Twitter's existing brand pages have been under the radar, especially compared with the buildup around Google+ brand pages, which were launched last month. But Chief Revenue Officer Adam Bain said that he's spent the better part of the past year meeting with chief marketing officers, and brand pages were a recurring and frequent request.
Brand pages have two key elements, both of them free. They can be customized with large header images that advertisers can use to display their logo and tagline more prominently than under the standard format, where branded elements of the page design are often partially covered by the time line of tweets. Brands can also choose to keep a particular tweet at the top of their time line, and that top tweet also auto-expands to reveal an embedded photo or video from Flickr, YouTube or other sources, without requiring the user to take action.
Additionally, they separate out a brand's @ replies and mentions, which Mr. Bain noted is important for a customer-service oriented company like JetBlue, one of the launch partners, which frequently responds to users but wanted a way to keep its messaging from getting diluted.
"A tweet's only 140 characters," said Mr. Bain. "[Brand page are] like an invitation to learn more. When consumers want to learn more, spend more time or get deeper in terms of engagement, we think they'll end up on the brand page."
Twitter is launching brand pages with 21 marketers: American Express, Best Buy, Bing, Chevrolet, Coca-Cola, Dell , Disney, General Electric, Hewlitt-Packard, Intel, JetBlue, Kia, McDonald's, Nike , PepsiCo, Staples, Verizon Communications Wireless, NYSE Euronext, Heineken, Subway and Paramount Pictures, specifically for the release of "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol." It has also partnered with some charities and individuals that it hasn't disclosed.
Mr. Bain said that all the marketers involved in the launch are strategic partners and advertisers that have been involved in ongoing dialogues with Twitter.
There's a clear application for entertainment brands like Paramount and Disney, which is promoting the upcoming movie "Brave" in its top tweet. But early-use cases are varied. Pepsi is deploying the brand page functionality for individual products such as Pepsi and Diet Pepsi . General Electric created video content for today's launch geared toward helping consumers understand what the company does in human terms. Mr. Bain pointed toward the company as a forward-thinking marketer that will be increasingly using promoted tweets and trends to drive eyes to its brand page in 2012.
"The question for each one of these marketers is what is the interesting, compelling, provocative content that they can be putting out to a larger audience to keep that engagement high," said Mr. Bain, adding that marketers in the launch group were already actively distributing content on Twitter but were looking for a way to make it stand out better.
For Twitter, launching brand pages could be a way of challenging Facebook's hegemony as the secondary branded destination for a company after its own site, as well as another means of inducing big brand advertisers to loosen the purse strings by making organic and paid content more interconnected. If brand pages become enticing destinations with rich content experiences, Twitter's advertising products become more appealing as a means of directing people there.
Twitter's global ad revenue is projected to reach $139.5 million in 2011 and approach $400 million in 2013, according to eMarketer. It launched its advertising program in April 2010 with six advertisers signed up to use promoted tweets.
Brand pages will also ultimately be deployed for Twitter's mobile clients, but not for today's launch.