Parminder Singh, Twitter’s MD for Southeast Asia, India, the Middle East and North Africa, is a busy man. In any given week, he is shuttling among all of the above geographies, pitching advertisers on the benefits of Twitter.
Singh, an ex Googler, won’t divulge country-specific numbers, but said all of the regions he oversees are showing strong growth in terms of usage and increased advertiser interest. As of December, the social network’s global average monthly user base grew 30 per cent to 241 million, and mobile user numbers rose 37 per cent to 184 million—representing 76 per cent of total users. But it’s advertising revenue that Singh is responsible for. He sat down with Campaign Asia-Pacific to discuss how the social network is engaging with brands, as well as how brands can best employ the medium.
What is Twitter’s strategy in the regions you manage?
The usage of Twitter is very strong in this region, and brands realise that. The question they’re asking is not 'Why should we advertise?', but 'How should we advertise?'. And a lot of our time is spent talking to advertisers to make sure they know how to use this medium. To make that happen, we have to make sure we have the right set of people. So hiring across the region is a priority for us.
We believe Twitter is unique as a product for everyone, everywhere. We want to make sure that when people join Twitter, content discovery is seamless. Another key goal is deep and meaningful engagement. So we’re launching products that ensure that. For example, in December Twitter introduced Media Forward, which allows users' photos and Vine videos to feature upfront. That’s helped increase engagement rates by 35 per cent.
Ultimately, we want to make sure we’re in front of advertisers across all major countries.
How many active users do you have in Asia?
We don’t share country active users. But obviously these are markets that show a great interest on Twitter and have strong user bases. We are making sure we reach out to top brand advertisers in these markets. We are also represented by resellers who ensure we are providing scale in these markets.
Ctritics have said growth in user base is slowing, and that supposedly a third of users on Twitter are inactive. What is Twitter doing about these issues?
The user base is growing, but of course it’s off of a larger base. We have grown 30 per cent, and that’s strong growth. The new features we’re introducing have a long-term impact. 37 per cent mobile user growth is an important metric. I would point you to the revenue numbers too. Ad revenue grew 121 per cent. Outside of the US, revenue increased 200 per cent.
That said, we want to make sure we introduce features to make sure this growth is faster and make sure all new users are able to understand and use our products seamlessly.
How are advertisers receiving Twitter?
Advertisers want to make the best use of this medium. At Twitter, we take brands through a four-stage process. First, look at it in an episodic, planned manner. It’s a great complementary medium. Whether you advertise across print or television, add Twitter as a component and it’s sure to supercharge the campaign.
Next, we encourage brands to move from a planned, episodic stage to a ‘planned, always-on’ stage, where they start being part of conversations relevant to their product. In Singapore for example, if you are a food brand, it is important to note that conversations around hunger peak every day at 2 am and then at 8 am.
The third step is user response. People like to respond and talk to brands on a regular basis. Some advertisers use response as an advertising campaign itself.
Finally, we urge brands to think of cultural moments around Twitter and be a part of it. Look at the Winter Olympics—we had 40 million tweets on it. If you are a brand for whom being associated with the Games is important, then you should become a part of the conversation.
What are some of the marquee Twitter campaigns in Asia?
One great example is Nandos. It ran a campaign in Singapore and Malaysia with the intent to get people to express what they truly feel. Nandos used the hashtag 'justsaylah'—very local and contextual—and urged users to name the one person they think about everyday. This campaign got an engagement result of 10 per cent. It also positioned Nandos as a brand that allows people to express themselves. Engagement has an impact on purchase intent. An engaged user shows 30 per cent more favourability towards a brand and 53 per cent higher purchase intent.