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Why Twitter has shifted its focus to India with a sharp eye for international growth?

After Facebook, considering the growing Internet penetration and young population, Twitter is also actively looking to expand

Twitter is a reflection of what’s happening across the globe and what people are talking about. It is a real-time microblogging platform launched in July 2006. Its most defining feature is the tight-limit on each post’s length or known as ‘tweet.’

However, we can’t talk about Twitter without talking about how many users it has since many of us naturally compare it with Facebook. Though for a long time, Twitter has not been publishing the exact numbers, and therefore, there are several variations on the available data.

When it comes to the modern tech and media landscapes, Twitter is among the most recognizable names. At its peak in Q1 2018, it witnessed 336 million monthly active users. In December 2013, Twitter observed its financial peak with a 39.34 USD market cap.

However, in recent years, it has fallen from grace in both categories. Users number has dropped to 331 million by the end of 2018. While there was a recovery to 330 million in Q1 2019 but after that point, Twitter switched its reporting to ‘monetizable daily users,’ about 187 in Q3 2020. It is quite a surge compared to more than 152 million monetizable daily active users globally in Q4 2019 (1).

The social network platform is particularly popular in the United States, as of October 2020, with an audience reach of 68.7 million users. Japan and India follow it with 51.9 and 18.9 million users, respectively.

Compared to more than 260 million users on Facebook in India and about 180 million users from the United States, it seems like Twitter has a long path to reach the vast traction as Facebook in India and worldwide (2).

For the past some time, Twitter has been making several efforts to increase its user base in the world’s second-largest Internet market.

Topics for Indian Users

In October 2020, Twitter had announced that it would roll out Topics specifically for Indian users. It is a new feature that would help Indian users to find and talk about things they love and their interest, stated the platform.

The microblogging platform added that Topics let people follow specific subjects of their interest and allow them to see more content on these subjects on their timeline. Twitter also stated that the feature also lets users connect with like-minded people who share their interests (3).

When a user chooses to follow a topic, whether its favorite sports team, band, or even a city, they see tweets from a whole host of fans, experts, or tend to talk about that subject a lot on Twitter on their timeline.

Apart from English, Topics for India are also launched in Hindi, which is the most used Indic language on Twitter India, according to the Company.

Within a Hindi topic, users also see Tweets in the Devanagari script and Hindi speech typed in the Roman alphabet. Some of the notable Hindi Topics on Twitter include cities like Patna, Agra, Pune, and other general interests like horoscope, animals, technology, poetry, sports, individuals, and entertainment.

Moreover, to reach the right audience, only users with a set Hindi as device language get Hindi topics. It is the seventh language added to the list of Topics. Apart from Hindi, it is also available in English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic, Korean, and Portuguese (4).

“India is an important market for Twitter. We want to increase the service’s value for Indian audiences by providing them more power over what they want to see on their timelines. Topics will enable people to engage with content they prefer and find people with like-minded interests, allowing them to pick their feed. The addition of Hindi Topics illustrates our dedication to the multifariousness of conversations across languages. We are excited to see these vibrant discussions grow on Twitter in the country.”

– Manish Maheshwari, MD, Twitter India (5).

The Twitter Indian users can follow a Topic conversation like an account they follow with a single tap. Twitter India users also get Topic suggestions on the timeline and the search bar, most relevant to them.

Twitter Fleets

As a part of its constant efforts to bring more users to the platform and make it possible for users to have a conversation differently with more control and less pressure, Twitter started testing Fleets in India in June 2020. Fleets are self-disappearing tweets that vanish in 24 hours and do not have retweets, public comments, or even likes. India is among the first market after Brazil to get the new feature (6).

Undoubtedly, Twitter Fleets are a new way to start a conversation. They disappear after 24 hours while being similar to Tweets, text-first. It also allows users to add videos, photos, and other graphics. If a user wishes to reply to a Fleet, he only needs to tap on it to send a DM or emojis and continue the DM conversation.

Your followers can see Fleets on the top of their home, and anyone who can see your full profile can see it there. If one has open DMS, anyone can also react to your Fleet. Moreover, if one has protected Tweets, only people who follow him can see his Fleets.

While Twitter is a place where people talk and see what’s happening, some can also feel uncomfortable since tweets are public, feel permanent, and have public counts such as likes and retweets. People also feel that a good tweet needs to have many retweets, likes, and replies.

