How Twitter is opening a new space for creator marketing
“Skip ad.” It’s become the “fast-forward” of our generation. But it’s also the thorn in the side of $74 billion spent on video ads each year.
Approximately 65% of us skip ads as soon as we can. If you’re an advertiser, every “skip ad” tapped on the phone represents more than lost interest. It’s lost money. Even worse, you might have just spent your budget on annoying someone who was just trying to watch a video about how to caramelize an onion.
The obvious solution for platforms? Unskippable ads. But unskippable ads can also present the problem of making your platform feel cumbersome, even if they enhance monetization.
That’s the problem Twitter is currently facing. They’re looking for new ad revenue in the form of video, but also finding ways to make these digital ads worthwhile for the brands spending the money.
Perhaps that’s why Twitter recently released an eight-episode video course designed to teach advertisers the right way to use video ads—while keeping those ads unskippable. If it sounds like a difficult needle to thread, welcome to the world of monetizing Twitter.
Fortunately for creators on Twitter, the world of unskippable ads may be part of something bigger going on with Twitter. After all, people won’t be willing to deal with unskippable ads if there isn’t some proper video content to look forward to.
More emphasis on Twitter videos could potentially create a whole new space for Twitter creator marketing—and launch Twitter as a bona fide video platform on par with YouTube and TikTok. Here’s how.
What are the downsides of unskippable ads?
There’s no getting around it. Unskippable ads are…kind of annoying.
You may remember that YouTube occasionally irks users who experience too many unskippable ads in a row. It’s one thing to watch one unskippable ad before a video. Many users are patient enough to realize that an ad helps pay the bills.
But five unskippable ads? In some cases, eight unskippable ads?
It’s too much for users, especially considering the vast majority of them will skip an ad as soon as possible, when offered the option.
The YouTube experience might be a preview of what people will expect from Twitter. On YouTube, unskippable ads were a precursor to “Premium.” Step one: ads become unskippable, irking some users. Step two: sign up for our new premium version, with no ads!
That’s especially relevant as Twitter CEO Elon Musk looks at ways to monetize Twitter. According to Mashable, there are a few options here. Twitter could charge $20-per-verification, for example, or put a paywall in front of Twitter videos.
Thus far, a lot of these haven’t come to fruition. But make no mistake: video is at the forefront of many of the monetization possibilities. Musk has even hinted at bringing back Vine—or at least a Vine-like app—which might make Twitter more appealing to the TikTok generation.
“The decision by Twitter to develop "unskippable" video ads implies that users will no longer be able to skip through video adverts on the site, possibly increasing the efficacy of advertising on Twitter,” says Krupa Trivedi, digital marketing manager at On-Demand Ninja.
After all, that’s one of the realities of digital advertising: forcing people to watch an ad is sometimes the only way to get them to view your message.
“This move is likely in reaction to the increasing popularity of video advertising across social media platforms and Twitter's ambition to acquire a more significant piece of the video advertising industry,” says Trivedi.
But others point out that simply rolling out unskippable ads isn’t enough to make for effective monetization.
“Twitter’s decision to introduce unskippable video ads will only smash branding due to user frustration,” counters Simon Bacher, CEO and co-founder of the Ling App. “Because Twitter users can’t skip videos, they would rather not watch them unless they’re really interested in the post-ad video. Brands must be picky with influencers they choose to promote their products and services on Twitter to optimize marketing efforts.”
That’s why Twitter’s unskippable video classes offer a simple remedy. If unskippable ads are inevitable, they might as well be good.
Unrolling these ads is a major hint at where Twitter is going with its advertising and monetization efforts.
Improving the Twitter advertising landscape
This might sound counterintuitive to some, but it’s true: when done right, advertisements delight us.
We tend to think of ads as mostly-intrusive inconveniences. They’re impediments to browsing YouTube, or slightly-annoying volume changes while we watch TV on an ad-supported streaming platform.
But there is still a stark difference between a good, relevant ad that we might want to see and an ad that feels…well, downright shoddy.
The New York Times recently noted that shoddy ads seem to be everywhere as of late. “In a shaky advertising market in an uncertain economy, ads that few people want to see suddenly seem to be everywhere,” wrote Tiffany Hsu in February.
Recent ads on Twitter, as described by users, have made the platform feel like a tabloid magazine or the haunting ground of Ron Popeil, the inventor of wares people didn’t know they needed including the Veg-O-Matic, the Ronco Electric Food Dehydrator and the Inside-the-Shell Egg Scrambler. There were ads for T-shirts printed with a horse’s head superimposed on a heartbeat line, served to someone who does not ride horses nor particularly like them. Also: fraudulent ads for discount drones, spots hawking crude gaming apps and promoted posts from people ranting about “puppet masters” and “the slave mind.”
Yikes. Where’s the “skip” button?
That’s why it makes sense to arm advertisers with better ideas for their own ads. Enter the “Twitter Flight School” and its recent videos. Videos highlight key factors for Twitter ads, like capturing attention, proper formatting, and perhaps the most anti-shoddy-ad lesson of them all: creating engagement through depth of content.
“[Unskippable ads are] great news for businesses,” said Andreeea Savulec, outreach team leader at Husky Hamster, a link-building agency. Savulec believes companies and influencers will have more access to a more receptive audience—people who have to watch the ads.
But whether those ads improve in relevance—and whether Twitter Flight School takes off—remains to be seen.
