Twitter aims to reclaim a more direct relationship with its users, and it is wooing marketers in the process. Over the past few weeks the firm made two major changes that will impact how users interact with the platform, how marketers engage with data and how external development will be presented to users.
Changes to Twitter’s API (application programming interface) will require every developer to authenticate their API requests, adhere to new display guidelines, and work directly with Twitter if they require more than 100,000 user tokens. In March 2013 Twitter’s API v1.1 will be the law of the land. Over the next six months, third-party Twitter clients and syndication services will scramble to redefine their business plans as Twitter increasingly discourages developers from building apps that “mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” Simply put, Twitter wants to own that relationship with its users.
Twitter also revealed a new Certified Product program that puts a stamp of approval on products that focus on engagement, analytics and data reselling. Once approved, the Certified Product seal will identify Twitter’s core partners in areas of importance to marketing and advertising, such as social CRM, media integration and social influence ranking services like Klout.
Curation services like Storify and tweet discovery sites like Favstar.fm appear to be in the clear while third-party clients like Tweetbot, Echofon and Twitterrific have effectively been on notice for at least 18 months. Twitter hasn’t clarified when or if it might shut those services out of its API, but the company is expected to do so.
Taken together, brands and marketers could benefit as a result of Twitter’s API changes and Certified Products program, according to two digital marketers who closely follow Twitter’s moves.
“Marketers benefit the most from Twitter’s changes. First, Twitter will soon own almost all of the Twitter-related ad inventory that matters so it can offer even more scale, along with quality control,” David Berkowitz, VP of emerging media at digital agency 360i, wrote in response to questions. “Then, with Certified Products, marketers can choose from a handful of trusted vendors, rather than sending an RFP that could potentially involve dozens of companies. Marketers don’t need as many options. They want something that works. And if Twitter acquired what it considers the best of the certified products and offered those products itself, most marketers would like that even more.”
Twitter is one of the first examples of a website shifting to a web service, said Adam Broitman, chief creative strategist at Something Massive. "There are and were other web services, but what Twitter basically did is they created a service without any real precedent for monetization,“ he said.
"Yes, it sucks for everyone who built a business on top of another business,” Broitman added. "If you’re going to build a business on top of someone else’s business, do so with caution.“ Indeed, that also goes for any brand that is building its entire presence on Facebook or Twitter, for example. Brands should tread lightly and play the field to diversify when and where they engage with consumers, Broitman advices.
Prior to these changes, a large percentage of Twitter’s audience could use third-party applications without ever using a Twitter-branded service, Berkowitz noted. "No other social publishing service was like this. A lot of apps replaced the need to ever go to Twitter. Now Twitter has the users, and it has the data. And marketers can manage their programs with a handful of third parties that owe their entire existence to Twitter, so they have to play by Twitter’s rules and deliver a strong enough experience.”
“For marketers it should be a net positive as less fragmentation will make it easier to reach Twitter users through its advertising offerings,” Berkowitz added. "Twitter has already set some standards around measuring the performance of ads and tweets. These moves will help Twitter further establish standards and benchmarks…. The API changes and Certified Products are going to help the next generation of marketers get on board more easily and find a high enough baseline of quality when they get started.“
However, while some are paying close attention to Twitter’s strategic changes, the average advertiser or media buyer is not that concerned, said Broitman. "For consumers and brands, this will be forgotten about very quickly.