Twitter Starts Testing Fleet Ads

Fleets, Twitter’s disappearing content for “momentary thoughts,” is becoming even more like its rivals’ Stories feature, thanks to a new advertising experiment that launched on Tuesday.

Twitter senior product manager Justin Hoang and global product marketing manager Austin Evers likened the ads to “billboards” in a blog post revealing the test.

“Appearing in between Fleets from people who are sharing pictures from the dog park in Fort Funston or video of their morning coffee stroll in Williamsburg, Fleet ads are all about connecting your message with the everyday,” they wrote. “Fleet ads are a space for brands to be creative: go behind the scenes, have a creator take over your account or share a hot take.”

But unlike typical billboards, which are sold to any company and viewable by the public, the scope is much narrower, with just a handful of advertisers and a limited audience of U.S. mobile users.

What they’ll see are full-screen, vertical Fleet ads set in a 9:16 aspect ratio with photos or videos up to 30 seconds in length. Companies can also include a “swipe-up” call-to-action, so viewers can do things like buy featured products or get more information. They also get data on how their Fleet campaigns are performing, including impressions, profile visits, clicks, website visits and other details, such as video metrics like views, starts, completes, etc.

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Fleets just launched last November, so the company is still figuring out who uses it and how. But there are a few things Hoang and Evers seem sure about: People like the content, as well as these types of vertical ads.

“We know from research that more than 75 percent of people say they like ads in this format and among those that are using Fleets, 73 percent of people say they browse what other people are sharing,” they said in the blog, adding that the company’s focused on making sure the placements don’t feel intrusive.

Either way, Twitter seems intent on developing the feature into a more robust offering and a potential revenue-generator — which is notable, considering the slow monetization slog of the core platform itself. It took a few years for Twitter to mature from its genesis in 2006 to experiment with advertising, and even longer to officially launch ads in 2013.

Today the company is seeing its stake in ads expanding, with ad revenue of $899 million reported in the first quarter of 2021. According to Twitter, its advertising business jumped 32 percent in one year’s time. That’s not entirely surprising, considering how the pandemic juiced online engagement across the major social media platforms and online marketplaces.

But in essence, the platform is still playing catch-up compared to its younger competition. Although it may be older than both Instagram and Snapchat, the latters’ Stories features have been serving ads for four years and seven years, respectively.

Twitter seems keener on keeping pace lately, at least when it comes to development, whether that’s spinning up Spaces, its variation on audio-only platform Clubhouse, or encouraging civility in social media by making users pause and rethink possibly offensive tweets. And, like other platforms, it’s touting support for the creator community with a new feature that lets users tip people for content they like.

According to the company, it doesn’t take a cut of donations made through the Tip Jar feature. Maybe it never will — especially if it launches paid subscriptions, as Twitter pundits have been expecting for some time now. Or if it manages to make Fleet advertising something more than ephemeral.

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