After their latest earnings report - which showed both a decline in total users and advertising revenue - Twitter is under more pressure than ever. The micro-blog giant had shown signs of promise of late, but any hopes of a significant rebound collapsed on the back of their latest report - in which they also reported that their future outlook looks uncertain, particularly in terms of revenue growth.
So what does Twitter do?
One option they're already working on is a new automatic-promotion program, which would enable users to pay a flat fee to have their account and some of their tweets promoted every month.
Selected users are currently receiving invites like the above, with further information listed on the Twitter Business website. As explained in the note, how the system works is, rather than paying for a promoted tweet or account campaign, users will be able to pay $99 per month to have their content shown to selected users. At this stage, there are only two targeting options available, 'Interest' and 'Location' - and not a combination of the two.
Rather than having to create a specific ads campaign, Twitter will do the targeting for you - your content will be shown to potentially interested users, based on your chosen criteria (Twitter says they're looking to add more qualifiers as the program evolves), you get regular performance reports and you have the option to cancel at any time.
You get more exposure, Twitter gets more ad revenue - everybody wins.
The idea is interesting - users are going to see promoted tweets anyway, so it's not like it'll add any more paid promotions to user feeds, and with the algorithm now showing a wider range of content to more users anyway, it could be a good way to boost exposure. And while the narrative around Twitter right now is generally negative, the platform still has more than 320 million users, and, reportedly, more than 157 million coming to the platform every day (though Twitter remains cagey about what their actual DAU figure is). Combine that with the wider audience glued to their timelines to stay up to date with the latest announcement from President Trump, and there remains a lot of potential for reach and exposure.
But more than that, Twitter's audience is actually becoming more niche - which, in a broader sense, could be a negative, but for advertising purposes, it may provide a significant boost, at least for certain businesses.
As Twitter notes, their daily active user ratio has been increasing for the last five quarters - so while they're not getting more users to the platform, they are succeeding in making the experience more sticky for those that do.
As noted, there's a huge crowd of people who are engaged in political conversation on the platform every day, for example, while Twitter's also working to build community around live event coverage, focusing on smaller market content, like lacrosse and eSports. Those engaged communities are the ones responding best to Twitter's algorithm, which works to show them more content they might be interested in, and as they do this, and learn from audience response, Twitter's getting more data, and working out what types of content resonate best with these user groups.
That could result in this new process delivering stronger returns, as Twitter's automated targeting is getting better all the time, and through this program, would be able to help businesses reach more engaged audiences to boost their engagement - without them having to do anything.
And as we've seen from the popularity of automated tools, on both Twitter and other platforms, the 'set it and forget it' model certainly holds some appeal. Rather than just following everyone you can and hoping for follow backs, this process could facilitate growth through targeted engagement, which is a much more sustainable strategy.
Problems could occur, however, if too many people sign up - there's only a limited amount of space for promoted tweets before they become intrusive, and if you end up competing with other businesses for the existing slots, that could reduce the value of the offering. But that's a problem Twitter would likely love to have, and one that's a fair way off as yet.
At first glance, it seems like it could be overkill, having all your tweets promoted, but really, it's similar to Facebook's 'boost post' option, just on an automated basis, and at higher volume - which makes sense, given the shorter life-span of a tweet.
And worth noting - not all of your tweets will be promoted or pushed in the same way. As explained by Twitter:
"[Participants will] run a Promoted Account campaign for the entire month. You'll also run a Promoted Tweet campaign that will include up to the first ten (10) Tweets you send each day. Note that your Promoted Tweet campaign won't include your Retweets, Quote Tweets, or replies. Not every Tweet that is added to your Promoted Tweet campaign will serve an impression, and the extent each Tweet is promoted may vary based on performance."
So, like your regular tweets, if your promoted tweets get more engagement, they get seen by more people.
Really, Twitter's making it easier for brands to reach more people, without adding to their workload - a smart approach which, if their targeting delivers returns, will also prove popular. But that's the key - the automated targeting has to work. There will be challenges in this, but given Twitter's work on refining their algorithm and learning from audience response, they could be on track to provide a great service on this front.
They're offering a free month up front for initial participants, and a 'cancel anytime' option - seems like they're confident they can deliver.
At the least, it could hold significant appeal for those looking to grow their Twitter followings, then switch it off and build on the back of their expanded audience.