For Twitter, 2015 was the year of the prime-time deal as the microblogging service sought to grow its user base beyond chattering-class types like journalists, superstar athletes and reality stars. To wrap up the year, on New Year’s Eve, tweets and Twitter video will be displayed on the big, flashy screens of Times Square, right below the famous dropping ball, the company revealed Wednesday.
A range of tweets, including ones with the hashtag #BallDrop, will be shown to the revelers in Times Square as well as seen on TV screens worldwide in the annual broadcasts by ABC and NBC. A few Twitter employees will be on the ground among the 1 million-plus people expected to crowd into the Crossroads of the World. Additionally, members of Twitter’s media team will help curate the tweets remotely.
The New Year’s deal is the first such deal for Twitter in its nearly 10 years in existence. It follows closely behind another first-time partnership, a presidential debate on broadcast TV, which came in November with CBS News.
Despite still searching for a full-time chief marketing officer, Twitter has been making marketing a top priority in a push for growth. CEO Jack Dorsey, who returned to the corner office earlier this year, is under pressure from investors to grow Twitter's stalled user base, which currently tops out at about 300 million monthly actives.
Unlike a U.S. presidential debate, New Year’s Eve draws tens of millions of viewers and has an international spotlight. “Twitter is where people go to share moments as they happen, and New Year's Eve is when the entire world comes together to celebrate the same event," Sean Evins, of Twitter’s Government and Politics team, said in a statement to International Business Times.
"As a global and live platform, we are excited to work with Times Square New Year's Eve and share the Twitter conversation as it unfolds with millions of people in the heart of New York City and more across the globe,” he added.
Becoming the Source
The partnership comes after a difficult year for Twitter. The stock fell below its IPO price and former CEO Dick Costolo stepped down. The company has repeatedly disappointed Wall Street investors. Twitter is hoping the chance to have your tweet viewed in one of the most popular tourist centers in the world and on one of its busiest nights will be a big incentive to share, and will prompt people to join the social network.
Twitter dubs itself the place for live event coverage and has been working to grow that ability. Earlier this year, Twitter released Moments, a human curation of tweets around events. The company has also released more tools for journalists to collect tweets. There are no official TV or media partnerships for the New Year’s Eve, but tweets could be broadcast on air.
The ubiquitous hashtag has also become a more robust part of the Twitter experience. That effort includes making more emoji appear after certain hashtags.
For example, on New Year’s Eve, tweets with the hashtag #HappyNewYear will display a fireworks emoji. The hashtag will work not only in English but also in more than 35 other languages, from Chinese and Spanish to Bengali and Urdu. This partnership has been the most comprehensive effort for including different languages for a single emoji. The hashtag #TheForceAwakens also generated a "Star Wars" emoji when written in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and Korean, for example, earlier this month.
Marketing for Attention
Twitter has partly attributed its growth stagnation to its struggle with, or often lack of, marketing. “The product remains too difficult to use. We have not communicated why people should use Twitter. This is both a product issue and a marketing issue,” Chief Financial Officer Anthony Noto said in July.
Since then, Twitter has created multiple TV ads. The first ran during the World Series, and some have continued to be broadcast during sports events. During New Year's Eve, a two-minute video recapping 2015 on Twitter, and already available for viewing, will run on the screens in Times Square.
Twitter is still seeking to hire a CMO. Noto, whose responsibilities include overseeing marketing, announced the intention to hire one in July.
Thursday’s effort will be produced in partnership with the co-organizers of the New Year’s Eve celebrations in New York City: the Times Square Alliance, a coalition of local government and businesses, and Countdown Entertainment.