For many years, Twitter's ad business primarily focused on the top 20% of advertising accounts. These accounts consisted of large brands and agencies personally managed by members of Twitter's #Customers team. Although Twitter's advertiser experience was self-serve for advertising customers of all sizes, avoiding the churn of these largest customers took precedence over the needs of smaller or more novice advertising customers. The result was a complex, powerful advertiser experience that was daunting for newer, less experienced advertisers and inhibited their ability to achieve early success on the platform.
At the end of 2020, Twitter established a new cross-functional team to diversify and grow revenue. One initial area they began exploring was how to increase advertising revenue from the unmanaged SMB segment of the business. The initial hypothesis was that the barrier to creating campaigns using the advanced workflow was too high for new customers, and a new, tailored campaign creation workflow would remedy that.
Although Twitter wasn't focusing on this segment up to this point, we had been monitoring and exploring solutions throughout the years. Thus, I began regularly connecting with the designer working on this effort to offer support through consulting and guidance. Unfortunately, despite efforts to build tighter collaboration between the teams, progress toward delivering this new product experience was slow because the team working on it lacked the depth of understanding about Twitter's existing ad platform and the broader industry.
Thus, we increased our level of support. Eventually, I loaned a strong Sr. Designer from the Ads Design team to increase the velocity and align the effort with Twitter's core advertiser experience. This move drastically increased the momentum. In addition, having a designer with knowledge of Twitter's ad platform enabled the team to produce simplified workflows and prototypes that catered to the target customer and would create successful ad campaigns. The team then took these prototypes to customers to learn more. Finally, the most significant challenge was facilitating collaboration between the Product and Engineering teams to make the vision a reality.
The SMB segment was a broad customer segment with few existing research insights. As a result, individuals and teams had constructed internal myths around what the customers wanted and needed.
The cross-functional team's early hypotheses and research didn't always align with where the market opportunity existed.
Simple Ads was a new product offering for Twitter, so there was no baseline data. Thus, releasing the product experience would be one of the first steps to facilitate learning.
The product KRs were based on gross revenue goals and didn't incentivize acquiring novice advertisers and educating them to become advanced advertisers — a fundamental conviction of the Ads Design team.
Since a new cross-functional team was conducting this effort, there was a lack of collaboration and alignment with the cross-functional ads team.
The Ads Design team was responsible for working across the breadth of our advertising experiences, and we needed to ensure that these new experiences aligned with unique customer needs so that we could generate additional ad revenue rather than cannibalize existing revenue.
As a result of progress made from loaning a designer from the Ads Design team to help with the project and presenting a vision for customer growth through the Advertiser Experience Vision project in 2021, the VP of Revenue Design moved design for the SMB advertising efforts directly into the team that I managed. Thus, Simple Ads became my leadership responsibility in the autumn of 2021, and Quick Promote (another SMB offering) became part of my scope in early 2022.
Within the Ads Design team, I established a pair of designers focused on our SMB efforts. Each designer was the owner of their project — Simple Ads and Quick Promote. However, they were required to collaborate with one another and the broader Ads Design team with the following principles:
Become experts on the customer segment for your product.
Your responsibility is to learn as much as possible about your customer, their needs, and how the broader industry serves them so that you can inform your cross-functional team.
Focus on customer growth and lifetime value, not just acquisition.
The focus should be on acquiring new customers, setting them up for success, and educating them to become more advanced to unlock larger budgets.
Leverage the ad platform rather than reinvent it.
Train new customers on how to run successful campaigns on Twitter through Content Design and streamlining workflows by reducing choice and automatically setting defaults. Utilize existing components by simplifying their complexity and save creating unique workflows for where there is a distinct advantage.
Define boundaries for the experience.
Delivering customer success is more important than features, and working with your partners to define the product experience's specific role to avoid becoming a new advanced workflow. Setting boundaries will encourage optimizing within the core feature set and only introduce features if they are critical in delivering customer success.
Solving for your customer extends beyond your immediate project.
Lifetime success for our customers extends beyond ad creation and is an end-to-end journey. Thus, your responsibility is to represent your customers to the broader team in crits, reviews, and feedback.
In addition to focusing on building alignment within the Ads Design team, I invested time on a frequent cadence with VPs, Directors, and managers across Product, Engineering, and Research to align the teams on common goals. I specifically worked with our Research team to tighten how we identify the most valuable market opportunity within this broad customer segment to prioritize solving the customer needs that would yield the most significant returns.
From late 2021 through 2022, the team focused on defining and shipping the first release of Simple Ads. As a result, the Sr. Designer dedicated to the project collaborated with cross-functional partners to refine designs based on research insights and determine the scope for the initial release. This process involved collaborating with the broader Design and engineering teams to reuse components.
The team began releasing the initial version of the experience to unmanaged SMB customers in Q2 2022. When creating a new campaign, customers could create their ad campaign using a simple or advanced workflow. Aside from fewer controls and features, the simplified workflow delivered the following fundamental changes:
Content design tailored to new or novice advertising customers.
Reduce options for campaign objectives focused on the four most likely to provide success to new advertisers.
Ad creation moved to the beginning of the workflow to provide new customers with a visual of how their ads would appear. This action is at the end of the advanced workflow because larger advertisers often wait for ad creative. Customers also had fewer decisions because the ad format defaulted to the best option for the chosen objective.
This new experience also provided a reduced set of targeting and delivery controls focused on those most critical or likely to deliver the most success for the customer.
Finally, the new workflow included inline payment methods to simplify the process for customers launching their first ad campaign and make it easier for returning customers to update their payment method.
However, creating a campaign is just one step in the journey for many advertising customers. Once they can see how they are performing, some advertising customers desire advanced controls, so the designer worked with the team to provide a graduation path that would allow them to convert their running campaign to an advanced campaign to unlock additional controls.
This release was just the start of the product development for Simple Ads. Throughout the beta and broader launch, the team continually studied the quantitative data to identify target customers and their behavior. Meanwhile, the Ads Design team continued to explore future improvements to Simple Ads and opportunities to improve the end-to-end journey for this customer segment.
This prototype demonstrates the customer workflow for creating a campaign with Simple Ads.