Twitter CEO Dick Costolo leading the social network's shift to new 'in-the-moment' e-commerce

Social media sites and their media partners should explore new methods of e-commerce if they are to thrive in an evolving market, according to Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.

Costolo: Companies should experiment with e-commerce

Chairing a debate between Twitter and Viacom CEOs at the Cannes Lions festival, Sir Martin Sorrell, the founder and CEO of WPP, wearing a signed Pele Brazil jersey, said: "Viacom is an established legacy media company which has morphed very much into the new digital space and is undergoing a continuous transformation whereas Twitter is a start-up."

After a brief introduction, Twitter CEO Costolo deemed that Twitter was the best way for the public to keep up with the real world: “It’s media in the moment, when events happen they unfold digitally, immediately on Twitter so if you want immediacy or a connection to real life as it happens, we are the best platform."

He added that from an advertising perspective, Twitter is competing with YouTube and Facebook for revenue despite the major differences in the platforms' functions: "We are just as different from Facebook as what Facebook is to YouTube and YouTube is to us."

Costolo discussed the importance of in-the-moment commerce to Twitter, saying: "Instead of transporting traditional e-commerce into Twitter we are looking at the kinds of commerce that only make sense in the context of what I am talking, doing and seeing right now [on Twitter].

"We have successfully tested this method with American Express. I see a tweet from one of their merchants like Whole Foods, I can respond to that tweet with a hashtag and I immediately get 25 per cent of off my next purchase at whole foods when I swipe my discount card, or, with Amazon, when I see a tweet with an Amazon link, I respond to it with '#Amazoncart' and that product immediately goes into my shopping cart.

"So that concept of in-the-moment commerce is beautifully paired with the immediacy of Twitter and will be the way we pursue e-commerce."

On the potential of advertising on mobile platforms, he said the world’s attention will be on mobile and that it is obvious that’s where rich content will be viewed frequently.

He concluded: "There is a bunch of opportunity for the creative types in the world to think about the new kinds of business models that are going to be available to the short from content creators.

"There are models that haven’t emerged yet that will be extremely successful for this new kind of content and now might be the time to be exploring that."

On the potential of social media to boost Viacom's business, its president and CEO, Phillipe Dauman, said: “Mobile is a huge opportunity for us, we have the young audiences, we are producing shows, and we can marry that not just with clips from the shows but with additional content. We are producing short form content for mobile which will do well in the mobile environment; we are really hungry to produce.

"We are this week launching a music partnership with Twitter and the first artist we are promoting is Ed Sheeran. He is putting out a new album and we are going to work with Twitter to promote songs from that, tweet out the songs and other material, this will help album sales.”

A quarter of Viacom’s market is based in the USA, another in Europe and the other half in the rest of the world. Conversely, three quarters of Twitter’s users are based in the US but growth in that area will remain flat. Growth is anticipated in Europe and the rest of the world which account for 16 and 11 per cent respectively.

Additionally, Viacom had a massive annual revenue of $14bn whereas Twitter’s was $665m.

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