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Why Twitter's bet on native could bring a 'new dimension' to its video offering

Twitter has released a YouTube-like video feature that lets people film, edit and share video clips of up to 30 seconds in length. If the update is to help transform its barebones video offering, then the business will need to look to its roots and find a niche that YouTube does not have a corner on news and branding.

Driving engagement is the key motive. Previously, the only way for regular Twitter users to share video was through Vine - Twitter’s standalone, six second video app. It had limited engagement as it struggled to stack up to the offerings of either Facebook or Google, contributing to slowing user growth last year.  

By comparison, Facebook saw 75 per cent more video posts per person than the previous year and people watched 3.6 times more video content thanks to trends like the Ice Bucket Challenge.

To address the disparity, Twitter is running native videos, selling it to both users and advertisers as an entirely new dimension to what it has to offer in terms of its trending topics. And unlike Vines, which are capped at six seconds, native Twitter videos can last up to 30 seconds.

Importantly, users will be able to upload videos directly to the service, preventing the appearance of posts from other services such as YouTube. It is the clearest indication that yet that Twitter sees gains to be made in challenging Google’s dominance of the video market as it extends its native advertising offering to affiliated products such as TweetDeck.

The clear aim is to provide another source for advertising revenue and drive user growth back to rates that will appease investors. The question is, will it work?

Lauren Underwood, communications director at We Are Social said it makes complete sense for Twitter as ties to catch up with Instagram’s 18-month old video tool, Snapchat’s Discover – which was released just a day before Twitter’s offering – and of course, Facebook. But it must look to its roots and find a niche that YouTube does not have on news and branding.

“It plays on Twitter's strength as a real-time, breaking-news platform - I expect we'll be watching some of this year's biggest moments unfold on Twitter, in real time,” she said.

The challenge for marketers remains; to capture the attention of users in an environment where they scan quickly through posts. Cluttering a feed with videos won’t cut it.

Stuart McLennan, head of paid social media at iProspect UK said Vine has encouraged brands to be creative in the short time frame but that by extending the length of videos, Twitter has opened up new creative opportunities to deliver a wider range of content.

“It’s most likely that brands will use video content to complement Twitter campaigns to gain a wider reach and higher levels of consumer engagement. In doing so, the new social video offering will enable brands to extend offline video buying and in some cases begin to replace it,” he added.

However, advertisers will have to get comfortable with Twitter's hands-off approach to censorship - it continues to allow users a lot of freedom with only a little regulation.

Rachelle Denton, head of community, TH_NK, expects to see issues arise once again as the platfrom goes through a "potentially risky" period where there will inevitably be a drop in the quality of content in exchange for immediacy.  

"Twitter is about the unedited experience. They’ve never been harboured by the fact people will drop a tweet without the best punctuation, or an image without the best filter. It’s always been about the ability to have immediacy. Lots of brands have a 'take it down if it’s offensive' approach. Is their brand video going to sit comfortably with other videos that could be graphic?," she asked.  

One area where Twitter has trumped the likes of Facebook and Instagram is to forgoe auto-play for ‘click and play’.

Underwood said advertisers will want to see clear results from any investment in Twitter video and the 'tap to play' functionality will prove to be a welcome point of differentiation for marketers who have criticised Facebook's autoplay videos of artificially bolstering viewing figures. 

Featured by The Drum