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Twitter next up to tap emerging markets with ZipDial acquisition

ZipDial lets consumers make a phone call and then instantly start receiving marketing promotions via text, voice, and app notifications. This is designed to appeal to people with limited or no Internet access.

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Twitter has acquired India-based ZipDial, as it seeks to appeal to the billions of people who are expected to come online for the first time in the next several years.

ZipDial, which has been a strategic business partner with Twitter in India for the last two years, focuses on mobile users. Its service allows them to place a toll-free call to a specified number. That call will not be answered by anyone on the other end, but lets ZipDial capture the number and start providing targeted marketing to the dialer. ZipDial sends promotional content, such as coupons, ads and referrals, through text, voice and app notifications.

Twitter did not disclose the terms of the acquisition, which it announced Tuesday in a blog post. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"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," Christian Oestlien, Twitter vice president of product, said in the blog post. "Twitter, in partnership with ZipDial, can make great content more accessible to everyone."

Twitter has faced criticism from Wall Street as its growth in developed countries has slowed. The company, however, has said it sees growth opportunities in emerging markets and on mobile devices. In October, Twitter said that 80 percent of its 284 million users now access its service from mobile devices. And although the company's userbase grew 23 percent year over year in the third quarter, investors want more.

By looking to emerging markets, Twitter puts itself in a position to capitalize on people who want content but don't have the ability to tap into it. ZipDial's service is designed for people who don't have ready access to data networks -- a large number of people in emerging markets -- but still allows them to receive content through voice, text and apps. Twitter, in other words, could become the gateway to content for people in emerging markets via its ZipDial acquisition.

The trouble for Twitter is that it's not alone in its interest in emerging markets. Many tech companies, including Google and Facebook, want to find ways to get new Internet users to latch onto their services.

Facebook is arguably furthest ahead on the social side, thanks to Internet.org, a consortium of companies led by the world's largest social network. The consortium plans to spread Web access to the 5 billion people who aren't already online. That, in turn, could give Facebook a massive opportunity to get those people onto its site.

Google is attempting a similar strategy through its Android One plan, which is designed to guide handset manufacturers in how to bring lower-end smartphones to emerging markets.