Amid Declining Ad Revenues, Twitter Aims To Prove Offline Sales Effectiveness

Twitter’s second quarter earnings last month revealed an interesting disconnect: on the plus side, advertising engagement grew 95 percent compared to the same period the year before; but ad revenue slipped 8 percent.

The competition for the ad dollars not claimed by the digital ad hegemons Facebook and Google is a problem all online publishers have to contend with. But Twitter’s ubiquity as a mainstream social media tool has put a spotlight on its challenges more than most companies, though Snap is starting to feel some heat as well.

eMarketer has forecast Twitter’s ad revenue will grow 1.6 percent this year, to $2.28 billion — driven by almost entirely — 90 percent — from mobile. By being so heavily mobile, the microblog hopes to capitalize on the kinds of micro-moments that have propelled spending on its online rivals.

To help make its case to marketers, Twitter has enlisted analytics partners Foursquare and Nielsen to make its case to brands, particularly when it comes to driving offline foot traffic and sales.

Among the stats Twitter is highlighting involves the sale of mobile devices at telcos’ brick-and-mortar locations.

“For carriers and manufacturers focused on generating in-store foot traffic, Twitter proves to be an effective partner,” Twitter says. “Research shows that Twitter not only drives in-store foot traffic, but it also compels buyers to spend more overall. In fact, people on Twitter are more likely to research a smartphone while in-store compared to those who don’t use Twitter.”

Specifically, Foursquare and Nielsen say that buyers spend 6.8 percent more with mobile wireless carriers after seeing ads on Twitter.

Nielsen and Foursquare’s research also offered analysis of the kinds of people who are more likely to make purchase in brick-and-mortar stores.

Twitter users tend to frequent big-box stores and budget-friendly travel locations, and their tastes include fast-casual food. While that sounds a lot like the general population, it does indicate the connections of when those brands should advertise. For example, in-store shoppers love sports — again, like pretty much everyone else — so brands can activate during major sporting events when people are the most engaged on Twitter.

“On Twitter, people are in a unique discovery mindset,” the report says. “They are curious, leaned in, and looking to learn, be inspired, and act. This means that because users are in the right mindset, people on Twitter are more likely to see and remember ads.

“Competition in the telco industry is fiercer than ever, and marketers need to make their ad dollars work harder,” Foursquare and Nielsen note. “Whether you are looking to drive offline sales, online sales, or both, people on Twitter are especially receptive to ads and motivated to buy. Brands that leverage customer insights to reach different audience segments based on their interests, passions, and behaviors on Twitter will be able to more thoughtfully and creatively reach and win customers.”

Of course, given that Twitter’s rivals recognize the micro-moments and user attention, Twitter will have to make a concerted effort to specifically target the brands who are considering how much to spread finite ad dollars around.

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Why Twitter’s Direct Message API Update Matters For Brick-And-Mortars

Twitter has updated its direct message APIs, allowing businesses to add buttons in direct messages — a feature aimed at making it easier for users to interact with brands outside of DM conversations, whether drafting a Tweet, following a businesses’ account, or opening another website within the Twitter app to get more information.

The company has also added two new features for developers, aimed at helping them “understand how a conversation started and which app created a message,” Twitter’s Jon Cipriano wrote in a blog post.

Essentially, the rollout aims to take the power of an engagement in direct message and extend it beyond that one conversation: It makes it easier for fans of a brand or local business to subsequently tweet their support, navigate to a mobile site (and perhaps make a purchase), or even ask for location info and find their way to a store. And on the developer side, it potentially creates a greater understanding of what led a customer to send a DM in the first place.

Additionally, Twitter acknowledges that plenty of larger businesses are engaging customers in messaging through a bot. This makes sense; after all, chatbot interaction is at an all-time high, with CoverGirl’s “Kalani Bot” even seeing 14x the engagement of the actual influencer the bot was modeled after.

“For many businesses, delivering a great customer experience through a bot in Direct Messages depends on helping people complete a task other than sending a message,” Twitter’s Ian Cairns wrote in blog post, explaining Twitter’s decision to add buttons to help businesses drive more actions. For example, “at the right point in the conversation, people might want to Tweet to share a coupon or offer, challenge their followers to a game, or tell the world about new content they just discovered. The… combination of public and private messaging on Twitter makes it easy for people to become brand advocates by Tweeting about an experience. And by combining this feature with the new Direct Message Card, those Tweets can then help other users discover and start talking to your bot.”

Making (DM) Moves

Twitter has made quite a few updates to its Direct Message recently: This API update comes on the heels of the company’s April announcement that it would open direct message location sharing for brick-and-mortars to customers.

As we wrote at that time, the update was critical for local businesses on Twitter — many of whom rely almost heavily on social media for low-cost marketing with a personal touch — because it allowed them to use the Direct Message feature to draw in customers with location data by telling them where the closest store is.

“Helping people find a location nearby makes perfect sense for brick-and-mortar businesses,” Cairns said at the time. “Now that businesses can easily incorporate location sharing into their customer experiences, expect to see other innovative location-aware use cases in Direct Messages.”

Now, with this latest update, businesses have the chance to more easily expand their social following — and give those engaged customers more online (and perhaps offline) experiences to choose from.

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