A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing: Jesse Redniss and Alan Wolk on Twitter’s Latest (and Genius) Play

By Adam Flomenbaum Comment

The below is a guest post written by Jesse Redniss (Co-Founder, BRaVe Ventures) and Alan Wolk (Chairman of the 2nd Screen Society and Senior Analyst at TDG). 

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Twitter’s recent deal to run sponsored tweets on third party sites like Flipboard and Yahoo Japan may have inadvertently solved one of the platforms biggest problems: while people like knowing “what’s on Twitter” they often don’t like using the platform itself.

As many observers have noted, no other social media platform gets the sort of viscerally negative reaction that Twitter does, especially from otherwise tolerant and tech friendly people. But while those same people may profess to “despise” Twitter, they are generally interested in what’s being said there. It’s the age old tale of a love/hate relationship, but now, consumers benefit the most by being on the receiving end of an experience that was once confusing and elusive.

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Enter the third party ad program. By surfacing tweets to non-users on a third party site, this brilliant little program allows non-users to (a) learn what’s going down on Twitter without having to actually sign up, (b) click on links and or Twitter cards within those tweets and (c) share those tweets and links.

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And here’s the real genius: Twitter still gets their data. If they’ve done these deals correctly, they will have negotiated for Yahoo and Flipboard to share the user data of people who click on or share these third party Twitter ads. And while these people may never actually become active Twitter users, the fact that they are reading and sharing Twitter’s content is what matters.

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Another option for Twitter, one we think has merit given that Twitter’s subscriber numbers have remained fairly steady over the past few years, is to give new subscribers the option of a read-only account. Granted, you can do this already by just not allowing anyone to follow you, but a read-only account would open up the platform to a new world of users who had no interest in using it to communicate. Their accounts would not be visible, thus removing the privacy issues many cite as their beef with Twitter, and yet Twitter would be able to collect their data, know who clicked on what link, who shared it to email or Facebook, etc.

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This, combined with a more aggressive third party advertising program, would go a long way to re-energizing Twitter’s revenue streams, giving them access to the sort of user data that is only going to get more powerful and more valuable. Twitter is successfully harnessing the power of it’s active tweeters, celebrities and media mavens in particular, providing a value exchange for the publishing platforms that choose to embed the stream within their environment.

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Reading through the TOS of the Twitter embed agreement, Twitter currently has the ability to turn this on with or without the publishers permission, but we’re betting they want to receive support from each and every major publisher that they plan on monetizing with….Dare we say this is taking Twitter Amplify to new heights and screens, simultaneously pushing promoted tweets across Twitter, publisher embed stream and even within tweets shown on-air? Yes, that’s exactly what we’re saying.

Keep in mind, it may turn Twitter into a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” but we’d argue that the platform deserves something in return for providing users with useful information.  We believe third party tweets are unique in their ability to attract click-through and shares: while Facebook and Instagram may have more users, there’s something immediate and newsworthy about a tweet. By exposing a whole new universe of interested nonusers to Twitter, the platform may just have found it’s own salvation.

The tweets you see sprinkled throughout were part of a Twitter conversation we had with Craig Elimeliah, SVP, Director Creative Technology RAPP ]. 

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