Mobile

Twitter's mobile acquisition strategy pays off

twitter bird
Image Credit: Mark

Twitter is holding true to the Valley idea that buying more companies will make you stronger.

Since the beginning of 2013, San Francisco-based Twitter has bought 13 companies, some of them big names and some with a decent footprint in mobile advertising: TapCommerce, Gnip, and MoPub, for starters. Twitter acquired these companies to extend, and solidify, its mobile footprint.

Now Twitter’s catch-up game in mobile may be coming to fruition, even though Google and Facebook account for nearly two thirds of the global ad spend in that market. Twitter, for its part, is third in the rankings.

Today, Twitter released its Q2 numbers. And the results were decent. Revenue was $312 million, a 124 percent year-over-year increase. $277 million derived from ad sales.

And of that number, 81 percent came from Twitter’s mobile ad offerings, a number surely to make shareholders, and Wall Street, smile comfortably. At least for now.


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Twitter’s mobile monthly users hit the 211 million mark, a 29 percent increase over the previous year.

Despite these acquisitions, questions abound, especially when it comes to Twitter’s capability to gather detailed data on users through its analytics offerings. This is the exactly kind of data coveted by advertisers — and Twitter.

Twitter’s acquisitions of Bluefin Labs, MoPub, Namo Media, and TapCommerce (a startup focusing on mobile app installs) are attempts to bridge the gap.

“Twitter isn’t Facebook. And I’m not sure they’ve been as effective as they might. They need to collect more information on users in order to better target their users with retargeted ads,” said Gartner analyst Andrew Frank.

Despite the good numbers, “Twitter is playing catchup,” said Frank, who covers the microblogging site closely.

By comparison, Facebook has purchased 14 companies in the same timeframe as Twitter, and it has seen its mobile ad revenue skyrocket.

To be fair, along with everybody else, both Facebook and Twitter have declared themselves “mobile first” players. It has become a Valley catchphrase to be judged by.

For Twitter to succeed, it’s going to take a bit more than acquisitions.

A mobile executive from a company that works closely with Twitter said the microblog specialists care deeply about the mobile ad experience but that it has yet to find a workable method for keeping users engaged and clicking on ads.

In other words, Twitter still needs to make money off its users, and in the process, keep the Wall Street naysayers relegated to the sidelines.

“They have worked very hard to not cannibalize users, but instead make advertising more of a dialogue. But they have moved slowly in mobile because they are trying new things. One of the things they’ve pushed on is showing the real value of the ads to advertisers using analytic tools,” this executive told VentureBeat.

“Buying TapCommerce is one way of doing this. But they’re trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. So the question becomes, ‘How can Twitter re-engage users who have already downloaded an app?’ And how can Twitter be this central player in mobile advertising?”

According to this executive and analysts who study the company, that means Twitter’s next step needs to be getting even smarter about analytics. That could mean even more acquisitions: Specifically, of analytics companies that can help drive ad spending and also, perhaps more crucially, get people who use Twitter to enjoy the mobile ad experience.

Or, Twitter could develop its own analytics tools in-house. Either way, it needs to use the data to create better and more effective ad experiences.

“With mobile ads, Twitter needs to connect and immerse the user in the ad experience. That will be key,” this executive said.


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