Twitter's Redesign Isn't Really Helping Advertisers

The Mobile Changes Help, but Marketers Will Still Want More

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Corrections has been made in this story. See below for details.

The main goal of Twitter's recent redesign was to make it easier for users to discover popular conversations on the service and further connect with one another. Twitter also rolled out enhanced brand pages, which the company says should "help marketers create an even more compelling destination on Twitter for their brands."

Certainly Twitter will need to attract brands to the platform to hit the $400 million mark in ad revenue that eMarketer is forecasting by 2013. The question for marketers is this: Has Twitter adequately addressed advertisers' needs? The answer is : not very well.

Brand marketers invest major ad dollars in a platform only if it:

  • Matches ads to highly relevant audiences
  • Gives brand marketers robust creative options
  • Is easy to buy
  • Delivers volume
  • Provides insightful, actionable reporting

Let's break down the Twitter redesign based on these criteria.

Highly relevant ad matching.

Brands now have their own pages, but there is no improvement in targeting. Our firm's studies show that targeted Twitter ads often achieve click-through rates twice as high as non-targeted ads. But Twitter's targeting option is a "rich-get-richer" play, where brands have only the option of targeting existing followers or users with what Twitter calls "similar interests."

Creative options.

The new brand pages let advertisers incorporate auto-play video, but video is still missing from sponsored Tweets that appear in users' chronological inboxes, or timelines. On top of that , in-stream ad units are still limited to what the brand has already tweeted from their corporate feed. There is no option to change creative on the fly, or serve different creative to different users, eliminating important tools like A/B testing.

Delivers volume.

This is the one area where brand advertisers should be pleased, because Twitter has made a clear upgrade. After more than a year without mobile ad inventory, Twitter is now inserting Promoted Trend hashtag ads into Twitter's own branded smartphone apps. Still, it's a small boost in reach because most of Twitter's traffic and engagement happen in an ecosystem of over 1 million social stream applications.

Insightful, actionable reporting

Marketers must still rely on Twitter's metrics, which don't match up with basic key performance indicators like click-through rates. A click on a Promoted Tweet isn't necessarily a click on the url within that Tweet, for example. (Editor's note: According to Twitter, every click on a Tweet is tracked and this is rolled up with favorites, replies, and retweets into an overall engagement rate, which the company says is preferable to standard click-through rates on urls.) And they're still not allowing marketers to use analytics tools like third-party impression tracking, pushing Twitter's own analytics platform instead.

Brand marketers want to look across all the online channels to see how their campaign performed, but Twitter campaigns still can't automatically plug into standard reporting dashboards, forcing marketers to look at Twitter as a separate entity, rather than a piece of the larger digital campaign.

The and mobile app redesign improve usability by grouping Twitter's functions into four key areas (Home, Connect, Discover and Me) making it easier to navigate the platform and participate in conversations. However, there are no real improvements from a brand marketer standpoint. Brand pages are a good place for marketers to interact with their existing customers, but we've seen those before on Facebook's platform, and they ultimately miss the main goal of branding, which is finding new customers. 

Jon Elvekrog is CEO of 140 Proof.

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CORRECTIONS: An earlier version of this post had a number of errors. Due to editing mistakes, the subhead or deck of the story stated that options for reaching customers who aren't followers were limited. Though this piece deals primarily with in-stream advertising, Twitter does offer a host of targeting options. In the section labeled "Delivers volume," the author was specifically writing about Promoted Trends being introduced to the mobile platform. Because the word "mobile" was cut, the post seemed to imply that Promoted Trends were new to the main Twitter platform. Ad Age regrets the errors. Also, an earlier version said that small business will be able to bypass Twitter's in-house sales team with a self-serve option. The self-serve option is in beta and, according to Twitter, isn't open to any small businesses. Meanwhile large businesses, after setting up with the in-house sales team, subsequently do not have to coordinate all campaigns with Twitter.

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