Twitter, Instead of an Algorithmic Timeline, Sell More Brand Emojis

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Concerns over a possible algorithmic timeline on Twitter emerged over the weekend. They’ve since been squashed but Twitter still needs money. Might I recommend more brand emojis?

Let me start off by saying I’m not a ad sales person and I do not think their jobs are easy. Twitter, a free service for users, needs money to survive and has done so through venture capitalist money and advertising (promoted tweets). Twitter has introduced “features” along the way to help improve user numbers as well as revenue such as “while you were away” (something I tell my app repeatedly I do not want to see), e-commerce (which I feel I never see), or the new (read: awful and unnecessary) moments tab. They’re also considering a giant leap in their character limit but that’s a conversation for another day.

Last Friday, Buzzfeed published a report (a follow up from last June) about a potentially larger change that would make user’s feeds act more like Facebook:

The company is planning to introduce an algorithmic timeline as soon as next week, BuzzFeed News has learned. The timeline will reorder tweets based on what Twitter’s algorithm thinks people most want to see, a departure from the current feed’s reverse chronological order. It is unclear whether Twitter will force users to use the algorithmic feed, or it will merely be an option.

While some Twitter employees had an interesting reaction to the user backlash to this idea, CEO Jack Dorsey commented saying,

Hello Twitter! Regarding #RIPTwitter: I want you all to know we’re always listening. We never planned to reorder timelines next week. Twitter is live. Twitter is real-time. Twitter is about who & what you follow. And Twitter is here to stay! By becoming more Twitter-y. Look at “while you were away” at the top of your TL. Tweets you missed from people you follow. Pull to refresh to go back to real-time. I *love* real-time. We love the live stream. It’s us. And we’re going to continue to refine it to make Twitter feel more, not less, live!

We’ll see how it actually pans out but let’s put that on the back burner for now.

Do you recall how awesome it was when Star Wars: The Force Awakens emoji started showing up in your feed? It started with just a few but eventually tons of characters, vehicles, and other stuff emerged. Fans couldn’t get enough of them! Unlike emoji you use on your phone, Twitter emoji can only be accessed by using a particular hashtag, which means the branding goes beyond the image alone. It was considered a “partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm” but did you notice when they weren’t there anymore?


I didn’t. Once they’re gone, they’re gone it seems unless Twitter and the brand decide to bring them back. *cough*or you save the individual images and upload them to your Slack*cough*


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I noticed these Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice emojis on Friday and they were already gone by Sunday, which was when Marvel brought us a slew of Captain America: Civil War character emojis.

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Brand-specific emojis had been played with for a bit on the service but emojis as specific paid advertisements started on Twitter last year with Coca-Cola. And well, I had no idea money had exchanged hands for it (or that the previous emoji hadn’t been paid for?). Perhaps that was naive of me but it’s a mark of a good advertisement if you don’t actually know you’re being advertised to. But it makes you wonder, why wasn’t Twitter monetizing emoji as soon as they could? While it’s not been confirmed just how much custom brand emojis could yield them, AdWeek recently reported:

Since October, Twitter has designed 17 custom emojis—three of which launch this week for Super Bowl campaigns with Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch. Multiple sources confirmed to Adweek a “seven-figure” price for the branded icons, saying that the custom emojis are reserved for Twitter’s biggest advertisers, including Coke, Starbucks, Spotify and Dove. Such brands’ million-dollar deals entail packages, per sources, that involve the custom emoji with different combinations of the following: Promoted Trends (which normally cost $200,000), Promoted Moments and Promoted Tweets.

Instead of running a $5 million Super Bowl TV ad, “some of our clients have been talking about custom emojis on Twitter—this kind of investment could yield five custom, completely bespoke emojis on the Twitter platform,” said Jesse Cahill, head of planning for North America at Essence.

Of course I’m not a tech reporter, I don’t know the ins and outs of Twitter’s financial business, I’m just looking at this from the perspective of a longtime user and geek. I don’t think continuously selling brand emojis is enough to keep the social network afloat but I do think it’s less intrusive and more fun for their users. (And the fact that some emoji have in effect timed out is somewhat disappointing from a user perspective.) I think the general idea is to get more creative with advertising while not taking away what makes the service unique and having custom brand emoji readily available because brands pay to keep them in the public’s view is one way to do that. Paying to have them not count toward the 140 character limit could be even better.

What do you think of brand emojis? Did you happen to notice when Star Wars, or others, disappeared? Would you pay a monthly or yearly fee for Twitter if you got access to other features or services?

One Response to “Twitter, Instead of an Algorithmic Timeline, Sell More Brand Emojis”

  1. But when will there be an edit feature?