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A Far More Efficient Platform For Brands

In an interview with BW Businessworld, Twitter India’s Country Director Taranjeet Singh talks about the growing clout of the Indian operation, how Twitter is leveraging this unique opportunity, as well as about dealing with safety challenges in this market

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Twitter has seen a massive growth in reach and revenues in India. Its focus on the region has become more pronounced than ever before, so much so that the India story is driving a new chapter of growth for the company that is looking to scale up to match its arch competitors. In an interview with BW Businessworld’s Ruhail Amin, Twitter India’s Country Director Taranjeet Singh talks about the growing clout of the Indian operation,  how Twitter is leveraging this unique opportunity, as well as about dealing with safety challenges in this market

Globally, Twitter’s ad revenue increased 21 per cent year on year (YoY) in Q1 2018. What’s Twitter India’s growth trajectory been like over the last quarter? How is India contributing to the overall growth of Twitter?  

The first quarter of 2018 has been great for the company globally. Our revenues grew 21 per cent YoY; we also saw 10 per cent growth in our daily active users (DAUs). India is undoubtedly a key market for us and we continue to grow. We are one of the fastest growing markets in the world and it will continue to remain a high potential, high-promise market.

In the Q1 earnings call, company CFO Ned Segal noted that ad engagements on Twitter were up by 69 per cent. Does the same hold true for India? What are the numbers for India?
Twitter’s presence in India is across the country. We are seeing massive amounts of conversations across moments which matter. Whether it is entertainment, sports, news, politics, there is a huge amount of audience growth and engagement that is happening. What is really interesting is that we have been able to massively improve cost per engagement for our advertisers, as well as the fact that we are becoming a far more efficient platform for our brands and for our advertisers. Videos — one of our fastest growing products — contributed 50 per cent of our revenues globally. In India we have seen a huge amount of traction. I would say it’s a great time to be on Twitter.

You say video ads contributed more than 50 per cent to Twitter’s ad revenue in Q1 2018. What’s the kind of interest you are seeing from brands in video ads on Twitter? And what percentage of Twitter India’s ad revenue comes from video ads? 
Video is growing across the world including India; it is one of our fastest growing ad units. What we are witnessing is a huge amount of traction. As a company, we have been investing a lot towards building and making efficient video products for our advertisers. We are focusing on bringing the right live content, more premium video partnerships with our premium publishers. If you look at the overall ecosystem from an audience point of view, today India is a young country with 50 per cent population below the age of 25. So you are talking about millennials and Gen Z, these are audiences who are mobile first. Now the way the overall ecosystem in the country is growing — with the telecom revolution happening and given that India has the lowest data cost and amazing 4G network speed across the country — video consumption will go even higher. So, we are ensuring a brand safe environment on the premium video content with the publishers we are tying up with, and that is a big strength that Twitter brings to the table.

Which revenue streams are seeing growth and adoption in India?    

What is really important for us right now is to invest in educating brands, advertising agencies and our partners about the efficiency with which they can use the platform. Twitter is an amazing medium and every platform has its core strength. Today the news first breaks on Twitter. Whether it is entertainment, sports, news, politics; all sorts of content or moments first pan out on Twitter and then travel outside. If you look at how users come in, it’s a very linear experience. They are coming in to discover what is happening in the world, in their country or city; and for a brand this presents a very powerful proposition to associate with a platform like ours. Once you use this power of the medium, your content gets better traction and your ads get better engagement.
Twitter has a very unique role because of its in-the-moment engagement. So if any advertiser or brand wants to reach out to an audience which is engaged, Twitter is the best place to do it. We are constantly investing in working with our key partners, key clients, agency partners to help them and their teams understand how they should be looking at Twitter. What are the kinds of content strategies they should be thinking of, how does each Twitter product work and how to build efficiency. Our focus is not on being a transactional medium where somebody just comes and buys media. As an organisation, our focus is to build strategic partnerships by helping businesses achieve their business KPIs.

With the election season here, what precautions is Twitter taking in India to prevent the spread of fake news?

Fake news has become a catchphrase. We deeply care about (curbing) misinformation. As a platform, we feel that no single actor should be the arbiter of truth. What we are doing is partnering with the right agencies and media organisations and verifying the right political candidates so people know who to follow or who is the right person they should be getting information from. Safety for us is a big initiative and in the last 18 months we have made almost 30 changes to our products.

Safety is definitely the number one priority for us. During the recent Karnataka elections, we saw around five million tweets centred on the election and the conversations continue to grow. Twitter is where things happen, and we encourage people coming in and having a healthy debate, sharing their point of view and being part of the conversation. We are also partnering with law enforcement agencies, the Election Commission and regulators, and are verifying and building capacity with political organisations to ensure that people know who the right candidate is. We are also partnering with news and other media organisations to use the platform in a credible way and making sure their content is available. What we are also doing is enabling hash tags, not just in English, but in various Indian (regional) languages. We are also fighting hard against malicious accounts, especially the ones that try to spam the system, by putting processes and policies in place, to ensure that we do our bit.