app.
According to a new report from The Financial Times, Yaccarino has outlined her initial action plan for re-building Twitter’s business, with video, AI, and in-stream commerce all on the cards.
None of this is surprising, but it’s difficult to see, at this stage, exactly how any of these plans is going to drive a significant shift.
Here’s a look at the keynotes of Yaccarino’s initial plan, as highlighted by FT:
Full screen, sound-on ads
Aligning with the broader, TikTok-led short video trend, Yaccarino says that she’s looking to create a new, full-screen, sound-on ad offering, that will place promotions into Twitter’s scrollable video feed, which it first launched last October, but Elon Musk promoted to users last week.
The fact that this has been around for almost a year and you didn’t know about it probably suggests that this isn’t going to be a game-changer in itself, though I suspect that Yaccarino will also be looking to make video a bigger focus in the app, likely via a new, dedicated video feed to highlight posted content.
Yaccarino’s most immediate experience is in digital video, and in particular, NBC’s ad-supported VOD service, which she helped build to over 20 million subscribers. That experience seems to align with Twitter’s broader content push, with Elon repeatedly noting that he wants to compete with YouTube for creative talent, while Musk has also praised the compulsiveness of TikTok, and its capacity to drive engagement.
So while this may not sound like an amazing innovation within itself, the concept will likely be bigger than this, with video set to become a key element of the new Twitter shift.
And within that, selling vertical video promotions could be a valuable element.
Luring celebrities and influencers to the app
Another key dot point of Yaccarino’s initial Twitter growth strategy will involve pitching the platform to high-profile users, as a means to get more of them sharing their content to Twitter itself, as opposed to tweeting and linking to other sources, or sharing key updates in other apps.
The difficulty in this one will be selling celebrities on the fact that Twitter is worth more to them than, say, Instagram, which has a far bigger userbase. YouTube also dwarfs Twitter for reach, as does Facebook, and TikTok as well, and while Twitter does wield outsized influence, in that many news-savvy users share content off the platform based on Twitter updates, it could be difficult to get these big names over the line, especially YouTubers and TikTok stars who have already built a reliance on those apps.
A potential TikTok ban could actually be a huge boon for Twitter in this respect, opening up a new opportunity to pitch orphaned influencers on the potential of Twitter as a primary content option. But outside of that happening (which is still under consideration by CFIUS), there’s seemingly not a huge window of opportunity, at this stage at least, to re-align stars to Twitter instead.
Political figures, however, could be a winner, with many already using Twitter to great effect, and if Yaccarino can convince more of them to make Twitter a focus, that would make the app a more critical news source within election cycles around the world, which could be a building block for pitching other notable users.
Combine this with its video content push, and Twitter could solidify its place as a key news content app, which could then broaden its usage potential from there.
The risk in this approach is that many social media users have indicated that they don’t want their feeds to be taken over by divisive political content. But it does seem like Twitter’s best opportunity to maximize its market position and strength.
AI ad tools
Yaccarino’s also planning to incorporate new generative AI elements into its ad system, which would help brand partners create, test and improve their campaigns.
This is a longer term goal, as Twitter’s not in the generative AI game as yet - though Elon is working on a new ‘Truth GPT’ generative AI model, which could exclusively use Twitter data to fuel its systems, now that Twitter has restricted the use of tweets for other generative AI tools.
Google and Meta have already built their own generative AI ad creation elements, while TikTok and Snapchat are also integrating generative AI tools - and there is also a risk that Twitter could miss the boat, or be so far behind the others that this concept will seem like less of an update, and more of a necessity by the time Twitter launches it.
But it’s another element of the longer-term Twitter 2.0 plan, and building a better, more equitable system for ad partners.
Unsurprisingly, Yaccarino has also echoed Elon’s plans for in-stream payments in the app, which will open up new opportunities for eCommerce and product marketing in the app.
This is a core element of Musk’s ‘everything app’ plan, which stems from his time developing the initial models of PayPal in the early 2000’s – Elon has long held that PayPal failed to capitalize on the opportunities of digital payments, and that his envisioned ‘X’ app would expand on this, and facilitate more utility and value for users.
Payments are tough, as every platform that’s tried to incorporate such has found, while Western audiences also haven’t warmed to social shopping as yet. But this could still be an area of opportunity, if Twitter’s able to get the requisite approvals to facilitate such on a broad scale.
Which is not likely. Just this week, Apple basically torpedoed fee-free payments in Jack Dorsey’s decentralized app project before it even got off the ground, and its elements like this that will be roadblocks to the next stage, as Elon envisions.
Meta hasn’t been able to get payments off the ground, despite pushing for years, and it seems even less likely that Elon will get the required regulatory approval, given his repeated support of controversial, and anti-government concepts.
Which is another Element that Yaccarino will have to contest with in her business-building push.
Yaccarino’s also planning to hire more sales staff, in a push to initiate more face-to-face meetings with potential ad partners, where they’ll engage, Yaccarino says, in ‘hand-to-hand combat’ to win their trust.
A key challenge here is the perception that Twitter is not as brand-safe as it once was, with Elon in charge - as Musk himself continues to amplify conspiracy theories, controversial health advice, geopolitical stances, and more.
Various studies have suggested that hate speech and misinformation is now gaining more traction in the app, due to Twitter’s revised moderation approach, and as more of these studies are released, Yaccarino’s task is made all the more difficult in winning back that trust.
But Yaccarino is an experienced operator, and of all of these projects, I expect she’ll see the most short-term success on this front, which will be key to re-building the app’s ad business.
Much of Yaccarino’s plan is as you would expect, given Musk’s various statements on Twitter’s key focus elements, and it’ll be interesting to see how the situation evolves, as Yaccarino continues to meet with ad partners, and get a better understanding of the Twitter marketing landscape.
Hopefully, her influence will make Twitter a more viable ad consideration for more brands once again, providing new opportunities to reach audiences through improved ad tools, as Twitter can develop them, but it remains to be seen just how much traction Twitter will get with these projects.
But still, it’s very early days for Yaccarino and her team.
Yaccarino says that she’ll share more of her Twitter 2.0 vision in a Twitter Spaces presentation in early August.