In an effort to boost brand use of the platform, Twitter has today unveiled a new research tool called 'Twitter Insiders'. In essence, Twitter's 'Insiders' are a group of more than 12,000 Twitter users, aged 16 and up, from across the UK and the US. This user group - chosen specifically by Twitter - will serve as a sort of immediate research and feedback group to which you can pose questions.
Or as Twitter puts it:
"Tap Twitter Insiders at any time to test creative ideas, gather honest input, and uncover market insights."
Twitter's had a similar program in place in the UK since 2013, but this is the first time it's been made available more widely.
So how does it work - and what are the use cases for such a program?
Here are the details.
According to Twitter:
"Insiders act as an anonymous virtual panel, inspiring businesses to make more customer-centric decisions"
Tim Perzyk, Twitter's Director of Market Insights and Analytics, told Ad Age that
"[The Insiders] community exists as a living forum for members to exchange questions and ideas with each other. We select research methodologies based on the questions we'd like to answer on behalf of our clients. This includes a wide range of qualitative and quantitative techniques including forum like-environments and surveys, as well as guided activities such as recording one's mobile video viewing and providing a voice-over of the experience."
In practice, what this means is Twitter's Insiders management team frame questions to the Insiders community in order to gather relevant feedback, which can be obtained very quickly. Alternatively, Twitter's also offering longer term study projects - usually spanning four and six weeks - which can be conducted via Insiders with the help of research agency C-Space.
The In Crowd
How the Insiders process works, for participants, is this.
Twitter recently sent out a bunch of invites to selected users asking them if they would like to be part of the new Insiders group - the process has been documented by Motherboard editor Nicholas Deleon, who was recently invited to join.
(Image via Motherboard)
Once you're chosen - and you accept - you're asked to enter your occupation and tick a selection of interests.
"Twitter rounds out this initial questionnaire by asking my highest level of education, household income, employment status, my ethnicity, and whether or not I have any children."
(Image via Motherboard)
This enables Twitter's Insiders team to categorize each respondent for future research purposes - if you're an accountant who's into gaming, for example, that means Twitter can use each of those qualifiers when conducting research by posing questions to you in those areas.
Once you've joined the group, Deleon says you're given access to a message board type set-up where Twitter throws out questions for the group to respond to - like this one, about Twitter's recent app store re-classification (from social network to news app).
(Image via Motherboard)
Through this, Twitter's able to pose specific questions on behalf of brands to gather responses from the Insiders group. While it's not noted by Deleon, you'd expect that Twitter would be able to contact specific members, based on their noted interests and details, in order to gather feedback targeted to each industry - the Insiders will likely get an e-mail or some sort of other notification asking them to check-in and respond to a new question posed in the system.
It's an interesting process, and one which could prove effective, particularly given the filter between the brands seeking responses and the Insiders themselves. For example, a brand might want to know something like 'will this idea work?' with an example, which might not generate the response they really want, but the Insiders team can re-frame the question and target it to specific users to get the best response.
Insiders can also be called upon to take pictures, test video and perform basic analytical response tasks like examining facial expressions in images.
According to Ad Age, Twitter won't be paying Insiders for their participation in the program, but will provide rewards "from gift cards to electronics such as iPads or smartphones".
Twitter's obviously keen to promote advertising growth wherever they can. As noted in their most recent earnings report, while ad revenue at the company has increased year-over-year, the $595m quarterly result came in below analyst expectation of around $607m.
Twitter's attributed the lower result to "slower than expected growth in brand advertising spend", with revenue growth from large brand advertisers, in particular, being softer than expected.
This is the latest issue facing the platform (and pushing the share price lower), with their audience growth issues likely causing flow-on effects to their ad business - as you can see from the above chart, revenue growth had been rising steadily, but recent challenges and subsequent concerns have no doubt lead to lower enthusiasm for the platform overall, which is reflected in the dip in revenue progression. That's not to say Twitter's results are overly bad - that level of growth would be welcomed by most companies - but it is definitely a key area of concern. Twitter will be hoping that initiatives like Insiders can help boost brand participation and encourage further ad spend.
And while it's impossible to project how effective the Insiders project might be, it does provide an interesting option for brands to try out, and could help improve results, if used the right way.
Twitter Insiders is currently available to select agency and brand partners, with each agency receiving a fixed number of small and large-scale research projects per quarter.