Social Networks

Twitter's Latin American testing ground for its video future

Twitter has been in a state of flux for the last year or so. After the departure of CEO Dick Costolo and the return of founder Jack Dorsey, the social media company has been trying to steer the ship back on the course and grow its stagnant user base.

It has tinkered with curated and non-linear timelines and it even fielded rumours of expanding the tweet character count to 10,000. One of the more tangible announcements it made recently was a partnership with the NFL to stream American football games in the autumn.

This is all part of a wider move toward more video content on the social network. One of Twitter’s next biggest moves will be the gradual rolling out of First View, a new video promotional tool for marketers that could mean more and more videos showing up in your Twitter feed soon. With First View, brands and marketers are able to place their video content at the top of users’ feeds for 24 hours, or what the social network calls “Twitter’s most valuable advertising real estate”.

First View not available for the masses yet. Like a lot of new features for a service with such a vast user base, it is rolled out gradually. One of the first countries to get a glimpse was Mexico where marketers will target their local video advertisers at Mexican users.

According to Twitter’s director general for Brazil, Guilherme Ribenboim AT&T has already started using First View in Mexico as well as cosmetics company Natura in Brazil. “Day by day, Twitter is becoming the natural video platform,” he said.


Why Latin America makes a fertile testing ground

Ribenboim has claimed in the past that Latin America is Twitter’s fastest growing region. This would make it an ideal location to grow a feature that the social network is hoping will blossom into a big money maker in the future.

In another interview with Argentina’s La Nacion, Ribenboim points out that LatAm users generate a lot of income for the company overall, mostly through advertising, and that will remain its focus for the region. If First View generates significant revenue in Latin America, it could provide a roadmap for Twitter to build out the service globally.

However building out features in LatAm has its challenges too, he says. While there is some language uniformity for the most part across the region, the user habits and trends are fragmented. People in Colombia use the site differently to those in Chile, and Peru is different to Mexico.

According to some of the latest figures from eMarketer, Twitter will see its LatAm user numbers grow to more than 33 million by the end of this year and Statista shows that Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico are at the forefront on that growth. By continuing this path, Twitter will reach close to 10% of internet users in the region, behind only North America and Europe.


How Twitter has a history of big video pushes

First View is the latest in Twitter’s push to more video content. It purchased Vine in 2012 only a few months after it launched and it has been one of the company’s more successful ventures, at least in terms of short-form content. It has more than 200 million users and is regularly the platform for short burst viral video content.

Vine faces stiff competition from Instagram, which added video in 2013 but expanded the features earlier this year, and increasingly Snapchat. The latter has greatly expanded in its features and ballooned in popularity. And not to mention, the ever-present threat of competition from Facebook.

As a result, Twitter has lost some market share in video content on social media, especially among teens.

Meanwhile, its Periscope app for live streaming hasn’t been consistent. Acquired by Twitter in early 2015, the app was meant capitalise on the new-found buzz around live video streaming that was being led by Meerkat. It certainly added to that buzz at the time but a year on, live streaming through Periscope hasn’t been as transcendent as Twitter hoped.

Instead it’s found itself in the headlines in less than ideal circumstances from copyright infringement to the live broadcasting of serious crimes. But with its NFL deal, it’s hoping to stem the copyright issue that became so prevalent during last year’s Mayweather and Pacquiao fight.


Can First View swing things more in Twitter’s favour?

Only time will tell how this will tell the success of this strategy but it is a concerted push for the company. Outside of Latin America, First View has now launched in Europe and the UK where the company hopes it will gain even more traction.

It’s also eyeing up China; a difficult task for any Western tech company when it comes to scaling the great firewall. The company recently hired Kathy Chen to oversee this mission and woo advertisers, though her past government ties have been a cause for concern.



Further reading:

Twitter's NFL play: the first nail in the free web's coffin


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Jonathan Keane

Jonathan Keane is a freelance journalist, living in Ireland, covering business and technology

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