Twitter is not just about 140 characters anymore. Ever since it introduced Twitter Cards, it’s been expanding the scope of a Tweet to include photos, videos, music, article extracts, and more. Today Twitter announced three new types of cards to display information about apps, products, and photo galleries, but it also added a couple of key features that will make Twitter a natural distribution platform for mobile apps. Developers will be able to add links at the bottom of their Twitter cards to get people to download their app directly from a mobile app store or deep link into their apps for those who already have them.
These new features are designed to drive app installs and deep linking into mobile apps. From Twitter’s Developer blog
One of the most important features in the new Cards is the ability to allow users to download your app (if the user doesn’t already have it installed), or deep-link into your own app (if the app is already installed on the user’s mobile device)
Forget about the desktop web for a second. This move is Twitter’s way of giving mobile apps a huge bear hug. Mobile apps already rely on Twitter and Facebook to share any photos, videos, articles, or other content found or produced inside those app. The problem is there is no return path to those apps, even for other people who are discovering those shared links (now multimedia cards) on mobile phones.
With download links, every time someone shares something on Twitter via a mobile app that implements these types of cards, all of their followers are just a click away from downloading the app—every time they share something. That is huge. The more people share from a particular app on Twitter, the more that app will be downloaded.
Twitter just became a distribution platform for mobile apps—
Erick Schonfeld (@erickschonfeld) April 03, 2013
Every single mobile app developer is going to want to add these download links into their Twitter Cards. And if they haven’t implemented Twitter Cards yet, now they are going to have to think hard about why they aren’t jumping into the fray.
It’s not just about downloads. Twitter is taking a stab at one of the big problems with mobile apps: it’s hard to link between them. (Remember, the link structure of the web is what makes it so powerful). With deep linking, people can move seamlessly from their mobile Twitter stream right into the app being linked from. It could be that picture in Path, or that video in Takes.
Twitter’s embrace of mobile apps and its willingness to become a huge distribution platform for them will in turn help spice up the Twitter stream with all sorts of expandable cards. The more that Twitter Cards become the norm inside your stream, the more diverse and visually rich that stream will become. No doubt, advertisers will love that. Twitter is already testing different ad units and direct commerce in cards. Imagine Twitter Cards as ad units where the revenue is shared with the contributing mobile app or publisher. If Twitter gets this right, it could create a very lucrative revenue stream for both itself and the ecosystem of apps that publish into Twitter.