Twitter photo stickers went live in midsummer and this month Twitter followed up with news of “promoted stickers,” lightly-branded overlays that users can slap onto their tweeted photos. Will they push the embattled social network over the line from red to black? Possibly, but it doesn’t look likely.
Twitter created Promoted Stickers as a way to help brands connect with users beyond simple promoted tweets and video units. Each time a sticker is used, it triggers a hashtag in the tweet, making them searchable by the brand and linking them with other fans. Advertisers can then reach out through these visual hashtags with extended promotions, competitions or communications to further connect with users. In addition, brands can actually see what people are doing with their branded content, deepening the engagement.
Other companies have had signal success with stickers and Twitter is playing catch-up with Snapchat and Facebook, as well as Japanese company Line, which made $270 million last year from selling stickers to both users and brands.
Twitter does not charge users for stickers, and that’s a good thing, because one of the goals of adding stickers—promoted and otherwise—is to encourage more people to share photography and generally be more active on the platform. Twitter has a lot of users who scan through for news but don’t actively participate. For a social network, this can be a death sentence. No sharing = no growth, and without growth, Twitter is doomed to a slow—or possibly fast—unprofitable descent.
In addition, Twitter has seen some negative response from users who complain that the network should deliver on earlier promised upgrades—like letting users edit tweets and not counting pictures or other media toward users’ 140 characters—before adding copycat features they can find somewhere else.
Twitter’s ad platform pales in comparison to Facebook, which has more options for advertisers and also knows a lot more about its users. For Twitter, profitability is only going to come when advertisers can monetize an ad spend. Right now on Facebook or Google you can track your spend and determine your ROI. You can also do that on Twitter, but it’s much harder to make sure you get a positive return, and that’s what Twitter needs to happen for it to be a profitable platform.
Twitter’s goal, beyond a quick infusion of bucks from deep-pocket brands like Pepsi, is to enlist advertisers to encourage people to use these stickers, and thereby promote more activity.
For big brands, Promoted Stickers can make sense as a top-of-funnel brand awareness tool. But there are only so many companies in a position to do that. And while it’s great for Twitter to get the surge of revenue from these big brands with big budgets, what Twitter needs in order to achieve profitability is to become a sought-out media platform across the board.
What’s the prescription? Make uploading sticker sets free for smaller companies. Right now, Promoted Stickers are limited to a few deep-pocket brands who have the bucks to toss at awareness marketing. If Twitter were to allow brands to upload stickers for free, the program would be open to a broader base of smaller brands, encouraging their fans to share content, which is exactly what Twitter wants.
Promoted Stickers can be a good step in the right direction for Twitter, but only if they make sure not to get stuck with too few partners.
Ben Hordell is founder of digital marketing and ad agency DXagency.
PepsiCo is Twitter’s Exclusive Promoted #Stickers Partner