Byravee Iyer
Sep 1, 2014

Adam Bain explains Twitter’s strategy in Asia

ASIA-PACIFIC - Coinciding with Ramadan last month, Coca-Cola launched its first video ad campaign in Indonesia, celebrating the power of family. The ad created exclusively for Twitter was one of the first campaigns for promoted video in Asia, a new offering that allows advertisers to create and distribute video content on the microblogging site.

Bain: "There is a difference between having audience and generating business"

“It’s going to change the way brands use the platform,” said Adam Bain (pictured), Twitter’s president of global revenue, whose visit to the region was timed to the launch of its Indonesia office. “Video overall is something you will hear a lot more from us about.”

It is clear that Bain’s visit to the region is part of the company’s plan to increase foreign revenue streams.

Twitter has doubled its international offices to 16, in an effort to aggressively woo foreign marketers. This is because almost 75 per cent of Twitter users are outside the US, but international markets contribute only 25 per cent of revenue. Asia-Pacific is the social network’s largest and fastest growing region.

Bain admits that Twitter only recently started opening up and putting presence in new markets. Most offices are just under 18 months old. “There is a difference between having audience and generating business,” he said, noting that Twitter has to spend time “onboarding” marketers, train them to use the platform effectively, gain insight into consumer trends and ultimately roll out ad products.

Strategy in Asia

He says the highest order bid is to work with brands to answer the “how Twitter” question. That’s the same challenge the company has market-by-market. What is different about Asia is the way consumers view the platform. Where people in other parts of the world use Twitter for self expression, the audience in Asia spends much of its time seeking news and information.

Bain, it appears, is now keen to launch Twitter Amplify, which allows brands to run a promoted tweet containing a short video of an ongoing television event, in Asia. Amplify is part of a bigger strategy to woo TV networks and advertisers and has been one of Twitter’s bigger successes. “Amplify basically allows TV networks to distribute high quality content right onto peoples timelines, enabling greater monetisation,” he said.

The product that is available in Australia and Japan launched in India two weeks ago with the Star TV network to bring cricket content on the site. Bain, widely-known as the person behind Twitter’s partnerships with media companies and sports leagues, says the product addresses two key issues. For brands, it helps generate and cash in on trending content, while enabling TV networks to reach new audiences on the platform. Bain expects the product to roll out across other Asian markets, but did not divulge the details.

Tackling challenges

Perhaps the biggest criticism about Twitter is that it is seen as a niche product—not something used by the common man, so much so that agencies executives themselves aren’t familiar with it. So how do they sell it to clients?

“Our ambition is to reach every person on the planet and we think we have the materials to do it,” says Bain.

To that end, partnerships with mobile carriers are critical for Twitter. It has tied up with a bunch of carriers in the region, especially in India and Indonesia. “Our aim is to bring the power of Twitter through the carrier,” he said. This can be done either via SMS partnerships or through subsidised data costs.

On the agency side, Twitter is developing products to help agency staff master Twitter. “The aim is to get them all to master the how of Twitter.” Last week, it launched a multi-part, training programme called Flight School for agencies on the effective usage of the platform. The beta version of the programme was taken by thousands of staff across Starcom MediaVest Group, MEC and Omnicom Group.

Competitive landscape

When asked if Twitter would look at tailoring ad products to compete better with rivals like WeChat and Line, Bain acknowledged that there is a tonne of innovation in the category. He says Twitter stands apart in that it is public, live, conversational and distributed. “No other platform has these elements put together and this means that big cultural moments will happen on Twitter,” he said. “The advantage in the Coca-Cola example was that it happened in public and everyone could see it instead of a private one-on-one basis. That’s the category we own and we will continue to push those elements.”

Twitter’s efforts are starting to pay off. In the most recent quarter, ad revenue jumped 125 per cent. More significantly, international revenue rose 168 per cent. Within Asia, Japan, Indonesia and India are showing strongest growth by way of audience. Indonesia and Korea are the fastest growing in terms of revenue.

According to an e-Marketer estimate, Asia-Pacific will account for 32.8 per cent of all Twitter users in 2014 and by 2018, it will more than double North America’s share to touch 40 per cent. “I can’t comment on forward looking numbers. I will say that APAC is our largest and fastest growing and there is a lot to be excited about.”

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