Twitter aims to expand reach

02 June 2011

SAN FRANCISCO: Twitter, the microblogging platform, is attempting to extend its online reach through a new "Follow" button which can be added to other websites.

Members of the social network clicking on this tool will be able to sign up to track an account from external portals. This means that users will be able to follow the website owner's Twitter account via a single click - rather than having to look the company up on Twitter itself.

The company blog added that benefits for consumers include providing a "new way" to discover and interact with sources of information covering matters of personal interest.

"For publishers and brands, adding the Follow Button to your website and using Twitter to stay connected with your audience is a powerful combination," the statement added.

"People who follow your account are much more likely to retweet and engage with your Tweets, and to repeatedly visit your website."

Among the 50-plus launch partners for this service are media operators CBS Interactive, Condé Nast, Fox News, MTV, Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and TV Guide.

Twitter has also allied with several of its most popular celebrity users, such as the singers Britney Spears and Justin Bieber, alongside TV presenter Ryan Seacrest.

One early place in the "Follow" button appeared was the dedicated section for reality series Dancing With the Stars on TV Guide's website.

Debra Aho Williamson, a senior analyst at eMarketer, suggested this could give the impression Twitter is starting to rival Facebook.

"Twitter's really got to fire up its engines," she said. "I expect other things coming down the pike."

Williamson further argued Twitter's "Follow" scheme is related to being "relevant across the web."

"Twitter needs to catch up to where Facebook is. It needs to make sure people see more tweets in more places and interact with Twitter in more places," she said.

"Twitter is recognising that it might have a product problem. To be anywhere close to the success that Facebook has achieved, Twitter just needs to be used by more people on a more regular basis."

Indeed, Twitter's new plug-in replicates a similar approach to Facebook, which enables netizens to register the fact they "Like" sites and content.

Charlene Li, a founding partner of consultancy the Altimeter Group asserted such a move is a common element of Twitter's strategy.

"If you create something that is a runaway hit and begins getting traction and becomes mainstream, then it's very likely that Twitter will copy it," she said.

But she also warned it would be important for the company to attract developers and investors who capable of generating features offering true differentiation.

Twitter's broader recent initiatives include buying search engine marketing firm AdGrok and social media monitoring specialist TweetDeck, seen as preparations for the introduction of advertising.

Arnie Gullov-Singh, chief executive of digital marketing services provider, believes expanding Twitter's audience must be considered a key objective to achieve this.

"Twitter currently is a platform that is dominated by a small group of power users," said Gullov-Singh.

"The question is: 'How do you get more consumers on the site creating more content?' If you can get to 100m uniques in the US, it would be a dominant media platform that no brand can ignore."

Data sourced from Twitter, Bloomberg, San Francisco Chronicle, Marketplace; additional content by Warc staff