Twitter App Install Ads: The Industry Reacts
Last month Twitter decided to jump into the ring and fight for a slice of the increasingly lucrative app promotion market. The social network says its new solution, powered by MoPub, allows app marketers to reach more than 241 active users on Twitter and more than one billion mobile devices off-Twitter, all through one interface. With pressure mounting from investors, Twitter hopes it can replicate Facebook’s success in the mobile marketing space, but questions remain over its ability to deliver results at scale, the quality of its traffic, and whether it can compete with Facebook’s own app promotion product and its recently announced Facebook Audience Network.
So one month after the announcement, what does the app marketing industry think of Twitter’s solution? We’ve surveyed the opinion of agencies, networks and industry thought leaders, to find out.
Twitter’s App Promotion Suite: The Industry Reacts
For us, the most interesting thing to come out of this will be when MoPub opens the new Twitter inventory via their RTB exchange so companies doing programmatic buying, like we do, can leverage that for app installs or re-targeting/re-engagement. This would basically mean they are “elevated” at the level of Facebook which already has FBX.
Twitter was in a way a pioneer when they bought MoPub last year, extending their “ad network” to other publishers (and not just Twitter and their users), Facebook is doing the same with their new ad network FAN. The fact that the “giants” are doing this validates the RTB model and makes way for innovation in programmatic buying for years to come.
We see this as a very positive move for Twitter as the new product offering makes their platform more attractive for companies looking to increase their install base and monetise their apps. This type of activity makes up the majority of mobile spend in many developed markets and as usage of apps increases this is likely to become a strong revenue stream for Twitter.
We have seen positive performance of Facebook’s app promotion products, however it will be interesting to see whether Twitter can produce equally positive results at scale. In particular Facebook’s larger user base and arguably more suitable environment (higher dwell times) lends itself more to app promotion activity and will be the main competition for Twitter.
Twitter’s MoPub network looks particularly interesting as it has the potential to offer retargeting at scale, however the soon to launch Facebook Mobile Ad Network is again likely to offer considerable competition. Such fierce competition in this space will help drive innovation and will be positive for advertisers.
Twitter promotion ads have to prove themselves working at scale. They provide additional inventory of native ads for app installs but I have not yet met an advertiser who could just swear by Twitter, the same way people mention other networks in their daily operation.
I am particularly interested in getting answers about the quality of the traffic sent from Twitter and how it impacts lifetime value, but also if it can help beyond games. There is also a challenge of audience on Twitter, as usage seems to be decreasing. Facebook is facing the same challenge with the attention of users being captured by new communication channels and this is why they needed a network. It is a little disappointing to see Twitter use banners, because it’s a format that’s condemned to die. On the other side they have an incredible data machine for targeting.
The challenge for both is to provide enough control back to publishers so they are willing to integrate those new networks, not being forced in a format and not having to deploy huge efforts to maintain them. The race is out.
Twitter’s launch of app install ads certainly gives Twitter a seat at the app advertising table alongside Facebook and Google, and for brands and publishers who want to reach Twitter’s user base, it’s going to be welcome news.
But it’s far from a complete solution; its biggest weakness is that Twitter lacks is a truly global footprint, particularly in key emerging markets such as China where there are more than 700 million active smartphone users. This means that if you want to target US or European users, Twitter is now an alternative or additional platform, but to go global, you’ll need to reach the places where Twitter and Facebook are not the dominant platforms.
It’s unlikely that Twitter’s app promotion product will significantly challenge Facebook. While Twitter claims that its new MoPub Marketplace can reach and target a billion-plus consumers, the fact is those one billion consumers are not all Twitter users. Hardly a fourth of them would be active Twitter users, considering Twitter’s current monthly active user base of around 250M. On the other hand, Facebook’s new mobile ad network, Audience Network, will allow advertisers to target its 800 million-plus active mobile users and its 1.3 billion total active monthly users. So clearly Twitter is lacking in terms of overall scale.
If you’re an advertiser, especially one looking to acquire new users for an app, you want as much scale as you can get with as much targeting capabilities as possible. While Twitter has started taking important steps towards delivering more direct-response-oriented ad units and targeting capabilities, such as its introduction last year of Twitter Cards, it still has a long way to go to reaching the level of app promotion effectiveness that Facebook offers, especially now that Facebook has transformed itself from an engagement-only social network to an engagement plus performance-based direct-response ad platform.
It’s quite clear that Twitter shows persistence and confidence in its effort to challenge the recently introduced Facebook Mobile Ad Network. With the purchase of the MoPub ad network and the recent launch of its featured app promotion suite, Twitter has definitely proven it has ambitious plans regarding the development of its mobile segment.
Even though many experts doubt that we will see rigorous competition in the nearest future, it is clear that the new app promotion product aims to strengthen Twitter’s position in the company’s competition against the Facebook Audience Network. One of the reasons why Twitter and Facebook aren’t likely to compete in their ad efforts during the upcoming months lies in the fact the recently launched Twitter app promo suite requires further functional modification, e.g. an upgrade of its ad optimization features. However, it turns out that Twitter makes it possible to apply significantly more precise audience segmentation capabilities, which makes it easier to increase demand generation (e.g. app installs). Additionally, users’ irritation with any kind of advertising on Facebook is seemingly larger compared to how users perceive ads on Twitter.
My prediction is that we will witness an intensification of the rivalry between Facebook and Twitter in terms of their ad efforts by this year’s Holiday Season.
Twitter’s app promotion product announcement first and foremost shows the appetite of the market for app install ads. In its latest earnings call, Facebook reported that close to 60% of its revenue comes from mobile, but refused to disclose which proportion stems from app install ads, which lets us think that it is quite substantial. Twitter, along with other big players such as Google (which recently announced app install search ads), is not taking too many risks by catching up on a trend which has until now proven very lucrative.
After Facebook’s announcement of their own network (FAN), both companies are now directly competing for advertising budgets with a similar publisher structure: own app + third party inventory. Twitter’s strengths in user targeting are however different, as it relies mainly on its users’ interest graph (vs. the social graph for Facebook).
The announcement also shows that both advertisers and publishers continue to embrace native ads as the most suited advertising format for mobile devices. It can however be argued that Twitter’s app install formats remain extremely standardized in terms of UI, especially when integrated in third-party apps across the Twitter Publisher Network.
I believe Twitter has a little way to go in terms of app marketing in terms of competition with Facebook.
I don’t think the current available formats – such as Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends – are fully covering the needs of app advertisers. Also the price is usually above Facebook advertising’s platform, which means lower ROI. However, the App Cards are definitely a breakthrough for Twitter and a new source of qualified traffic for us. Overall, the millions of users that Twitter’s network could reach will be an important injection into the industry and I hope that the results resemble those we are currently seeing with Facebook.
Twitter’s latest entry into app marketing is overall great news for the industry, boosting inventory for maketers and providing developers with another exciting avenue for app discovery. As our contributors stated above, Twitter’s approach is another validation for the efficacy of native ad formats and for Facebook’s approach to app promotion. But the spectre of Mark Zuckerberg’s network looms large over Twitter and its solution doesn’t appear to offer much over Facebook’s platform in the light of the recently announced Facebook Audience Network. There’s is also questions over Twitter’s reach, and it’s ability to grow that reach, along with whether it can deliver the same calibre of users enjoyed by those using Facebook’s powerful audience segmentation tools. Either way, with Twitter, AOL, Facebook and Google all revealing fresh solutions in past couple of months, the app marketing space is getting very competitive and that can only be good for the industry overall.