Twitter has started automatically playing videos in the timelines of users in India and Indonesia, after first rolling out autoplay across many major Asian markets in June.
Twitter’s autoplay videos, which can be switched off by users, still revert to a click-to-play format when bandwidth is in short supply, while autoplay will only work via WiFi in places where bandwidth costs are high, such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Nepal.
The format, which requires recipients to manually activate the sound, echoes Facebook’s introduction of silent autoplay in 2013 – a move that has since helped Facebook garner a substantial share of the online video market.
At the same time, Twitter also wants to add third-party checks (from two suppliers, Nielsen and Moat) that paid-for videos are reaching the right audiences on its platform, while making the videos themselves more prominent in people’s feeds.
It’s all part of a bigger push for more attention and ad revenue by a company best known for delivering short bursts of text.
Twitter first let brands push promoted videos into people’s timelines in the second half of last year, although it had already been bulking up its video sharing capabilities, buying short-form video specialist Vine in 2012; SnappyTV, a video editing service, in 2014; and live streaming platform Periscope earlier this year.
“Video is clearly a big investment pillar for us, whether it has been consumer video, or Vine or Periscope or promoted video,” notes Maya Hari, Twitter’s director of product strategy and sales for Asia-Pacific, Americas and emerging markets.
“There has been a whole host of launches around that,” Hari tells Media Business Asia.
“The goal at a strategic level is have Twitter be a video discovery platform for different stakeholders, whether consumers or content creators or advertisers.”
While consumers can upload up to 30 seconds of video directly into Twitter’s native platform, accredited brands are allowed 10 minutes.
The move pitches Twitter into a broader battle for online video advertising in a marketplace where inventory is plentiful, and where rival platforms with broader reach, Facebook and YouTube, are in a commanding position.
Twitter’s audience, while sizable, is far smaller in many markets in Asia. Nonetheless, the distinctive environment and relationships that Twitter fosters can still help secure a place in the media plan.
“There is a sense of smaller community that is keeping users on it,” observes Christopher Low, senior digital executive for APAC at Maxus, a media agency.
“That element of closeness makes it a nice platform for advertisers that want to build more engagement, a bit more love for the brand,” Low adds. “It’s not just awareness, it goes deeper down.”
Adding video is less about competing directly for video views, and more about enhancing the Twitter experience as platforms seek to maximize reach and engagement, Low adds.
Twitter’s symbiotic relationship with TV in particular represents a promising growth area that executives are keen to leverage.
Twitter can help promote and distribute TV content as well as deepen the impact of TV campaigns, Hari says.
“Twitter becomes the social soundtrack around TV,” she adds.
“It also brings a number of OTT opportunities for us to offer both to media companies in the TV space as well as allied advertising opportunities to the advertisers.”
Some broadcasters in Australia, India and Korea have already adopted Twitter’s Amplify product, which lets them sell prerolls for TV content published on Twitter.
The growth of online video advertising in Asia has helped advertisers rein in media costs, by adding incremental reach for their TV campaigns.
At the same time however, the different expectations that people have online, on social networks in particular, creates scope for brands to create content tailored to that environment.
“People are going through their feed – what’s going to make them stop? What’s going to resonate with them?” remarks Kevin Walsh, chief digital officer for media agency Carat in Asia-Pacific.
“It puts more pressure on us from a creative perspective to have better video content, and much more video content,” Walsh adds.
Meanwhile, silent autoplay – another response to online content dynamics – could displace its noisier predecessor, still mimicking the traditional TV experience by giving users a glimpse of what’s happening, but without unexpected and often unwelcome audio.
“For most video networks we are looking at, we want to have a user friendly experience,” Walsh says. “Silent autoplay is a preferred model for us.”
Commercial publishers should consider switching off the sound, if videos are set to play automatically, Walsh adds.
“It’s both respectful and shows a degree of confidence that you have content people will want to look at, and listen to.”