Twitter Experiments With Carousel Ads

Twitter is testing a new ad unit that displays app advertisements, carousel-style, in users’ feeds, just two weeks after Instagram debuted carousel ads.

The platform is first rolling out the carousel ads for a small group of users, following a February keynote speech where chief executive (CEO) Dick Costolo said Twitter is considering upping its ad ratio. Currently, one out of every 25 to 30 tweets is promoted; that number could soon be one out of 20.

“Marketers are investing in building apps because apps drive higher engagement, conversion rates, and loan-to-value ratio,” says Mark Josephson, CEO of Bitly. “Solving app installs is a big win for Twitter.”

Kevin Alansky, chief marketing officer (CMO) at social analytics app Social Radar, agrees the carousel is a smart way to increase discoverability, an ongoing problem for app developers. He expects this feature to be particularly popular in the gaming world, where developers know they can get a healthy ROI in the form of in-app virtual currency.

“The carousel provides a very easy way for people to see five to 10 apps that they may not be familiar with,” he says. “Frankly, if Twitter and Facebook both provide amazing ways to target, theoretically those apps should be tailored to my personal preferences.

One potential issue with the carousel, however, is the size of its ads. Underneath the headline “Suggested Apps,” the ads are noticeable for their size, which is much larger than a typical promoted tweet. However, they’re narrow enough for users to be able to tell that they’re scrollable.

“They will pay very close attention and iterate to make sure [the ads] work,” says Josephson, who believes the company is too smart to alienate users.

For his part, Alansky says, “Oversized ads may get downloads and click-through, [but] I think Twitter might run the risk of upsetting loyal users. It’s a tricky balance.”

Like Josephson, he thinks Twitter will scale down the ads if there’s any pushback. In the early stages of this feature, he says, Twitter is simply pushing the envelope by making the ads so big that users can’t help but notice them.

“I think some of the earlier ads were getting overlooked so [the advertisers] might be getting impressions but not actions,” Alansky says. “They blended in too much, so [Twitter is] going to the other extreme.”

While Twitter and Instagram are recent adopters of carousel ads, Google recently discontinued its use of them.

Back in November, the search giant replaced its carousels with “three-packs,” showing three ads at a time. But Alansky thinks social, much more so than search, lends itself to carousels.

“On Twitter or Facebook, I’m kind of browsing and looking for something, and don’t know what, but when I’m Googling, I’m looking for a specific something,” he says. “If I click on the ad, it’s because they interrupted me.”

Twitter has had a busy week, also making changes to Vine. To improve its speed, the Twitter-owned video-sharing platform now initiates the downloading process before the app is open, allowing users to view videos with a slower Internet connection, or none at all. Additionally, Twitter confirmed its acquisition of Periscope, a live-streaming app that reportedly cost between $50 and $100 million.

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