Katherine Levy: Twitter's success lies in grasping the mobile opportunity
A view from Katherine Levy

Katherine Levy: Twitter's success lies in grasping the mobile opportunity

This time last year, Twitter came to town.

Tony Wang, previously of Google and Twitter US, was chosen by the Twitter high priests to establish commercial operations in the UK. His job was to set up a passionate team of Twitter believers who could sell the social network convincingly to advertisers. Bruce Daisley, who previously ran sales for Google's UK display and YouTube business, was cherry-picked to lead the UK sales team, which, with 17 vacant sales positions currently in the offing, means it will soon double in size. There's nothing like looking at the growth of a sales team to judge how well a media owner is faring.

So, a year in and what do we know about Twitter? Twitter says it now generates more daily revenue on mobile than it does on desktop - something that no doubt Mark Zuckerberg is desperately envious of. While Facebook struggles with monetising its platform through mobile (a huge headache when more than half its users access the platform on mobile), Twitter appears to be steadily riding the wave of smartphone opportunity.

Speak to Twitter's Adam Bain, the president of global revenue, and he will talk about how mobile is in Twitter's DNA. He'll tell you that brands have been on Twitter "since day one", whereas Facebook struggles to incorporate brands as a secondary plug-in. "On most platforms, ads fight against content," Bain says. "But ads on Twitter are natural and organic and part of the experience."

Twitter, it could be argued, has greater commercial potential than Facebook. It all goes back to the beginning, with the problem being that Facebook is incredibly personal. Add a very personal space together with a very personal device (a mobile phone), and you have a very brand-resistant domain. In contrast, having a Tweet from a brand in your Twitter feed does not feel intrusive - it feels informative, it might even mean a money-off voucher; but, most importantly, it just feels right.

Twitter's interest-based targeting is also better by design than Facebook's because Twitter is basically one big interest well. It is arguably easier to build up a truer interest graph on Twitter as it is all about what else you are interested in other than yourself. Not only does it seem natural to see a brand Tweet in your feed, but it is probably much more likely that the brand in question is of interest to you.

Of course, Facebook disciples will point to the fact that the social network has more than 900 million users, whereas Twitter claims to have around 500 million (and Facebook advocates will also talk about how a vast swathe of Twitter accounts aren't active), but it is safe to say that Twitter is catching up fast. The right mobile-first model and a growing user base are definitely something worth preaching about.