Parminder Singh, Managing Director of Twitter India, South-East Asia, Middle East and North Africa, talks to BT's Devika Singh about the social networking site's growing focus on videos and monetisation in India.
BT: Twitter has seen good growth in user numbers in India. Does this stand true for monetisation also?
Singh: India is the growth engine for us in Asia-Pacific both from users and monetisation perspective. The reason is: digital market here is $1.1 billion, it's a young market, a mobile market and a market that responds to social element very well. Anything which is happening in India whether it is politics or cricket or Bollywood, all of it unfolds live on social media. You can see the conversations around them and brands understand that marketing today is about having a regular conversation. Twitter is a right medium for marketers to reach out to audiences. We are seeing phenomenal response from our advertisers. At the recently concluded auto expo, there were 24 brands that had presence on Twitter and were using our platform to create a shared experience.
BT: What is Twitter's user growth like in India?
Singh: We don't disclose country-wise segmentation of user growth but we have seen a 400 per cent increase in the video consumption year-on-year in India. That would give you a sense of how audiences are reacting to new technologies and new formats, and it shows that advertisers are bullish about video and Twitter. Take, for example, the fact that of the 24 brands that advertised on Twitter during Auto Expo, 18 were using video-based campaigns.
BT: So, video is the 'next big thing' for Twitter?
Singh: Definitely, for us it's video, video and more video.
BT: But there is so much competition in the space when it comes to videos; YouTube is an established player and now, there is Facebook too.
Singh: We are good in real time. When you want to know what's happening, you go to Twitter. So there is a real-time aspect that is unique to Twitter. We are public and all tweets are public and we are conversational, there is something about 140 characters in the short form that makes it conversational. If you add all these three elements - real time, public, conversational - and you put a format like video on top of that, it gives us a unique leadership position on what brands can do with video on Twitter.
We have a format called flock to unlock, which is a very unique video-based format. The way it works is: Let's say you have a video of a new product you are launching, you can unlock the video based on the number of retweets you get. We have brands here in India that have used the format. Tata Motors is one example.
Another product Firstview provides brands prime real estate on Twitter on a reservation 24-hour basis. So when you log on to Twitter, that will be the first video you will see.
There's another product called conversational video, which gives you a call to action button in the video and makes it very easy for a person to share their content and their tweet. Brands like Samsung and Airtel are using this product in India. So we have some unique product tools and technologies that take advantage of the real-time, public and conversation and provide advantage to brands.
BT: But most of your examples are big brands. What about start-ups, SMBs? Do they also use Twitter to advertise?
Singh: If you look at a medium like Twitter or social media, it's a democratic medium. You just need 140 characters to have a presence, it's a medium that works for companies of different sizes, of different verticals and caters to different audiences. It could start by having an organic presence on Twitter and once you have that you can use promoted tweets. Besides a direct sales team we have two more sales teams in India, we have an MMS team, a mid-market segment team and an SMB channel in India. We have all the segments advertising with us because Twitter and the advertising products and portfolio that we offer works for advertisers across different categories.
BT: But small advertisers that don't have huge advertising budgets like to spend on Google for RoI than on Twitter…
Singh: I look at it in two ways. No. 1, you have to understand what your brand's objectives are and based on that decide what media works best for you. We believe that there are a bunch of things we do which are very unique to Twitter. We believe we have a very good understanding of what our audiences want, what kind of content, needs and preferences based on who they follow, who they favourite, based on who they follow and interact with and that's very unique to Twitter. So understanding our audience and having those unique insights is a very powerful signal for an advertiser, whether you are big or small. And I would argue for small advertiser it's actually very important because they may not have budgets to conduct mass market surveys but these insights are available to smaller advertisers on social media; it's part of the advertising services we offer.
No. 2, it's important to keep in mind that when you engage with someone on Twitter, your brand is reaching out to more than just the people you are engaging with there. Twitter has a unique set of influencers, influencers are who have more than 250 set of followers and influencers in India, 71 per cent of them love to share positive brand stories.
BT: What more is Twitter doing for advertisers?
Singh: Real-time is a very small complement to what Twitter stands for and if you add real-time video, that it makes the entire proposition very compelling, both for consumers and advertisers. So we have already acquired a company called Periscope, which is hugely popular in India. We have brands like Jaguar Land Rover, which have unveiled their cars on Periscope, and we think real-time video, live video is something we will continue to focus on to make Twitter more and more compelling.