MANILA, PHILIPPINES — In 2016, it was reported that Twitter faced a shrinking user base that posed serious growth problems but by the end of 2017, it posted positive revenues and an expansion in audience engagements and global partnerships.
“We really had a nice fourth quarter in 2017. It’s a nice turnaround that’s still being talked about around the world,” said Arvinder Gujral, Twitter’s managing director for South East Asia, in an interview with select local PH media. “Our audience has, in fact, been growing for eight consecutive quarters. Our global audience also grew, and a number of new partnerships are coming in.”
Gujral elaborated that the positive developments last year definitely placed Twitter in a much better shape than it was in 2016. He pointed out that the turnaround started going in 2016 right after the global company put a lot of introspection on issues pertaining to its long-term viability such as its true core identity, what the platform stands for, and why brands should continue to invest in Twitter.
Honing the right answers into a smart strategy, Twitter achieved a major milestone, a rare feat for a young start-up that was born in a garage a decade back.
“We grew by 12% globally last year. The Philippines grew by a much larger percentage,” Gujral said. “The Asia Pacific region is actually the growth engine of Twitter. Within APAC, the Philippines is one of a few countries globally that is driving the growth.”
Gujral cited phenomenons that have made the Philippines a strategic market for Twitter.
In entertainment, he mentioned the Aldub concert in 2015 whose 20 million tweets garnered a Guinness Book world record for the most number of tweets in one concert. Recently, the last episode in the first week of March 2018 of the teleserye La Luna Sangre trended organically globally.
“The Philippines is not the biggest market for Twitter globally,” Gujral noted. “But what happens in your country just becomes global. The eye-popping numbers surprise us. They defy logic.”
Sports is another area that attract remarkable traction on Twitter, he said. The platform has forged a strong partnership with NBA so Twitter has contents in various formats for Filipino basketball fans. Because of these contents, clients talk to Twitter to be associated with NBA in the Philippines.
A third anchor is the use of Twitter by the government and civil society. Gujral explained that in cases of natural disasters such as typhoons and volcano eruptions, the government turns to Twitter as a broadcast medium to disseminate information, for instance, on danger zones, where to find emergency shelter and the number to call for immediate help.
The Twitter managing director deduced that this particular use of Twitter is not just happening in Metro Manila but in rural parts of the country, as well. The platform has become mainstreamed in governance such that it is being tapped across islands, in urban and urban settings.
“These three buckets in entertainment, sports and civil society engagement give us a lot of insights on what’s happening in the market. They in turn generate pro-active interest from clients to be associated with these conversations on our platform,” Gujral said.
The strategic value of the local market for Twitter can be gauged further in the decision to launch Twitter Lite first in the Philippines in mid-2017.
“We did our global pilot here in the Philippines. We got insights from Filipino users and they gave us confidence to do our global roll-out,” Gujral said. “Because its users base provide strong momentum for Twitter, the Philippines has become a very strategic market for product decision making in terms of what product to launch globally and which features really work.”
Another unique feature of the local Twitter market is that Internet use does not skew towards male dominance unlike the situation in a number of other emerging markets.
“In the Philippines, we see an equal proportion of men and women on Twitter,” Gujral observed. “It is very interesting and nice to see that Filipino women have a fair share of the conversations on our platform.”
Video may yet be the next source of new revenues and engagements for Twitter. From an era with a lot of conversations but no content, the platform now has the conversation and the content, as well.
Gujral mentioned the massive video consumption on Twitter. Every day 1.2 billion views are happening on the platform. Just in Q4 alone, 1100 unique live events were streamed.
Eyeballs are also moving from the TV into phone, he added. Providers are taking their content from TV to the phone with Twitter.
It’s a seamless flow for the content owner to make more money on Twitter.