At last week’s Business Insider Ignition 2011 conference, I had the pleasure of listening to Business Insider CEO and Editor-in-Chief Henry Blodget speak with Twitter Chief Revenue Officer Adam Bain about the past, present and future of Twitter.
An overarching theme of the conference was advertising and how platforms such as Twitter are going to integrate moneymaking opportunities into social platforms. Twitter is widely known for its simplicity – that’s one of the things that the platform has done best in a sea full of ever-changing social platforms.
The folks at Twitter are working fervently to maintain this foundation of simplicity– which has helped to build a following of nearly 300 million users over the course of 5 years – while seamlessly integrating advertising opportunities. Advertising opportunities would be the golden goose to helping Twitter reach it’s oft spoken of potential. Bain said that Twitter plans “…to continue to simplify. At the end of the day, it’s just 140 characters.” He also notes that while it’s only 140 characters, there is still much that can be done. Marketers can do a lot with those characters, as well, as many brands may attest to with case studies of success stories.
Currently, Twitter is working with 2,400 advertisers and experiencing an 80% retention rate, which is nearly unheard of in the advertising world. Bain spoke about seamless integration of advertising – of returning to an age when advertising becomes more about being a piece of art rather than trying to directly sell a product or service to a consumer. Displays ads are now nearly two decades old [if that doesn’t make you feel absolutely geriatric, I don’t know what will.] Bain likens display ads to a “…prepubescent, older child who is living in the basement…time to kick them out.”
Bain points out that display ads, the industry’s advertising of choice for the past decade and a half, garner a .03%-.05% click through rate. Comparatively, promoted ads on Twitter [these include promoted trends, promoted tweets and promoted accounts] drive a 3%-5% click through rate – a 300% difference.
How is Twitter going to monetize the platform to seize the financial opportunity that most agree it has? Bain laid out the three forms of advertising that may well create the newest generation of online advertising: promoted accounts, promoted trends and promoted tweets.
One of the most impressive case studies of the success of brand partnerships with Twitter happened earlier this year when Virgin Airlines launched the “Fly Forward, Give Back” Sale which offered Twitter users the exclusive opportunity to purchase airfares for only $49. They also donated $5 from each sale to the non-profit State Up To Cancer (SU2C). The campaign was only offered on Twitter and successfully used promoted trends, which resulted in the 5th largest sales day in Virgin’s history.
On a personal note, I found Adam Bain to be an informative speaker. Twitter has been my social platform of choice for several years now and it seems to be the most social of the social platforms. The ability to seamlessly connect with any user is liberating in a world filled with friend requests and privacy settings. I find the simplicity, which Adam Bain himself trumpets as one of the best features of the platform, to be a refreshing change from the regular upsets that other platforms seem to go through. Twitter allows you and your voice to be the protagonist; the platform is merely the stage that we’re performing on.
As a business, Twitter is grappling with a way to turn a cool tool into a profitable platform. Hearing Bain speak about the Mad Men era when advertising was more a work of art than a sales pitch is encouraging. As a consumer, it would be nice to have a conversation with brands instead of having them scream at me from a television ad. As a PR and social media professional, it’s encouraging to see that a large platform is offering options other than display and banner ads.
In closing, Bain discussed Twitter’s plans for the next year, which largely includes scaling the business properly. He did, however, mention that Twitter intends to scale and grow on their own terms, stating, “…we want to do it right instead of being pushed to do it right away. We’ve done it right so far, the next year or two is about scale.”