What’s the new play in 2014? Get ads pushed to new users who couldn’t be reached before – that’s the game for Facebook and Twitter, who both made very low-key announcements just before 2013 came to an end.
New targets: Hyper-Local and Global
For Facebook, it’s about making new inroads in the national market with prepaid users, thanks to a new alliance with T-Mobile’s GoSmart.
For Twitter, it’s about providing offline access to populations in promising lands (BRIC countries) where data access is not readily available, via an agreement with Singaporean startup U2opia Mobile and Swiss company Myriad Group.
Twitter Focuses on Emerging Markets
During the first quarter of this year, U2opia Mobile is slated to launch its service called Fonetwish, to serve a stripped down version of Twitter to basic mobile phone owners, specifically in emerging countries.
The partnership comes on the heels of another, similar agreement with Myriad Group, which will initially be available to mobile subscribers who own feature phones without a data plan in Latin America, Africa, Asia and India.
Both U2opia Mobile and Myriad Group use a technology called USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data). U2opia’s Fonetwish is already being exploited by Facebook (in India) as well as Google (for its Hangout).
Facebook Reaches Out to U.S. Prepaid User Population
Unlike Twitter, Facebook already addressed the emerging markets via Facebook Zero in 2010 it provides free access to its services to users of entry-level mobile phones.
At the time, Facebook already had deals in over 45 countries. Images and videos were not displayed immediately but rather just a click away.
Fast forward to 2014 and Facebook is bringing it closer to home, starting with the GoSmart Mobile user base: free access to Facebook, for all customers, whether they have a data plan or not.
Why It Matters for Facebook’s Ads
GoSmart provides low cost, prepaid mobile services with no annual contracts or fees, for the commitment-phobe or the budget-minded.
It’s crucial for Facebook. Pew Research Center’s latest report on the state of Social Media for 2013 shows that while Facebook stills dominates the space, its grab of the younger market is dwindling. Young users are still there but the growth of that specific population is visibly slowing down.
Of course, having this demographic is key for advertisers, and it seems Facebook might have found just the right channel to make things happen.
Why Emerging Markets are Key to Twitter’s Ad Strategy
As far as Twitter is concerned, its partner U2opia is “present in 30 countries in seven international languages, (and) will localize the Twitter feed according to the location of the user”; Reuters reported. Sumesh Menon, CEO and co-founder of U2opia, said that 8 out of 10 people in emerging markets do not have access to the Internet on their mobile phones. Those are huge untapped market right there.
Another trick? Users won’t need to log on to Twitter or even have an account to get access to trending topics and tweets. Although the existing technology doesn’t allow direct access to images and videos (or any graphics), it is a great first step toward getting those eyeballs for future ads.
To give an idea of the growth potential, bear in mind that Facebook Zero’s user base in Africa, for instance, grew 114 percent in the 18 months following the service launch.
How is that for user acquisition and eyeball potential?
Photo credit: screenshot of U2opia’s webpage
All in all, while the partnerships are officially intented to provide access to information to populations who so far could not get to it, this is one form of cause marketing by both social media platforms. By doing good, they, in exchange, gain access to markets they were not able to reach before.
Pair that with the crushing victory of mobile over desktops and this trend is likely to bear many juicy fruits.
Homepage image courtesy of Shutterstock.