Twitter is aiming for people to make more conversations beyond tweets and Direct Messages. Hence, they started Fleets, which has no likes, no public replies, no retweets, and no permanence.

The platform also seems to be excited to bring its new feature to India to learn how adding a new way to have conversations on the site changes how Indian users interact on Twitter. It also includes the country users who are Tweeting more or less, having fewer or more conversations, and coming back to Fleet on the platform, according to Mo Al Adham, the group product manager, Twitter (7).

Twitter has started to focus more on how Indians use Fleets and learn about its usage, adoption, changes, and overall microblogging service behavior. Notably, India is the second-largest internet market globally and a key overseas nation for many American tech firms.

Since its inception, it has been the first time that Twitter has started bringing features to India or doing anything noteworthy in the Asian Market. Prominently, Twitter has been scrutinized several times in the Asian market, including India, for not taking swift action on misinformation spread and abusive messages.

Read Also: #BanTwitter in Trending After Center Sends Notice to Twitter

In a statement, the MD of Twitter India, Manish Maheshwari, stated that India is an important market for Twitter since it is one of their largest and fastest-growing audience markets globally.

Twitter was perhaps the last major social media platform to test the Stories feature, first conceptualized by Snapchat. Notably, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and even YouTube have since replicated the feature (8).

Collaboration with Snapchat

In December last year, Twitter officially announced on the platform that sharing tweets directly to Snapchat Stories has now become easier than ever. It also added that it would also soon start to test sharing tweets on Instagram.

Twitter has collaborated with Snapchat to allow its users to post their tweets on the photo-sharing app. Users can post their tweets as stickers on Snapchat.

The feature is only available for iOS users for now, and the duo is yet to announce the feature for Android users (9).

‘We’re working on rolling this out for Twitter for Android soon. The team will be testing a similar integration with Facebook’s Instagram for a small group of users on iOS phones in the coming future. We aim that these will be the first of many integrations of its kind.”

– Twitter spokesperson, CNET (10).

Within weeks after Twitter introduced Fleets, the two social media platforms have also collaborated. So far, there has been a mixed reaction from Indian users about the microblogging site’s new features.

Partnership with Daily Hunt

Five years after the launch, Twitter Moment has reached far beyond the American social networking platform.

Yesterday, Twitter stated that it has partnered with Dailyhunt to bring Moments to the Indian social app. Dailyhunt now has a dedicated tab, ‘Twitter Moments India,’ to showcase curated tweets related to news and other events in the country.

Notably, the collaboration would allow Twitter to extend its reach in India. Dailyhunt had secured 100 million USD last month from Google, AlphaWave, and Microsoft. It also claimed that it has more than 285 million users each day (11).

Unlike Twitter, Dailyhunt is popular in smaller cities and towns across India. The Indian social app has 14 local languages for its users. It has termed its collaboration with Twitter as ‘its biggest partnership to date.’ However, both companies have not made any remark on the deal’s financial terms.

While commenting on the development, Manish Maheshwari stated that the Twitter team is dedicated to doing what we can to ensure that people can keep up with what the people are talking about across the globe at any given time. Moments is a curated set of Tweets about any particular topic. With the partnership with Dailyhunt, a platform that offers diverse languages to readers from all parts of the country, the team is thrilled to extend Twitter Moments to the app (12).

It is worth highlighting that Twitter has also invested in another Indian social application, ShareChat. In a way, ShareChat also competes with Dailyhunt.

The co-founder of Dailyhunt and the former head of Facebook India, Umang Bedi (13), in the last year, we have seen the power of public opinion and awareness. It is incumbent to mobilize the course by making information more reliable, accessible, and engaging. When a trusted individual with a shared vision of enabling users to create and share data without barriers validates our platform with his presence, and we know that we are on the right path.

With Moments, all users get a pretty presentation of things going on the platforms in a fun way to scroll. If Twitter knew what it knows now, it would have shipped the feature to India years ago.

While the move is slick, Twitter will need more than that to bring more Indian users on the platform. However, it is still a good start.

Betting Big

Since 2017, India has been emerging as the fastest-growing market for India, and the NYSE listed tech giant is making continued efforts in the market. In the efforts, Twitter launched Twitter Lite (14) in 2017 to ensure that Indians with smartphones across the country can access the platform to get real-time information even on low data networks and bandwidth.

