x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Twitter clinches US$1bn loan facility ahead of initial public offering

Twitter has secured a US$1 billion credit facility ahead of its initial public offering as it experiments with tailored feeds for users to generate new revenue streams.

Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s vice-president of Asia Pacific, Latin America and emerging markets, wants Twitter users’ experience to match their interests. Christopher Pike / The National
Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s vice-president of Asia Pacific, Latin America and emerging markets, wants Twitter users’ experience to match their interests. Christopher Pike / The National

Twitter has secured a US$1 billion credit facility ahead of its initial public offering as it experiments with tailored feeds for users to generate new revenue streams.

The IPO is the most anticipated since Facebook’s last year, and it is expected to raise $1bn.

Facebook had secured a credit line of $8bn ahead of its IPO, and the online gaming company Zynga did likewise by raising $1bn before it went public.

Twitter declined to comment on either the credit facility or its IPO, but said it was experimenting with ways to make its service more attractive to advertisers.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to help people looking to follow certain accounts and find content that much easier,” said Shailesh Rao, a vice-president of Asia Pacific, Latin America and emerging markets at Twitter.

The social media firm’s third-quarter advertising revenues surged 124 per cent to $153.4 million from the same quarter last year. Nielsen research suggests users that engage with promoted tweets are 53 per cent more likely to purchase the product or service, while brand favourability rises by 30 per cent.

Twitter has launched two accounts, Magicrecs and Event Parrot, which analyse users’ tweets, interactions and retweets, and they provide direct messages tailored to users’ interests and habits.

“It is all about matching the demand for content with the supply of content. There are people tweeting every day and there are people looking for tweets every day. How do we make that matching process easier?” said Mr Rao.

“What we want to do is make sure the accounts you follow and the tweets you see in your timeline are tailored to your interests.

“Users want relevant content, advertisers want to know what users care about so that they can connect with the right audience.

“By understanding interests, we can deliver [content] based on people’s interests and that is a continued focus for us.”

By doing so, Twitter is opening up new revenue streams based on targeted advertising.

Christopher Vollmer, a vice president at the business consultancy Booz & Company, said: “They’re doing a bunch of things to position the service and platform to be squarely associated with growth in digital advertising.

“The second thing they’re doing is also thinking of how they can expand the service to be more attractive to users.

“The only way to experience Twitter right now is the broad public feed. A private feed will be more targeted.”

Magicres has more than 30,000 users worldwide, while Event Parrot, which promotes events close to users, has about 350,000 users.

“It’s an experiment for Twitter right now, it will have to see what the user uptake is for something like a [tailored] feed,” said Mr Vollmer.

“They’ve had very significant growth in advertising. They’re starting as mobile first play and they’re showing they can work in tandem with big media like TV. [A tailored feed] will bring more targeted advertising as well.”

Some of Twitter’s fastest growth in terms of subscribers and advertising is coming from the Middle East and North Africa.

Mena users account for 6 per cent of its total 230 million active users.

Last year Twitter partnered with the advertising firm Connect Ads to drum up advertising revenue in the region.

Mohamed Megahed, Connect Ads’ general manager for the Arabian Gulf, says “hundreds” of brands have signed up to advertise with Twitter.

Advertising directed at the GCC region includes promoted tweets and accounts; 60 per cent of it is in Arabic and the rest in English.

Twitter’s Mr Rao said: “We are very pleased with the growth of business here. We’re committed to continuing investing in the region through our partnership so we can grow this business out here to certify our commitment to the region.”

thamid@thenational.ae