I was browsing across the ‘new’ Twitter layout features (oh, by the way: did you know that T’s creative director, Doug Bowman, worked for Google? Here is his gentle but tough goodbye message to Big G), when I came across this:
Simplicity meets serendipity
Given the title of this blog, you would admit my curiosity on the subject… It was then that I remembered the video of an interview with Jack Dorsey (creator and executive chairman of Twitter) about the existence of a business model founded on serendipity. How would I define it? Well, in a few words online serendipity is a phenomenon where users encounter something they like that they were not expecting (read my previous blog post on the same subject).
As Dorsey himself admits, Google AdWords has been the first application of this groundbreaking online marketing model. As with fashion magazines, where ads are so well integrated with the content to be not only pleasant but also useful to the consumer, AdWords has made online advertising reputable and even desirable.
In the same way that people believe that Google ads make the search experience better, Dorsey says that Twitter’s ad products – promoted trends, promoted accounts, and promoted Tweets – get engagement rates between 1 percent and 5 percent. And this is done, in fact, in an unconventional sense:
I don’t necessarily think of it as advertising in the traditional sense. It’s, how do we introduce you to something new? How do we introduce you to something that would otherwise be difficult for you to find, but something that you probably have a deep interest in discovering? It’s really just another algorithm, or it’s just more curation, but it’s something that you would find delight in anyway. [..] The user experience is what matters. If the user experience is bad, then we fail.
Now the key question is: How do you engineer a system that, while not literally random, produces the feeling of serenidipitous discovery, meaning emerging from what seems like meaninglessness? AdWords also works because it’s a natural part of the system. You perform a search in order to get results — some of those results come in the form of advertising.
If Twitter wants to fully rely on this business model, it must be sure that the strategy feels like it is natural part of the network.