Twitter buys ZipDial to increase engagement in India

Steven Loeb · January 20, 2015 · Short URL:

ZipDial is a marketing and analytics platform that uses "missed calls" to connect users with brands

Twitter has had trouble with its user growth in the United States, but that is not the case everywhere. The Asia-Pacific region, especially in countries like India and Indonesia, has been good to the company; both of those countries are expected to be in the top five Twitter populations by this year. Indonesia has seen growth rates of 76.8% and 76.3% over the last two years, and will grow another 61.7% this year to get to 15.3 million users.

So no wonder the company has decided to double down by acquiring Indian marketing and analytics platform ZipDial, it was announced late Monday, to expand its reach. No financial terms of the deal were disclosed.

The acquisition was made the company said in its blog post, to get more people onto the platform, especially those in the developing world, where mobile is king.

Zipdial is a mobile platform that allow users to combine SMS, voice, mobile web, and mobile apps to "bridge users from offline to online." That means, for example, a person can user ZipDial to make what the company has deemed a “missed call” to a designated toll-free phone number. After they hang up, the user will then begin receiving content on their phone from that brand through voice, SMS or an app notification.

The service is especially appealing to people who live in areas without strong access to wifi, and who are not always able to be connected to data. Or those who simply cannot afford a data plan.

Content that will be sent directly to the users phone can range from cricket scores to Tweets from Bollywood stars. In one campaign, Disney used ZipDial for a content in which, during shows airing on the Disney Channel, children would see cartoon airplanes flying across the screen carrying a ZipDial number. They would get points for each number they called and would get point updates either via SMS or voice interface.

The winners of the contest were flown to Disneyland in a specially created Disney aircraft.

“Over the next several years, billions of people will come online for the first time in countries like Brazil, India and Indonesia,” Twitter wrote. “For many, their first online experience will be on a mobile device – but the cost of data may prevent them from experiencing the true power of the Internet. Twitter, in partnership with ZipDial, can make great content more accessible to everyone.”

Founded in 2010, ZipDial says it has achieved over one billion connections with brands across 60 million users.

By joining Twitter, the company said in its own blog post, it will be able to scale at a much faster rate. 

"We also eagerly anticipate everything we can achieve with Twitter. We’ll continue building upon the existing ZipDial platform, and now, by coming together with Twitter, we have the tremendous opportunity to elevate everything we’ve built to a global scale," the company wrote. "Our ambitious goal is to make Twitter’s unique, great content accessible to 100% of the world’s mobile users, including those in emerging markets who will be experiencing the mobile Internet for the first time. We could not be prouder to join the flock."

For Twitter, there are two easy to see benefits. First, it gives the company a bigger presence in India, a country that many startups are looking to break into. The company is even setting up a new engineering office in Bangalore.

Secondly, ZipDial can be used for marketing purposes. As the company wrote about its Disney campaign, "The analytics from ZipDial’s platform converted all the interactions with the campaign into highly actionable data. Using time-wise and geography-based analytics, Disney was able to plan targeted and personalized future campaigns to drive greater viewer loyalty."

ZipDial has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from investors that included Blume Ventures, AngelPrime, Sunil Goyal of YourNest Ventures, Mumbai Angels, Jungle Ventures, Unilazer Ventures, and 500 Startups. 

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.