How Twitter Has Turned Industry Privacy Changes Into “A Positive”

İstanbul, Turkey - February 10, 2019: Woman using smart phone on a couch. The smart phone is an iPhone 8 displaying Twitter application.  iPhone is a touchscreen smartphone developed by Apple Inc.

After months of speculation about the devastating impact Apple’s IDFA changes would have on social media advertising, Twitter surprised many during its latest earnings call when the social media company revealed the headwinds were “lower than expected”.

With Apple asking users to opt-in to ad tracking for the first time, there was a belief that very few users would willingly share their data with social media companies.

Speaking to B&T, Twitter AU’s Acting MD Angus Keene revealed how Twitter has been able to navigate both Apple’s privacy changes and the upcoming deprecation of third-party cookies from Google.

“We’re revising our roadmap to make us less reliant on those signals that are coming from those partners,” he said.

“We’ve spent many, many years building trust with consumers. And we believe that makes it more likely that they’re going to opt-in.

Additionally, with performance advertising only making up around 15 per cent of the company’s total revenue, Twitter was always in a strong position to minimise any negative effects of Apple’s changes.

And while Twitter has seemingly avoided any disasters here, it does serve as a timely reminder of the current state of digital advertising.

Like many others, Twitter is turning its attention towards how it can use first-party signals to deliver results for brands.

“I think that there are a lot of first-party signals, including interests, that we believe that we haven’t historically used well enough,” Keene said.

“That is an opportunity for us to actually turn this [Apple’s IDFA changes] from something that might be seen as a real significant challenge for other platforms, but into a positive for Twitter.”

It’s not just interest-based signals that are a focus. Across the business, Twitter is developing new ad products “at much faster rate than we were a couple of years ago”, explained Keene.

A complete rebuild of the brand takeover product has led to a 72 per cent boost in ad impressions, while a “significant investment” in performance advertising is driving results at the lower end of the funnel.

Creating communities

While innovation in the advertising side of the business is welcome news for Twitter’s brand partners, there is still a focus on creating the best experience possible for the user.

“We’re evolving and we’re launching products at an unprecedented speed,” said Keene.

This was underlined last week with the introduction of Communities, a new tool that allows users to explore their interests away from their public timelines.

Users can now be invited to Communities such as ‘dogs’, ‘skincare’ or ‘crypto’.

Similar to Groups on Facebook, new members of a community will be invited to join by a moderator.

Keene confirmed there are no immediate plans to launch advertising solutions around Communities.

Australia is currently an especially important region for Twitter, with the social media company conducting a test for its Twitter Blue subscription service.

Twitter Blue gives subscribers access to a number of special features, such as  Bookmark Folders, Undo Tweet and Reader Mode (which turns Tweets to text for long Tweet threads) for $4.49 per month.

Keene said Twitter has already received positive feedback about the new service, but that the focus now is on listening to users and improving the functions.

The second screen

A combination of widespread lockdowns and the success of Australia’s athletes made the recent Tokyo Olympics one of the most successful entertainment events ever for the local industry.

And while Seven had the official rights to the games, Twitter Australia was involved in the Tokyo coverage via a significant partnership with the broadcaster.

Twitter displayed five-minute snippets of footage up to eight times a day of some of the biggest events to take place during the games, as well as broadcasting an exclusive show with the popular duo the Armchair Experts.

These efforts to boost the viewing experience using Twitter comes as research shows 44 per cent of people revealed their use of Twitter while watching TV has increased.

“More and more brands are partnering with us to reach those passionate audiences and engaging around those big TV moments,” Keene said.

“What we’re seeing is that the more video viewing habits evolve, the more people tune into their Twitter timeline.”

The rise of Twitter as a ‘second screen’ presents opportunities for brands.

As well as adding Twitter to a media buy to increase reach, Twitter also provides brands with a unique opportunity to leverage ad-free platforms.

“We have these really passionate TV audiences that are coming to our platform to talk about a whole range of shows,” Keene said.

“A number of those shows are being watched on Netflix, Binge, Paramount+ and other streaming services – and what we know is that those services are all ad free.

“So there’s really an opportunity to target those conversations and Twitter gives brands an avenue to reach those audiences in new and interesting ways.”



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