With the launch of Twitter Lite, the company is observing growth from all parts of India. It has become easier for people across the nation to reach out irrespective of the network strength. Consequently, Twitter observed huge traction on the platform, especially in cricket, politics, and entertainment.

twitter users in india

During the same period, it had also partnered with Vodafone to offer live cricket updates through a specially curated Twitter timeline for mobile users as the T20 cricket season had kicked off. The special Twitter timeline featuring top Tweets from cricket leagues, players, teams, and commentators to offer cricket fans among Vodafone’s more than 200 million subscribers gave users a compelling reason to use Twitter Lite, stated Twitter on its blog.

Since cricket is one of India’s most talked-about topics, Twitter Lite also partnered with Cricbuzz and ESPNcricInfo (15).

The Popularity

Twitter has grown immensely in India in the past few years, and several Indians are using it with almost all celebrities, media persons, and politicians on Twitter.

However, compared to Facebook, Twitter is still less popular in the country.

There are several reasons for it, such as Facebook is easy to use compared to Twitter, images and videos also work well on Facebook.

Moreover, Facebook also gives different ways to connect with friends and families. The game is different when it comes to Twitter since it is all about followers and following. People can also easily connect with their friends on Facebook, but they need some time to build a network of like-minded people on Twitter.

These are some of the reasons why the micro-blogging website is not the most popular social media site for its target group, the 18 to 30 years olds. Several people in India have a Twitter account, but they are not active because they don’t find it interesting (16).

Simultaneously, even the popularity of Facebook is declining, and more youth are moving towards Instagram. But then again, the app is part of the Facebook company.

People prefer Twitter less because the people they know are more active on either Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, or Snapchat. Hence, naturally, they are also inclined towards those sites instead of Twitter.

Regardless of these facts, as an individual social media platform, Twitter is going great in India.

Getting Mature

Previously, there were several talks about how Twitter is declining. Despite that, Twitter is still standing tall and observing growth (17). If anything, over the past few years, Twitter is becoming more mature, be it developers or its users.

Even though it took them long, they realized that communication is not about sending something out to hundreds of people. Even if someone has 5,000 followers, they are useless unless they have something to say back. It is the interaction of people.

Unfortunately, Twitter has a huge percentage of completely inactive members. People sign up, check it, sign off, and forget about it.

It seems like Twitter needs to develop a way to suggest more realistic stuff to newcomers. Otherwise, they would think that it’s a platform for intellectuals, celebrities, or a news outlet and will have no idea about the blossoming network under their noses.

Moreover, tweeting the people you already know also makes no real sense, especially in the world of WhatsApp. However, Twitter still has found its place on the internet in a broader range. It is not some craze tool that everyone uses to update their status.

There is no doubt in saying that every time a bomb goes off or a celebrity dies, Twitter is the first thing that comes to our mind to get more information on the matter. Hence, it can be safe to say that it has found its footing, which means that it has become a tool for people to use when needed, but it is not always needed (18).

Let’s say it is not a time for us to sell the stock back yet.

Final Thoughts

Twitter is excited about the Indian opportunity at a global level, which extends to more than a billion people and nearly a billion smartphones. More brands are now also reaching Twitter India for interesting partnerships, says the company.

In 2020, it observed a dramatic growth, possibly because of the coronavirus pandemic (19). And it is now looking forward to the day when it can capture India’s huge consumer base and transform itself from being only a breaking news platform to a fully-fledged social media platform.

Indian market is also important for Twitter since its population will soon overtake China, and the Chinese government has already blocked Twitter.

However, the road is not easy for Twitter in India since it has to grow simultaneously in the three directions. It includes increasing the user base, offering content diversity, and enabling better advertising avenues (20). In short, it needs to put India front and center for its growth strategies.

Twitter needs to shift from being a one-product company to an ecosystem radically, and before that, it needs to find a way to add new users and keep them engaged.

We have high hopes for Twitter that it will gather the strength it needs in the time. It will go further with customized and target marketing while corporates on the platform drive its revenues.

The unique selling point of Twitter is its ability to connect people around trending topics. It only needs to quickly figure out a concrete method to monetize this uniqueness to stay in the race.