Social Media

Twitter’s brand partnerships increase 30% in India

Nandana James Mumbai | Updated on February 26, 2021

Kanika Mittal, Business Head, Twitter India

Bolstering engagement with brands and efforts to spread across the country helped: Kanika Mittal, Business Head, Twitter India

Twitter India partnered with 30 per cent more brands in 2020 compared to the previous year on the back of its two-pronged strategy of bolstering its engagement with brands, as well as efforts to spread “across the length and breadth of the country to connect with brands”, said Kanika Mittal, Business Head, Twitter India.

“2020 was a year when we did some of our best work and we are primed to build on it in 2021,” Mittal told BusinessLine in an e-mail interview.

Twitter’s monetisation strategy finds its sweet spot in enabling two-way conversations between brands and customers, and amid a surge in digital marketing and ad spends accelerated by the pandemic, the tech giant introduced several new elements aimed at helping brands dial up their engagement on Twitter. But in recent times, Twitter has also been indicating its intent to branch out from advertising to find new ways of monetisation. A few days ago, Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter, talked about how Twitter is exploring allowing its users to receive tips or digital payments from their followers. In an investor presentation on Thursday, Twitter said it will launch a ‘super follow’ feature later this year, which will let users charge followers for access to exclusive content.

Twitter also plans to at least double its total annual revenue from $3.7 billion in 2020 to $7.5 billion or more in 2023.

When asked about the new feature, Mittal said: “Increasing revenue durability is our top company objective. You will see us continue to research and experiment with ways to further diversify our revenue beyond ads in 2021 and beyond.”

“While we're excited about this potential, it’s important to note we are still in very early exploration and we do not expect any meaningful revenue attributable to these opportunities in 2021. Given the massive opportunity to build upon our strengths, our main focus continues to be on growing our ads business,” she added.

Meanwhile, Twitter made progress on a number of new ad formats across both brand and direct response in Q4, according to Mittal. “....including the global release of single destination Carousel ads, designed to deliver a more immersive and interactive experience and better performance… Advertisers are benefitting from our new ad formats, stronger attribution, and improved targeting, resulting in a 31 per cent year-over-year increase in total ad revenue and greater than 50 per cent year-over-year growth in mobile app promotion (MAP) revenue in Q4 (globally).”

Global revenue

During the last quarter of 2020, Twitter’s global revenue stood at $1.29 billion, up 28 per cent year-on-year. “In 2020, Twitter took relationships with brands to the next level and drove impactful work across sectors. The service’s leaned-in, receptive audience play a crucial role in the delivery of this impact,” said Mittal. “I am very excited to see how brands use voice DMs, a test we just launched in India, it could open up a fresh new chapter in engagement,” she said.

Purpose led marketing is also gaining prominence, she said. According to Twitter’s research in 2020, a majority of consumers feel more positively about brands making a contribution to society. “77 per cent of the Indian audience expect brands to be helpful in the new everyday life; 75 per cent want brands to talk about their efforts towards the impending situation; and 70 per cent want brands to communicate in an affirming, reassuring manner,” said Mittal.

Recent controversies

This also raises questions about the potential impact on business due to the recent controversies Twitter India has been embroiled in. Recently, Twitter temporarily suspended certain accounts at the behest of the government, while it later refused to comply with similar requests from the government. The controversy has also kicked up a larger debate on how the government is increasingly wielding power in the way tech giants conduct business in India.

When asked how she sees this impacting Twitter’s partnerships with brands, Mittal said, “Twitter is committed to building a safer, open Internet. We support transparency, fair competition and freedom of expression...” She did not explicitly comment on the impact of the controversies.

Can this possibly deter certain brands from using Twitter to reach out to customers?

“Not at all. Twitter is an essential part of any launch,” said Mittal. “Twitter’s leaned and influential audience is valuable to brands. As the conversational layer of the country, Twitter is the natural catalyst and launch engine for brands. Our partners and brands remain as excited as ever to work with us.”

To a question on how important would it be for Twitter to defend free speech in India, whilst also avoiding a standoff with the government, Mittal said: “India is a priority market for Twitter and all our stakeholders, including our business partners are of the utmost importance to us.”

Published on February 26, 2021

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