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SXSW

Here’s Twitter's Video Strategy to Hook Brands at SXSW

Ad execs say autoplay is on the agenda

Video is now a priority for Twitter. Illustration: Matthew Billington

At the top of Twitter's agenda at SXSW Interactive this week: meetings with top ad executives to talk up the messaging service's video capabilities, which now allow for easier sharing, greater potential for ads and possibly an autoplay option, according to several marketers scheduled to powwow with Twitter reps in Austin, Texas.

Since breaking out at the festival in 2007, Twitter has maintained a lower profile there. Typically, its base is a small pop-up space off the main thoroughfare, where it lays out its ad products and plans for partners and prospective ones.

Video has been a priority for Twitter over the past year, just as it has been across all social media and the mobile Web. Facebook acquired video ad network LiveRail in late 2014 as the social network enhanced the look and feel of video on the platform, especially for mobile.

Until recently, Twitter had a jumbled approach to video, having allowed a variety of sources to play videos with radically different styles in the feed. Twitter is now focused on seamless video plays in the stream, no matter where or on which equipment that video was produced.

To that end, the social network rolled out its native video product this year, which enabled users to shoot and upload directly via Twitter. The site also bought SnappyTV, a video player that lets media companies and others broadcast content quickly and sell ads against that material. And of course, Twitter also owns the six-second video app Vine.

"Regardless of the source of the video—whether it's a TV signal or mobile phone or it's uploaded from a desktop or fed from an object like a drone—from the user point of view, it's magical and invisible in real time from whatever source," said Glenn Brown, head of content and partnerships at Twitter. "All these different tools are seamless."

Brown would not discuss any new features or products or divulge specifics about conversations it plans to have at SXSW. But, he acknowledged, Twitter does consult with advertisers and media partners about the types of video the service would like.

Autoplay video is at the top of advertisers' wish lists for Twitter, according to an agency executive headed to SXSW. Twitter is still working on video that automatically starts in a user's stream as he or she scrolls down, according to multiple sources.

Twitter has already launched its native video product. Ad insiders said it still plans to introduce an autoplay option that will enable six-second clips—including preroll ads—to automatically play before the user clicks for the rest of the video, two sources said.

How video appears on Twitter and how it gets there are important elements of the platform, especially for brands looking for the most engaged fans.

Analytics firm Socialbakers, which tracks brands on Twitter, reported that 82 percent of videos shared there are YouTube clips while 16 percent are videos originating on Twitter or Vine. Meanwhile, the Twitter and Vine videos account for almost 70 percent of retweets and favorites generated by all video on the service.

Twitter's video strategy has the traditions of the platform at its heart—that is, instantaneous communication around the world. "What makes Twitter video what it is and unique is that it's real time and conversational," said Brown.

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