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Twitter's developer push to boost reach has mixed reception

Twitter is betting on a new push to curry favor among application developers to help broaden its appeal, particularly among mobile users, with components of the program already reaching more than 1 billion iOS and Android users. 

The microblogging site released its third quarter financial results after the markets closed yesterday, revealing an increase of 23 percent in monthly active users for a total of 284 million, numbers that were disappointing to analysts and send the company?s stock price down. The results follow closely on the heels of Twitter?s launch of Fabric, a collection of SDK?s designed to make it easier for developers to bring tweets into apps and which has attracted brands such as McDonalds, Spotify and The Wall Street Journal are reportedly trying it out. 

?Our announcement of Fabric a week ago at our developer conference is the most recent development in [building new applications and services],? said Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, in a conference with analysts to discuss the results. 

?Components of Fabric are already in use by tens of thousands of developers around the world, collectively reaching well over 1 billion iOS and Android users,? he said. 

?We believe that Fabric can be the one SDK that any global app developer needs to embed in their application.?

Revenue growth
Twitter said its overall revenue grew 114 percent during the third quarter ended Sept. 30 for a total of $361 million, slightly beating analysts? forecasts. 

The company also reported a net loss of $175 million, in line with expectations. 

Advertising revenue totaled $320 million, up 109 percent, with mobile representing 85 percent of the total. Advertising revenue per thousand timeline views was up 83 percent for a total of $1.77. 

With a significantly smaller user base compared to Facebook, one of the challenges Twitter faces is broadening its reach enough to attract marketing dollars from big brands. 

App developers
The developer push could help Twitter address its reach problem. 

?Fabric, the recently released software development kit, is easily the biggest advancement by Twitter for mobile marketing, and a step in the right direction for in-app development and monetization,? said Jay Hawkinson, senior vice president of emerging products for SIM Partners.  

?This platform will simplify the process and allow for new opportunities to engage a variety of audiences in the mobile landscape,? he said. 

Twitter is addressing the need for building its user base by introducing a new streamlined sign-in process this quarter.

Another step Twitter is taking to become a more broad-based platform is inserting tweets into users? timelines from accounts not followed in an effort to provide more useful, relevant content. 

Creative campaigns
Twitter highlighted how several marketers are using its services, including a user experiences for the NFL, enabling users in the #NFL Timeline to see NFL-related tweets from people in their network along with relevant tweets from teams, players, coaches, press and fans. 

The NFL effort is an example of the more sophisticated use of Twitter by marketers. 

For example, Target and Taylor Swift have been leveraging Twitter extensively to promote the singer?s new album. 

?An example that really stands out is what Target has been doing with Taylor Swift using the #OnlyatTarget #Swiftie and #TS1989 hashtags among others,? Mr. Hawkinson said. ?They have done an exceptional job at casting a wide net over an already large audience using cross-channel marketing to build momentum and ride the enthusiasm from Swift's built-in fanbase. 

?This has already become a textbook example of how brands need to engage in social to stay ahead,? he said. 

Video advertising
Twitter has been quickly building mobile advertising solutions, in many cases bringing the platform on par with Facebook. 

While Twitter has a much small user base than Facebook, the microblogging site often offers an advantage in terms of being able to reach mobile users in real-time. Twitter, since it was mobile-first from the beginning, has a stronger mobile use case than Facebook, with users often taking to the site to join the conversation about real-time events, from the weather and breaking news stories to what is happening in the favorite television programs and sporting events. 

One of Twitter?s bigger pushes this year has been video advertising, which is currently being tested with select clients. The response so far has been mixed. 

Some say Twitter video ads are both efficient and effective, in part because they are easy to engage with and share, thereby increasing exposure. 

?Still in the early rollout stages to a limited number of marketers, they?ve performed extremely well: surprising advertisers with the success of their high engagement rates,? said Stacy DeBroff, founder of Influence Central Plus. ?They prove more economical than similar purchases of video views on established video platforms such as YouTube.?

However, SIM Partners? Mr. Hawkinson insists the response to Twitter?s video ads has been tepid. 

App cards
Twitter also introduced mobile-app install ads this year. 

Beyond trying to build its audience, Twitter is taking a number of other steps to appeal to marketers, including testing a ?Buy? button that enables users to complete a purchase directly from a tweet. 

Other enhancements include new tailored audiences, the release of app cards for app install ads and deeper insights into engagement and performance. 

?We are very excited about the possibilities that Twitter offers now with the release of their app cards for mobile app install and engagement advertising as well as the Twitter pixel which gives great insight into performance down to Cost Per Install and in-app activity to measure Lifetime Value of an advertiser's app audiences,? said Todd Herrold, senior director of product marketing for Kenshoo. 

?Advancements in its Tailored Audiences product to enable easy upload of customer lists from CRM systems for retargeting purposes is sure to increase advertiser interest in and performance on Twitter,? he said. 

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York