New Twitter features bode well for IPO

Alerts and NFL deal signal push for users

Twitter_NFL_mobileTwitter Inc. appears to be making its final push for new users ahead of its forthcoming IPO. On Wednesday the social network announced Twitter Alerts, an emergency messaging system designed for government and aid agencies such as the U.S. Geological survey and the World Health Organization among others. On Thursday Twitter announced an exclusive partnership with the NFL to host ad-supported video highlights on the platform.

So, how does Twitter Alerts work? In a nutshell, critical health and safety messages will appear stuck atop followers’ Twitter feeds until they are removed by the author. The message will also be pushed directly to followers’ phones via SMS or push notification. Imagine if Alberta flood victims had received up-to-the-minute flood warnings on their phone hours before the first drop of rain fell? Twitter Alerts can do that. It’s the Internet equivalent of blaring siren and it could prove to be the single biggest selling feature used to help convert millions of connected mobile users who don’t have a Twitter account.

As if an emergency notification system wasn’t enough, Twitter then followed up with news that it had scored the NFL’s first-ever social media partnership.

As part of the deal announced Thursday, the NFL will post video and other content specifically designed for Twitter seven-days-a-week including game footage, news, analysis, fantasy football advice and voting platforms from the NFL Network and

“Having access to this type of highly coveted content on Twitter will not only offer our users a unique programming schedule which will deepen their engagement with our platform but will also provide our sponsors with a value proposition that few other partners can bring to the table,” said Adam Bain, president of global revenue for Twitter in a press release.

“Twitter is wasting no time beefing up its services to reinforce their utility to users and, by extension, advertisers,” said independent tech analyst and journalist Carmi Levy.

“It’s really about the critical mass Twitter will attract as it affiliates itself with credible sources,” echoed Steven Warren, director of investment banking at Miller Tabak & Co.

“Advertisers will want to be where the people are so having a platform as important as Twitter should be the leg-up.”

It’s this kind of relevance combined with staying power and revenue generation tools that potential investors will be trying to discern ahead of Twitter’s planned IPO (first announced on Sept. 12). It’s also what sets Twitter apart from Facebook.

“The reason I feel Twitter is such a significant player, despite the fact that it has only 240 million users compared to Facebook’s 1.15 billion, is the fact that it’s become a utility whereas Facebook is pretty much just a website,” Levy said.

A recent Canadian Business feature details Facebook’s weaknesses leading up to its lackluster IPO; weaknesses from which Twitter doesn’t seem to suffer. When Facebook first launched its IPO, mobile revenues were nearly non-existent, writes Bryan Borzykowski in the Oct. 14 issue of the magazine. Twitter’s mobile revenues on the other hand are pegged at US$309 million or 54% of total revenues, according to eMarketer. This week’s Twitter Alert and NFL announcements suggest Twitter is looking to grow that number even further by reaching out to diverse new audiences.