Twitter took another step from social networking towards being a more traditional media platform on Sunday, as it aired advertisements for its site on television.
Seven short, 15-second ads were aired during Sunday’s Nascar motor racing event, the Pocono 400, in the most high-profile example yet of Twitter’s attempts to cosy up to the TV industry.
The ads (click here to watch), which showed Nascar drivers posting tweets from their smartphones behind the wheel, promoted a new-style Twitter page collecting posts about the race. A dozen of Twitter’s own staff selected posts and pictures from drivers and fans using the #NASCAR identifier, as part of a wider media partnership with Nascar struck last month.
The Nascar page can be viewed by people even if they are not registered users of Twitter and marks the California-based Internet company’s first big attempt at a curated, editorially driven approach.
“A 15-second spot is the on-air equivalent of a 140-character tweet,” said Twitter’s head of communications, Gabriel Stricker, adding that the Nascar tie-up was part of Twitter’s mission to bring fans closer to the things they care about.
Silicon Valley technology firms have historically been reluctant to pay for traditional TV advertising, preferring to rely on word-of-mouth recommendations for growth. But while Facebook has reached 900 million users without paying for ads on any media platform, Google has in recent years begun to show ads for YouTube and Google+, its social network, including a TV spot last Christmas featuring the Muppets.
Many of the advertisers in February’s Super Bowl incorporated social media, with brands such as Samsung also buying Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” ads during the game – which set a new record for the rate of postings to the site at 10,000 tweets per second.
Sports teams and brands are keen to capitalize on the growing portion of TV viewers who watch with one eye on their smartphone or tablet, chatting with friends online.
Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr are among the social networks aiming to lure advertisers from the lucrative TV market, where spending still far outstrips online marketing budgets.
Twitter has been building ties with broadcasters to direct traffic to its site and build buzz online that can in turn boost TV audiences. Twitter worked with Viacom on the MTV Movie Awards and Country Music Television awards, encouraging fans to vote for their favourite acts and artists to tweet during the events. Last month, ESPN said it would work with Twitter to co-produce content around sports events such as the NBA finals.