Twitter’s stickers are the hashtag reborn for the visual world

Twitter has this week revealed the latest addition to its core product: #Stickers which can be placed on top of images to add a new layer of creativity. Of themselves they’re not a new concept, though no doubt will be a well-received one all the same, but where they break ground is in how they’ll also connect images to one another.

Twitter Stickers

Clicking on one of the stickers within an image brings up a search for other uses of that same sticker, essentially bringing the hashtag squarely into the visual age. Twitter has long ceased being a purely text dominated platform, in fact at any moment your feed is likely filled with far more videos & images than anything else. Bringing hashtag functionality to stickers is a simple but powerful evolution to make sure that this key real estate can also be discoverable & searchable.

It’s all pretty harmless fun at this stage with wigs, moustaches and sun bursts but some of these will immediately lend themselves to curating similar images together and become useful for doing so. Beyond this the opportunities for specific event stickers (where are the Game of Thrones house banners when you need them?) to curate an entirely new but very natural stream of imagery are almost limitless.

It will be interesting to see if Twitter partners with key events like the Olympics this summer, or the new NFL season (for which it has negotiated some online streaming rights) to produce sets of stickers to allow supporters to better express themselves. Some platforms have already managed to elevate stickers to such a level that their users are willing to pay for them, but given Twitter doesn’t have much history in this micro payment area it might instead be looking ahead to how marketers can help pay for them.

Brands have begun dabbling in the opportunities to have their own ‘hashflags’ (where small images automatically appear after a given hashtag) but it’s often an uphill battle to get consumers to naturally use these phrases. If you provide an entertaining set of stickers then you’re now giving consumers a genuine incentive to want to splash your brand all over themselves, and in doing so create a visual stream which you can naturally own.

That’s all hypothetical for now, and there’s been no talk of offering an advertising product or promoted stickers within this space, but it would be remarkable if such an option did not eventually develop. Stickers have already proven themselves to be hugely popular on messaging platforms like Line & WeChat, whilst Snapchat is starting to attract a range of brands with its ‘lenses’ & ‘filters’. All are driven by the fact that such functionality is genuinely fun to use, and that brands which provide new options for creativity are truly perceived to be adding value to the users.

Expect to see your Twitter feed will up with stickers over the coming days (in itself a great way of exciting & engaging users) but just as with the original hashtag itself only time will tell how users take them and make them their own.

Jerry Daykin is global digital partner at Carat. He tweets @jdaykin.

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