Interview: Don O’Leary of Twitter

11 Nov 2014 | 11.41 am

Interview: Don O’Leary of Twitter

Twitter trying to become more advertiser-friendly

11 Nov 2014 | 11.41 am

Twitter has been having a rough ride on the stock market recently, with the share down 30% year to date. However investors still have a lot of faith in the platform. Net profit excluding share compensation payments was €17m in the nine months to September. That’s tiny in the context of a market cap of €19.7bn, so shareholders are confident that Twitter’s advertising revenue will grow exponentially.

Using Twitter is free and anyone can tweet any sort of commercial message they want. But with 284 million monthly active users who send 500 million tweets every day, connecting with a target market costs money. Twitter’s ad revenue in the June to September quarter doubled year-on-year to €260m, with mobile ad revenue accounting for 85% of the total.

With 3,600 employees, half of whom are engineers, Twitter is sparing no expense to make the platform advertiser-friendly. Recent innovation includes a Promoted Video beta, which streamlines video playback and brings a one-tap viewing experience to users’ timelines. New tailored audience features include list upload capability, supported ID types for creating audiences and improved targeting options.

Don O'Leary. Fennell Photography Copyright 2014Don O’Leary, Twitter

Twitter is a very new medium and all these advertising aids are recent developments too. So Don O’Leary has quite a job on his hands. Based in Twitter’s Dublin office, he runs Twitter sales and the account management teams for UK and Ireland, as well as looking after advertisers in France, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands.

Free Marketing

O’Leary graduated as a mechanical engineer from CIT in Cork and he emigrated to California to work as a design engineer in the aerospace sector. He moved on to software development work in Silicon Valley before returning to Ireland Dublin to do an MBA in TCD. “My first role in Dublin was an engineering manager in Google,” says O’Leary. “After about three years, I had an opportunity to move over and run some of the sales teams, before moving to Twitter. Once companies have great Twitter content, our role is to get that content in front of the right market at the right moment.”

O’Leary acknowledges that Twitter can be an effective free marketing platform. “The advantage of paid advertising is to get very tight on the targeting, to be able to choose who is going to see your message and who you are going to connect with as a business,” he says.

A specialty advertising service that has gained traction on Twitter is promoting app downloads. Using Promoted Tweets and App Cards, companies can use an app’s icon and description from Google Play or the App Store, or customize them, and enable users to open the app directly from Twitter. This has proved popular with games makers and in Ireland Hailo uses the platform to drive downloads of their app.

Self Service

O’Leary says that interest in Twitter from Irish advertisers is strong. “The UK is one of the most mature advertising markets in the world, and sometimes Ireland lags a little bit behind. But that’s not the case with Twitter. In terms of service for advertisers, if you go to business.twitter.com there is a self service platform, and we also have the account management team here in Dublin. If anybody would like to reach out to me, they can tweet me @donoleary.”

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