In mid-summer, Twitter photo stickers went live. And a couple of weeks ago, in Twitter’s never-ending search for profitability, the company followed up with the announcement of “promoted stickers.” They’re the lightly-branded overlays that users can paste onto their tweeted pictures. Will they push the embattled social network over the line and into the black? Possibly, but probably not.
Twitter launched promoted stickers as a way to support brands and better help them connect with users beyond simple promoted tweets and video units. Every time a sticker is used, it triggers a hashtag in that same tweet, making the tweets easily identifiable by the brand and linking them with other fans. Advertisers can then, in turn, reach out via these multiple visual hashtags — with extended promotions, competitions or communications — to further engage with users. Furthermore, brands can also actually see what consumers are doing with their branded content, deepening the engagement.
— Twitter (@twitter) August 22, 2016
Twitter isn’t the only company to try to use stickers as an advertising plug. Other companies have had signal success with stickers, and Twitter is playing catch-up with Snapchat and Facebook, as well as the Japanese company Line, which made $270 million last year from selling stickers to both users and brands.
Twitter, at the moment, does not charge users for using these stickers. And that’s a good thing, because one of the main objectives of adding stickers — promoted and otherwise — is to encourage more consumers to share photography and be more active on the platform. Twitter has many users who scan through for news but aren’t active participants. For a social network, this can be a serious issue. No sharing equals no growth, and without growth, Twitter is doomed to a slow — or possibly fast — unprofitable descent.
In addition, Twitter has seen some unfavorable responses from users who’ve been known to complain that the network should be delivering on earlier promised upgrades — like letting users edit tweets and not counting pictures or other media toward users’ 140 characters — before adding additional copycat features they can find somewhere else.
Twitter’s advertising platform pales in comparison to Facebook, which has seemingly many options for advertisers and also knows a lot more about its user base. For Twitter, profitability is obtainable once advertisers can monetize an ad spend. Right now on Facebook or Google, you can track how much you’ve spent and determine whether or not your ROI is significant enough to continue advertising on said platform. While you can also do that on Twitter, it’s much harder to make sure you are receiving a positive return; and therein lies Twitter’s problem of becoming a profitable platform.
Twitter’s main objective, 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 it’s great for Twitter to get the surge of revenue from these big brands with big budgets, but what Twitter truly needs to do in order obtain profitability is to become a desired media platform, across the board.
What’s the secret sauce? Make uploading sticker sets free for smaller companies. Currently, promoted stickers are limited to a few deep-pocket brands that have the money and budget to toss at awareness marketing. If Twitter were to start allowing brands to upload stickers for free, then maybe 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 it makes sure not to get stuck without enough partners.