Technology

Twitter Targets 1 Billion Users, Challenging Facebook for Ads


Twitter is opening up to more advertisers after a successful trial with Starbucks, ESPN, and Coke

(Bloomberg)—Twitter Inc.'s co-founder said the world's third-largest social-networking platform will aim to get 1 billion followers, which may help the micro-blogging site compete with Facebook Inc. in attracting advertisements.

"Twitter will get to a billion members," Evan Williams, Twitter's co-founder and former chief executive officer said in San Francisco yesterday when asked about Facebook's target for customers. Williams didn't elaborate on a timeframe.

Twitter, whose users send more than 100 million short messages daily, said last month it will open to more advertisers after a successful trial with brands including Starbucks Corp., ESPN and Coca-Cola Co. Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are increasingly targeting marketers' ad budgets as a main source of revenue as the sites boast millions of users.

"Twitter now is starting to try different types of monetizing methods," said Elinor Leung, head of Internet research at CLSA Ltd. in Hong Kong. "It's the same as YouTube. They have a lot of traffic, and a lot of people using it, but it's not easy to monetize because you don't know who's watching."

Twitter started a trial this year with 30 advertisers, including major movie studios, Nike Inc. and Best Buy Co. Ads are displayed next to the site's search results and by the most popular topics on the right side of the Web page. An estimated 9 percent of ads online are "touched" by a user's mouse for an average 43 seconds, MediaMind Technologies Inc., a maker of software for digital ad campaigns, said last month.

A Billion Users

The benefit for marketers is instant access to target groups of customers with specific messages, offers and discounts.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this year the world's most popular social-networking site reaching a billion members, or about 14 percent of the world's population, is "almost a guarantee."

San Francisco-based Twitter, founded in 2006, last month revamped its site to make it easier to post photos, video and maps directly on the page to attract more users. The redesign also gives marketers a new way to use multimedia in online promotions.

Twitter, with more than 165 million registered users, now ranks third globally among social-networking sites, topping News Corp.'s MySpace, according to ComScore Inc. in Reston, Virginia. Facebook is No. 1, and Windows Live Profile is second.

Williams said the company is planning to offer an advertising service to small businesses on the site, which will complement ads it offers to companies like Starbucks Corp.

— With assistance from Adam Le in Osaka, Japan.

Douglas MacMillan is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco.

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