Twitter revamp 'overdue and necessary'

Design makeover a must and expected if Twitter wants to grow user base and revenue to battle social media rivals as well as secure market share and ad dollars, analysts say.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

Next to social media rivals such as Facebook which frequently spruce up their sites with new features, Twitter's recent--and biggest--overhaul is a necessary move, if not overdue, so it can compete, grow user numbers and boost its ad revenue, say analysts.

The Twitter revamp last week was overdue, considering the five-year-old microblogging service had been "looking thin on meaningful innovation" and running on minor tweaks, said Eden Zoller, principal analyst of consumer media and communications at Ovum.

This need to catch up was particularly conspicuous amid Facebook's "almost constant drip of new features" for users and advertisers, which see the site as the go-to destination, as well as new competition from Google+, Zoller told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail.

"What's good is that the Twitter redesign does appear to go deeper than a visual reboot, and aims to improve the experience for both users and brands," she said.

Jake Wengroff, global director of social media strategy and research at Frost & Sullivan, agreed the redesign was necessary, adding that it came "better late than never".

"Advertisers are now savvier, having at least one year or more of Facebook advertising under their belt," Wengroff said in an e-mail. "They've come to expect certain features and environments, and Twitter needed to arm itself to do battle with Facebook. That Twitter is now catering to brands is no surprise."

The microblogging site last week unveiled major changes to its platform aimed at simplifying the use of its service, and allowing companies to promote their brand to the public more easily by customizing their corporate profile page and highlight specific content such as video and photos.

Twitter did not respond to ZDNet Asia's queries.

More users beget more returns
Wengroff noted that given Twitter has its own specific features and lingo, simplifying these functions would encourage more people to tweet. And having more people tweeting equals more engagement, which means higher potential of brand mentions, he said.

Zoller added that Twitter's new brand profile pages now give advertisers better visibility. "This should prove welcoming as Twitter has done little to seriously develop its advertising proposition since the launch of promoted tweets last year, [which] looked muted and somewhat one dimensional compared to the increasingly rich ways of engaging with Google and Facebook," the Ovum analyst explained.

Freda Kwok, lead consultant at social media marketing agency Blugrapes, said the new option to customize layouts and determine the top-most positioned tweets would "certainly help brands bring their key messaging across amid the fast-paced updates in Twitterverse".

That said, Kwok pointed out that unlike Facebook users, Twitter users tended to spend most of their time exploring their own Twitter feed, which meant that key brand messaging could get lost--unless there were self-serve promoted tweets to drive traffic to a brand's Twitter page.

In addition, she noted that Twitter faced "stiff competition" from Google+ which had "more ammunition", given its connection to YouTube as well as its search engine. "With its offerings positioned as something between Facebook and Twitter, Google+ is a serious contender," she added.

Kwok nonetheless stated that, ultimately, a brand's decision to go with a media platform goes back to its objectives and intended outcomes of a campaign, and whether that platform is the best option to fulfill these objectives.

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