Why changing the narrative regarding Twitter metrics is key to understanding both its purpose as well as its future success.
2016 was the first year since the Super Bowl 'got social' that we saw an overall decrease in social media output. Nielsen reported a drop in Super Bowl conversation of up to 25 per cent with Facebook itself reporting 200m social interactions in 2016 vs 265m in 2015.
The 25 per cent figure covers Twitter too. And when you look at one data point, it’s completely right:
Tweets sent during Super Bowl 2015: 36m.
Tweets sent during Super Bowl 2016: 27m.
Quick spot of maths and indeed, that equates to a trade-mag-headline-inducing 25 per cent decrease in social activity.
THE SKY IS FALLING!
THE SKY IS FALLING!
TWITTER IS DYING AND THE SKY IS FALLING!
– Screamed headlines, everywhere.
Back in December, when Marshall Manson and I published the Ogilvy Digital Trends for 2016, we posited that, based upon a number of data points around frequency of user visits per day, "Twitter’s place in the social landscape could begin to erode very quickly…"
Looking at the Super Bowl numbers, you can see it all coming together.
But there’s a problem.
$2.2bn revenue in 2015.
48 per cent YoY growth.
How can Twitter be 'over' if it reports charts like this during its earnings calls? Surely it must be doing something right?
Let’s go back to the Super Bowl.
Tweets sent might indeed be down 25 per cent but impressions of those tweets?
That’s a staggering 72 per cent increase.
Yes, it is a fact that Twitter is struggling to add new users and tweet numbers themselves are dropping and yet more and more eyeballs are seeing/consuming tweets every day.
Twitter in 2016 and beyond.
Twitter is changing. It’s no longer about what is said. It is about what is read.
Today you can view tweets in search results, websites, and mobile apps – hell, you embed them anywhere. The point is these embedded tweets count as impressions and those impressions count.
In the same way that Facebook has spent the past three years switching its own metrics narrative from sheer obfuscation (you all remember ‘People Talking about This’, right?) to more meaningful and traditional ad-based measurements so it follows that its social bedfellows would do the same.
Twitter is shifting its own metrics narrative because it wants to be taken seriously as a mature advertising platform. And we should pay attention.
To labour the point even further, Twitter’s European VP of sales, Stephen McIntyre, said recently:
“If you look at the number of people who come to Twitter.com each month, unique and separate from the monthly actives, it's another 500 million people. Now we've only just started some tests to monetise that but 500 million additional unique users are coming to Twitter.com, so overall that's an audience of 800 million.”
That’s 500 million people literally just looking at Twitter. Not logging in, not tweeting – just reading; about news, sports, entertainment (or a mix of all three), and sometimes for simply finding out what’s going on in the world right now.
That’s a lot of eyeballs.
Eyeballs that Twitter can monetise.
Social media marketing has come a long way over the past 10 years. The tech and the platforms involved have matured in line with brand/advertiser demands and, as a result, Twitter’s original user base finds itself at an inflection point.
The Guardian comic 'the long slow death of Twitter' (dramatic, much?) only serves to further underline the point: Twitter as we, the early adopters, knew it is finished.
And we need to get over it.
So what if there are only a set number of people, celebrities, and brands creating content? People are reading Twitter for that content – and ad-buyers can target them accordingly.
So what if people aren’t visiting the platform multiple times per day? All the more reason to focus efforts on getting your ad-targeting right.
If you believe everything you read online, you’d be forgiven for thinking Twitter’s days are numbered.
But the thing is – Twitter isn’t dying.
Twitter as you fondly remember it in 2008 is dead – and has been for some time.
The platform has changed.
User behaviour has changed.
And now the industry has to change with it.
James Whatley is digital director of Ogilvy & Mather London. He tweets @Whatleydude
Do you have a strong opinion on a topical industry issue? To submit a comment piece, please send a short summary of your idea to email@example.com. Views of writers are not necessarily those of The Drum.