What unskippable ads say about Twitter’s future in creator marketing
Unskippable video ads might be the opening volley in a new round of monetizing on Twitter. That’s why creators—who may market themselves like this one day, even if they’re not aware of it—will want to keep up-to-date with what’s going on.
“Unskippable video ads on Twitter not only mean it’s focusing on creator marketing but also an increased emphasis on video content as a key component of Twitter’s future strategy,” said Sarah Jameson, Marketing Director of Green Building Elements. “The platform may introduce more features supporting video content, changing the Twitter content ecosystem.”
That means if brands are marketing on Twitter with influencers, they may have to be ready to prioritize video content. “Brands should know Twitter's ad targeting capabilities to ensure unskippable video ads are relevant to users' interests and preferences,” said Jameson. “Advertisers may have to allocate more of their budgets to video ads, leading to increased competition and a potential rise in ad prices.”
In other words, it may be time to think of Twitter as a burgeoning video platform. There’s been talk of paywalling video on Twitter, which would make it easier for people with large followings to monetize their audiences directly on the platform.
Paywalled Video, as it’s tentatively called, is considered a high-risk feature over at Twitter, according to the Washington Post.
It wouldn’t be the first expansion of Twitter’s capabilities for creators over the past few years. We’ve also seen a few new elements pop up:
- Spaces, the live audio function that lets creators interact with users in a podcast-like environment, could also see more premium features crop up in its offerings.
- A tip jar for content creators could be one of those features—though voluntary, it would go a long way toward normalizing Twitter monetization
- Super follow features let creators charge subscription fees for bonus content—though super follows have gone away for a rebranding
Like it or not, video is going to be part of Twitter’s monetization efforts. But there’s one other monetization feature that deserves a closer look.
How Twitter “Subscriptions” is monetizing—and getting users to invest in the platform
From the everyday user’s perspective, unskippable ads are one way Twitter may monetize. But for creators, it signals a completely new way of looking at the platform.
For one, Twitter’s efforts to increase monetization will include subscriptions. According to Fox Business:
Twitter users will be able to offer their followers subscriptions to content, including long-form text and hours-long videos. It's a revamp of Twitter's monetized subscription tool. Users offering the subscription will get all the money subscribers pay apart from the charges platforms such as Android and iOS levy. Twitter will not take a cut for the first 12 months.
Remember that rebranding of Super follows? It’s now becoming “Subscriptions.”
Though ostensibly two separate initiatives, Subscriptions will have many of the same features as Super follows did: charging users access to exclusive tweets, subscriber-only Spaces, and badges for subscribers who have signed up to follow specific creators.
You can offer those monthly subscriptions at $2.99, $4.99, or $9.99, according to Twitter.
The idea goes beyond simply giving creators new ways to monetize their Twitter audiences. According to The Verge, creators can start using those features as long as they tweet enough—incentivizing more participation from creators.
For Twitter, monetization and added capabilities go hand-in-hand. If you’ve paid for Twitter Blue, for example, you’ll know that you can access exclusive platform benefits, like writing 4,000-character long tweets.
Now Twitter is upgrading those capabilities: being able to write in bold, italics, or even up to 10,000 characters. That is if you pay for the premium features.
How to overcome the challenges of unskippable ads
Twitter wouldn’t be launching a course on how to make better unskippable ads if they were easy enough for everyone to handle them. So how do creators and brands overcome the challenges of unskippable ads?
Challenge #1: The “paid promotion” problem
Challenge: Unskippable ads reek of sponsorship and paid promotions, which calls attention to sponsorships and can potentially make them feel less organic.
“While partnering with an influencer is highly effective for inspiring people to purchase your product, unskippable ads may seem more like paid promotions,” said Brian Lee, founder/CEO of Arena Club. “And because this content seems less spontaneous and more like a commercial, it can impact the authenticity of the partnership in the eyes of Twitter followers. This is especially true when that influencer is a celebrity.”
Solution: Brands will have to find ways to make unskippable ads feel more authentic and helpful. The more it feels “native” to Twitter, the better.
Take the example from Yemeksepeti’s food. Using the “carousel” format appeals to foodies on Twitter, who might already look for HD content like this. At a glance, the ad is just as interesting as organic content that someone might post to highlight what they had for lunch. On closer inspection, it’s an ad.
Challenge #2: Create “teasers” that are actually interesting
Challenge: Getting people to want to see the entirety of your ad. But the idea that someone might want to see an ad isn’t unheard of.
After all, movie teaser trailers are ads. Yet people seek them out, share them, review them—almost like we forget that movie trailers are just a high form of advertising.
Solution: Teaser trailers work because they’re the first new content that the moviemakers release to the public. And new content never goes out of style.
The Comico app offers an example of an ad that doubles as new content, teasing their potential customers with small bits of unreleased stories.
People found it engaging—at least the people who wanted to see what Comico has in store—and the ad looked native to the platform. It’s the kind of highly relevant, valuable ad that has a future on Twitter.
Skip to the future of Twitter
Unskippable ads weren’t the death of YouTube, and they won’t be the death of Twitter. That’s particularly true if creators and advertisers alike overcome the challenges above.
Step one may be Twitter’s Flight School, but with new features like Twitter Subscriptions becoming more popular, expect to see the platform become more than just a place to tweet out a few hundred characters at a time. It will soon be a full-fledged creator portal in multiple media.