Twitter Confirms Google Firehose Deal To Target Logged Out Users

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During Twitter’s Q4 earnings call, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo today confirmed that Twitter has signed a firehose deal with Google, which will bring tweets back into Google searches, more eyeballs to those tweets — and hopefully more clicks onto pages where Twitter can subsequently monetise that activity.

The renewed firehose announcement was not a big surprise after rumors surfaced earlier this week. It will be the first time that Tweets will appear in Google searches after they disappeared in 2011. They will not start appearing for another “several months,” Costolo said on the company’s Q4 earnings call today.

Costolo did not go into any detail about the financial terms of the agreement with Google, but CFO Anthony Noto did note that the proceeds of agreements like this are “considered” as part of the company’s guidance and referred to data licensing revenues for third-party partnerships.

Data licensing in Q4 was $47 million, up 105% on a year ago, and up by $6 million on Q3, but Noto also pointed out that since the integration of Twitter’s firehose isn’t happening just yet, neither is the Google deal showing up in its data licensing revenues.

Luring In Traffic Through Google

The last time Google and Twitter worked together on a firehose agreement was in 2009.

The reason for Twitter’s return to the Google fold is straightforward. Twitter is very focused right now on bringing more traffic to its content and then monetising that, and that has taken a very specific form for the company: showing tweets to people who are not already Twitter users.

Twitter estimates that there are some 600 million people who already land on Twitter pages as “logged-out” (that is, unregistered) users, compared to the 288 million registered monthly active users it has today.

The Google search deal will essentially be used for “onboarding,” Costolo said. If a “logged out” (that is, unregistered or not logged in) user sees a tweet in a Google search and then clicks on it, that person will be delivered to a special “logged out” page, which will likely not only give him/her an option to sign up, but also deliver an ad or two (or three) — “topics and events that we plan on delivering on the front page of Twitter,” in Costolo’s words.

“We’ve had a relationship with Google for years,” he said. But he was also careful to point out that what Twitter will now be doing with the search giant is “distinct from the past.”

“We’ve got the opportunity now to drive and aggregate eyeballs to logged-out experiences that we plan to deliver on the front page of Twitter,” he continued, “and that’s why it makes a lot more sense now.”

Since 2011, Google has had Twitter links in its results, but it has largely been around linking to accounts rather than individual tweets because it would obtain them through crawling rather than Twitter’s data firehose. The tweets should mean a higher frequency and also more specific and real-time results.

It could also potentially mean more enhanced results beyond simple text, if Twitter extends the firehose to include Twitter Cards as well, or other kinds of data like location.

Earlier in the call, he noted that the Google deal will help Twitter “drive and distribute traffic to our logged out users.” He added that Twitter is thinking about those users “differently” these days.

There were other third-party deals noted in the company’s earnings call today, such as those with Yahoo Japan and Flipboard, but in terms of exposure to the maximum amount of people, nothing will compare to Google’s billions of views.

The company’s 288 million monthly active users noted today are up 20 percent on a year ago but only 4 million on Q4.

Twitter has made no secret of its plans to grow its user base by targeting “logged out” consumers, and another area where it plans to tackle that is in emerging markets. As with Google the aim is to tie Twitter content to monetizing opportunities.

Using technology from its recent acquisition in India, ZipDial, the company will let users sign up for updates from the Cricket World Cup, with the service available both on smartphones and feature phones.

Consumers, Costolo pointed out, do not need to be Twitter users to sign up for the service, which they do by dialling a number and hanging up to activate it. Subsequently, users are sent a stream of updates by SMS — which in this case will be cricket scores and other news — and those updates can, of course, also contain ads or be sponsored in their entirety.

In an interview with India’s Live Mint, Parminder Singh, the managing director for Twitter in India, South East Asia, Middle East and North Africa, also notes that cricket is a way of luring users who have registered for the service but aren’t using it much, and will be more likely to engage in sponsored content if it’s connected to cricket.

In a recent survey it conducted, it found that 89% of Twitter users are cricket fans, and that 84% of cricket fans on Twitter intend to follow the cricket World Cup.

The company’s intention to market to them using interest-based content like cricket is also something he drew attention to. He noted that 95% of those cricket fans who are Twitter users “follow at least one brand and they show an inclination to follow brands [and] around 61% said that if you provide me updates on the World Cup, I’ll be open to following your brand.”

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