Ahead of a planned IPO, Twitter is moving very aggressively to partner with TV networks as a new source of revenue for the social media company. Network executives have noted that people now tweet each other while watching various shows and that helps the shows build audience. So far, that “service” has been free and many shows have taken advantage by starting campaigns among fans using specific hashtags. However, whether this strategy has real world value is not terribly clear.
For instance, SyFy Networks goofy B-grade movie, Sharknado, (about sharks raining from the sky due to weird weather) generated lots of tweets but not a great deal of viewership. Nielsen Company reports that it has noted a jump in viewership for shows or episodes that are heavily tweeted and starting on September 30, they’ll be offering a new service tracking such data. Twitter is also offering a service called Amplify. With Amplify, networks post short brand-sponsored video replays on Twitter in near-real time and the network and Twitter split the ad revenues. So will people be watching TV or their phones?
Two other existing sources of revenue are sponsored tweets and sponsored trends; both mildly obnoxious but not quite as bad as some of the ads on Facebook. Speaking of Zuckerberg-land, they are also looking to break into this particular area of TV marketing and advertising too, so the competition should be fun to watch. Obviously, Twitter is doing all of this to make their IPO work better and convince investors their stock is worth buying, as opposed to using it for toilet paper. While Twitter is a true social media presence; whether or not a service based on a 140-character limit is really a useful and serious business model over the long term remains to be seen. Twitter is great for quick dissemination of short bursts of information but it it still confined to a smallish group of younger, very tech savvy people and just doesn’t have the penetration of Facebook or LinkedIn.
Furthermore, Twitter is relying on the hip factor. Right now being on Twitter is cool in some groups and the mainstream media, almost always ten steps behind in all things tech-related, is still impressed by Twitter. That’s only because many people still don’t really understand what it is, what it does, and what it’s really worth to the average person (not much). How the IPO goes will depend largely on whether or not Twitter can hype investors into jumping on board. But once on board, will it be an uphill run or an immediate crash into the drain? It will depend on whether Twitter can turn 140 characters into real dollars.
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