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Twitter looks to missed call marketing with ZipDial buyout

Twitter?s acquisition of Indian mobile marketing startup ZipDial reflects its desire to branch out to international offline users and venture into a new form of mobile advertising based on consumers making missed calls to companies. 

Twitter purchased the company for an undisclosed figure as its first buyout in the Asian market, which boasts key countries such as India and Indonesia that offer a plethora of potential new users and advertising dollars. ZipDial enables customers to phone a company?s number and hang up before the call connects, therefore allowing the firm to send them free SMS messages with advertisements and various other content.

?Of the 886 million mobile phone users in India, only about 10 percent access social media sites via mobile device (via Digital India),? said Esha Shah, manager of mobile strategy at Fetch, San Francisco. ?As many of these are using prepaid phones that don't have Internet access, advertisers need more granular data on consumers.

?Twitter's acquisition of ZipDial is ideal move as it not only takes advantage of a behavior which already exists in Indian culture, but it gives Twitter an easy way to get itself into the hands of even lower income users, which opens up another market of growth.?

New marketing tactics
The acquisition will provide Twitter with a slew of new marketing tactics to tap, as the social network looks to the Indian market especially to garner more users and expand its mcommerce reach.

Twitter India?s market director, Rishi Jaitly, believes that the deal is an investment in an up-and-coming market and that it will help the mobile application reach every citizen with a mobile device.

Twitter in particular is ramping up to target its 500 million monthly log-out visitors, in addition to its 300 million monthly users that do have accounts (see story). ZipDial has had success in communicating with Indian consumers that are not connected to the Internet, therefore providing Twitter with a way to optimize log-out users as it bolsters advertising strategies for 2015.

While Indian citizens have been purchasing more smartphones as of late, there are still plenty of people that are not able to afford data plans or can only use data connections sporadically. However, with the new acquisition, consumers will be able to dial a specific number for a Twitter account to place a missed call, prompting the account to then send Tweets to their phones regardless of data plan.

This provides benefits over the standard SMS program, as no extra charges will be incurred for the consumer, and users can feel secure in knowing that they will not be using up any of their data.

"As ZipDial is opt-in (by calling a number), this type of marketing should be more readily accepted than standard SMS programs,? Ms. Shah said. ?The analytics provided by ZipDial will give greater insights into their users and be able to target messaging more efficiently.

?Many mobile users in developing countries pay with cash, so it can be difficult for advertisers to measure ROI for campaigns. If Twitter can present ZipDial as an effective analytics tool to its advertisers, it could help increase mobile ad spend in developing countries,? she said.

Increased advertising
This new marketing tactic will offer Twitter many more potential consumers to leverage for advertising dollars. Popular brands and marketers that have significant amounts of fans in international markets, such as adidas and Nike, will now be able to use their Twitter accounts to send relevant updates or advertisements to consumers that may have been previously been difficult to target.

Facebook and Amazon have also expressed interest in placing more focus on overseas emerging markets. In 2014, Facebook purchased Little Eye Labs, also based in India, to analyze data for testing mobile apps.

Meanwhile, recently announced plans to invest $2 billion in the expansion of its Indian operations.

However, while Twitter has worked on marketing campaigns with ZipDial in the past, it will likely use the startup to approach consumers in other fast-growing markets such as Brazil and Indonesia, both of which have large amounts of millennials.

Ultimately, the potential for Twitter to reach even wider audiences with this acquisition is significant. ZipDial?s previous campaigns have reached nearly 60 million users in India already, with clients including Unilever, Walt Disney Co. and Procter & Gamble.

If Twitter can expand ZipDial?s reach to other emerging markets, it can gain millions of more users in addition to potential millions in advertising revenue with SMS-based marketing tactics.

?So many mobile users in developing countries don't access the internet (and thus social media) on their phones because of pre-paid plans, expensive data plans or they simply don't have smartphones,? Ms. Shah said. ?This is a smart way for Twitter to reach and engage those offline users in a culturally relevant way and opens up a new market of offline users (i.e. the user doesn?t have to be in the app to receive tweets).

"As these nations develop and move onto smart phones, they will be already accustomed to Twitter and will be the net generation of power users.?

Final Take
Alex Samuely is an editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York