Looks are everything for Twitter as it goes in search of profits
Thursday 16 September 2010
More than 190 million visitors per month isn't bad for a web phenomenon that is widely criticised for being inconsequential, ephemeral and narcissistic. But despite the huge popularity of Twitter, which scores 370,000 new users every day, making money out of its customers has proved more of a challenge – until yesterday, when the social network unveiled a new look that will have advertisers salivating.
The changes, which will hit all users' screens over the next few weeks, see a two-pane layout replacing the straightforward list of tweets; the second pane can perform a number of functions, but the most significant is displaying media content relating to that tweet without the user having to visit another website.
Yesterday's launch was, according to Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, "not for the sake of advertisers". But the redesign will excite marketeers traditionally inhibited by the site's stripped-back look. Twitter may finally be on the brink of demonstrating why $160m [£103m] of venture capital has been ploughed into the company so far.
Twitter's popularity – much like Google's – has been built on its simplicity. You post a message, or a link to a website, and anyone bothering to pay attention will see it. If they want to, they can reply. Easy. But as Twitter has grown and new uses have been found for it by individuals and organisations, there has been a heavy reliance on third-party services that help to organise and display Twitter-related data in more user-friendly ways.
Applications such as TweetDeck or Seesmic help fit more information on one screen; it could be an image-hosting service like yFrog or Twitpic; or devices that shortened web addresses such as is.gd that help squeeze long URLs into Twitter's 140-character limit. In effect, a whole industry has grown up around enhancing Twitter and addressing its shortcomings. Williams himself admitted to shortcomings at yesterday's launch, and this revamp is a bold attempt to persuade the estimated 22 per cent of users who tweet without visiting the site itself that it is time to come back.
No wonder advertisers are eager; thus far, marketing messages on the service have been restricted to "promoted tweets" (the opportunity for a company's tweet to appear at the top of Twitter search results) and "sponsored trends" (corporate branding of a topic that's getting a lot of attention). Even these have been shown to be powerful; Coca-Cola's recent foray into sponsored trends saw them achieve 86 million page impressions in 24 hours.
Twitter users are regarded as less passive than the average web user, and with more screen "real estate" now available to advertisers, their engagement is predicted to become more intense.
As the new-look Twitter gains traffic and collects more data about our clicking habits and interests, it will become even more valuable in the corporate world as advertisements can be targeted at users more specifically. The only danger Twitter faces is the risk of upsetting a significant proportion of its users who aren't concerned about commercial pressures on the company, and would rather have an ad-free experience.
Facebook's past blunders in particular have shown that our tolerance of prominent marketing messages can be low. Twitter has always prided itself on a gently-gently approach; the new-look site will be introduced slowly, with the opportunity to switch to the old interface if we wish. But a Twitter service that's so light on advertising can't last for ever; after all, a business without an income isn't a business at all.
World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas
Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new
TV presenter Fiona Bruce seemed a bit startled by the find during the filming of Antiques Roadshow
Comedian says he 'never laughed as hard as I have writing with Rik'
Life & Style blogs
Soylent: Could a slug of nutritionally engineered sludge ever replace the leisurely meal?
Jeremy Hunt tells nurses 'path to lower cost is the same as the path to safer care'
Cara Delevingne photographed naked by Mario Testino for Allure magazine
Dear young men: The old stereotypes of what it is to be a 'man' are a load of rubbish
What lies beneath La Perla's 60 years of luxury lingerie?
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'
- 1 Jack the Ripper: Scientists who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 2 Ebola outbreak: What is bushmeat – and is it to blame for the disease that has killed thousands?
- 3 Star Wars memorabilia called a 'bit of plastic' by Antiques Roadshow's Fiona Bruce valued at £50,000
- 4 Russell Brand might seem like a sexy revolutionary worth getting behind, but he will only fail his fans
- 5 Michael McIntyre walks off stage after woman in the front row uses her phone
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£25000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...
£35000 per annum + 25 days holiday, pension & further benefits: Ashdown Group:...
£45000 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Datacentre Consultant (Datacentre,...