Blog Post

12 December 2013

Twitter To Boost Presence In Emerging Markets With USSD

Twitter will start offering a text-based service for offline access to its service even without providing login details.

Twitter has inked a deal with mobile software developer Myriad Group in a strategic project that will allow it to establish its name and increase usage in emerging markets worldwide.

As part of the agreement, Myriad Group will allow mobile devices without Internet connection to access Twitter through a text-based technology called USSD. And consumers no longer have to provide login details or create a Twitter account to use it.

USSD is an acronym for Unstructured Supplementary Service Data technology found in the most rudimentary GSM feature phones to the most sophisticated GSM smartphones.

USSD as a means to access the social network has been in use for several years in developing markets, such as Argentina, wherein consumers can read messages and post replies or updates to contacts.

For the first time, however, Twitter will start providing official certification to its USSD partners. But USSD users will initially gain access to the service without registration or login details. For now, it is a read-only service – no option to post status updates or messages.

Though USSD is text-based technology, it uses a separate communications channel from SMS or Short Messaging Service.

Twitter is not the first social network to use USSD. Facebook has reached out its service to users in developing markets where feature phones are the main mobile devices.

Myriad was behind several of those USSD channel deployments for Facebook. And it has about 17 million users in 20 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Facebook’s USSD service had excellent penetration in some deployments, including a 50,000-user-per-week pickup rate when first launched in Egypt.

Twitter has more affinity and propensity for a USSD service than Facebook ever will. Tweets have a 140-character limit while USSD texts – just like SMS texts – have a 160-character limit. Facebook cannot keep up with Twitter’s user experience in this platform.

Though the number of Twitter users outside the U.S. has surpassed those inside the country, the company is still looking for income-generating projects to boost revenues from the international market. On average, Twitter made $2.58 per user in its home market, whereas it made $0.36 per user in other markets.

The deployment of social networks through USSD services is valuable to telecoms carriers. They have the option to make it a premium service to mobile subscribers.

Facebook’s USSD service allows users to find or invite friends, accept or deny requests, post updates, and comment, like, or unlike statuses. But a Myriad spokesperson told TechCrunch that Twitter chose a “logged out experience” approach wherein the company creates a list of categories from a suggested list of high-profile users in every market. And if a user follows a famous person or topic, the user will start receiving tweets from that person or about the topic.