Twitter’s redesign proves it is grown up and ready to #fly

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Twitter has unveiled a major redesign that gives brands more creative control over their official pages. The move signifies more than just new wallpaper; the revamp is a sign of intent that Twitter is moving beyond a bedroom operation into a major media powerhouse.

The signs have always been there of course. Nobody can deny the power of Twitter when it comes to making and breaking major news stories, like the Arab Spring or even the sordid escapades of Premiership footballers, but its critics have long questioned how the social network could ever monetise its offering.

It has always been Twitter’s intention not to overload the site with garish ads, the kind of thing that turned users away from social networks like MySpace. Instead, it offers advertisers options based around the user experience, such as Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends.

There are no plans as of yet to change this largely text-based advertising model, but the new design is set to make brands’ profile pages a lot less restrictive – so promoted items are to essentially become a URL to the more immersive ad campaign.

Beyond a background, profile picture and a short bio, there wasn’t much room for manoeuvre with brands’ old profile pages. Indeed, even Facebook, which is still quite formulaic in terms of customisation, offered more options – some brands’ Twitter profiles even linked to their Facebook pages to offer consumers a better level of engagement.

Twitter has now made things a lot more interesting for brands, which may well make them reconsider those Facebook links.
Brands can now place a large header image atop their pages – something Facebook is soon to allow individual users but not yet brands – to inject more of their own style.

Other media into can also be integrated into brands’ profile pages. Film-makers Disney and Paramount are already using the new format to showcase movie trailers.

Perhaps most interestingly of all, a single tweet can be promoted to the top of the profile timeline to truly showcase what a brand’s presence on Twitter is all about. The opportunities for engagement here are immense as fans will be given even more of a reason to tweet their favourite brands on promotions or even just day-to-day as they bid to have their 15 minutes of fame at the top.

Beyond brands’ own profile pages, they can also further interact with users via a new “discover” tab, which aggregates stories, trends (usually hashtags)and multimedia that a user might find interesting – an ideal opportunity for brands to tap in to consumers who may not have previously considered clicking on their profile pages.

All of the above indicates that, more so than ever before, Twitter is starting to take brands seriously. By differentiating brands’ pages from those of users and by offering more options for content, Twitter is no longer just a place to have conversations and handle customer service queries; it’s becoming a media platform in its own right.

Facebook’s UK sales director Stephen Haines told Marketing Week earlier this week that big brands are now considering the social network “a lot more seriously” as a major advertising platform, alongside TV.

It is unlikely, at least up until now, that big brands treated Twitter in the same light when it came to parting with their advertising budget and including the site’s sales people in early conversations at the start of campaigns. That is all set to change.

Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey said yesterday that ad revenue is “growing apace” at the company. EMarketer estimates that Twitter will generate $139.5m from ad revenue this year, but that is likely to increase 86% to $259.9m in 2012 as it rolls out new products and services to advertisers early in the year (although to put that in to context, the same firm also predicts that Facebook’s advertising revenue is to reach $3.8bn this year).

In its own words, Twitter has now become an “even more compelling destination” for brands. Marketing messages are no longer reduced to 140 characters and brands can now consistently place their creative from other platforms such as TV on to their pages on the site to make them more distinctive from the average user.

With added flexibility, Twitter is soon to become less of a PR tool and more of a marketing asset. The balance when it comes to digital spend will no doubt begin to shift, as it already beginning to do so with Facebook, from the “traditional” to the social.

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