As some of you know, I find the conversational strategies of branding and marketing on twitter fascinating. And of using feeds/streams for talk-based marketing in general. But I’m just now catching up on twitter’s recent announcement, so take this post with a few grains of salt. I may not have this entirely right. But I thought I’d share some thoughts on the implications of twitter’s new platform on marketing and the twitter ecosystem overall.
The Altimeter Group has a great overview from which I’ll excerpt the introduction:
First Take Analysis: What Twitter’s “Promoted Tweets” Means To The Ecosystem
Summary: Twitter has launched Promoted Tweets, combining paid and organic media. Brands can now advertise promoted tweets on search pages, however the community has power over which tweets will appear measured by Twitter’s new metric called “resonance” which factors in behaviors like the retweet, at, hash, avatar clicks. Brands can now purchase CPM based ads to promote these popular tweets at the top of a Twitter search term –even in categories they aren’t well known in, influencing awareness. Marketers beware: unlike traditional advertising or social marketing this is both a combination of earned media and paid media. For Twitter this experimental move makes sense as it taps into deep pockets of online advertisers without jeopardizing sanctity of the community as users will self select which tweets will resonate and thereby become promoted ads.
How it will work, a likely use case scenario:
- Twitter users will continue to interact with each other, and popular tweets will receive a high ‘resonance’ score from Twitter. Some of these Tweets will be created by brands, and some by the users themselves.
- Tweets with heavy resonance can be purchased by advertisers in a CPM basis to appear as the first ’sponsored’ Tweet on a search term. The sponsored tweets will be clearly labeled and have a different background color.
- These promoted tweets will only stay if users continue to resonate with them, those that don’t will disappear and a different tweet with resonation will appear.
(Read the original post. As usual, the Altimeter Group has done a fabulous job breaking this down.)
Twitter’s promotional tweet strategy will create a very compelling opportunity for brand managers, customer service, sales, marketing, and community managers. It will permit more experimentation, more learning, and more insight. It will also create new risks, for the platform introduces a new set of practices to twitter that will inevitably raise the stakes around transparency, intent, authenticity, and reputation. These will be true not only for participating promoters, but for twitter users themselves.
Any doubt cast on the authenticity and intent of a tweet will rub off not only on the originating promoter, but on all those who “resonate” with it. Any doubt as to the motives of participants will also impact originating promoters and resonaters. These are characteristics that attach to the “speaker,” and to speech. The same will be true of interpretation, or as we might say, the “listener.” Not only will there be questions around what a resonater is doing by promoting promotional tweets — there will be questions about what to do with it (pass it along or not). For example, Does the resonater really agree with it? What aspect of it? Am I supposed to take this seriously, and reflect this user’s interest, or not?
These are fine-grained questions, but they are intrinsic to the very nature of twitter’s system of talk.
Some sample issues and questions
- What’s the credibility of the twitter user promoting a promoted tweet?
- Is the twitter user gaming the system — Digg-like?
- Does the twitter user genuinely resonate with the promoted tweet?
- Why is this promoted tweet resonating?
- How do I look if I promote this tweet?
- Can my followers tell if I’m promoting this tweet because it resonates genuinely?
- Can they tell if I am being facetious — that I’m promoting it tongue in cheek?
- Will I lose followers?
- What is the reputation capital risk of promoting promotional tweets?
- Will there be a perceived difference between promoting retweeted promotions vs the original promotion?
Some implications of promotional tweeting
The odds that a Digg-like group of marketers emerges to circulate promoted tweets and to create resonance by combining large follower networks, a karmic — and measurable! — social contract and mutual commitment to circulate one another’s promotions, seems high. This will immediately raise the risk of a two-class order of users: genuine users and promoters.
- Twitterers belonging to the promotional order will make it onto lists that are to their benefit, but used also by others to unfollow.
- In an effort by genuine users to clear their names, protect their standing, and more immediately, to avoid their own inclusion on promoter lists, a follow/unfollow episode may ensue.
- Some third parties might possibly then provide tools to help genuine users in bulk unfollowing those who have been identified as promoters. They could do this by providing lists, or managing databases of promoters so that they can be easily unfollowed.
- Opting out will now become a cultural practice and code of conduct, as in: “If I ever catch you promoting a tweet I will unfollow you on principle.”
Marketing opportunities: conversational strategies
The new system of conversational promotion will create some compelling opportunities. These will hopefully not only include messages but also short-form narratives, games, stories, puzzles, and more. The most creative campaigns will hail from agencies and brands willing to take the user’s side and deliver content that is an interesting read if not also a compelling activity. Some brands may invent participatory dramas, interactive story-based offers, group or affinity marketing strategies using shared discounts, rewards, and incentives. Those smart enough to try to leverage social graphs will design strategies that percolate through twitter followers as well as Facebook pages, etc. Visibility will be lensed and market segments will be defined in terms of their responsiveness and activity as well as traditional valuations of consumer interest.
Marketers will see here an opportunity to create multi-modal and multi-wave conversational campaigns. These would include messages targeted to different audience segments, tests of content style, offer, brand message and image, call to action, and so on.
- A marketer might create and test a dozen different tweets to track and measure resonance.
- Tweets might be sent at different times of day, be targeted to reach influencers, be designed to resonate with existing intra-day news and events, hashtags, conferences, and other ecosystem attributes that are known to accrue fast distribution
- Marketers should benefit from much greater insight into messaging effectiveness
- Marketers should be able to learn from resonance:
- times of day
- days of the week
- contextual topics, themes, events, etc of use to the campaign
- competitive analysis
- responsive vs non-responsive influencers based on individual influencer behavior and attention
- responsive vs non-responsive influencers based on individual influencer network speed, reach, and resonance
ROI: Go for it, or engage with transparency?
Promotional strategies will unavoidably butt up against the choice between using or targeting effective promotional communities (Digg phenom) and more organic, and dare we say “transparent,” strategies. The former will deliver the numbers, and make any marketer pushed to simply show the numbers happy. The latter will more likely result in honest and credible brand capital. A two-tiered community of social media professionals will continue to emerge, separating those committed to good content and interaction from those hot in pursuit of numbers. Both will have to deal with SEO, and twitter realtime search, but the former group will develop skills in organic conversational strategy, while the latter will preside over a network of promoters with high follower counts and “guaranteed” results.
Marketers may seek new ROI criteria for:
- Influencer and network reputation capital (amenability of influencer to promote; which promotions; around what interests, topics; style)
- Resonance capital (in speed, reach, and distribution; aggregate traffic; conversion; new follower counts)
- Marketers may have to consider effectiveness of circulation by highly resonant promotional “communities” vs organic and “authentic” resonance
- Marketers may be called out by twitter users for leveraging promotional communities
- transparency might then involve not only the messaging, but tactics of promotion
- the rapid and proven traffic gains of using promotional campaigns will be weighed against risks of backlash from users who perceive a brand to have sold out by using these new promotional tactics
What do you think? I’m all for a distinct class of commercial tweets if it helps to sustain twitter’s platform model. It beats the corruption that would be inevitable if commercial tweeting were indistinguishable in form and delivery from normal tweeting. Norms are bound to form around use of promotional tweets. Influences on those norms will come from the brand strategists and experts consulting to companies interested in promotional twitter campaigns. They will also be influenced by those who can leverage the platform’s inherent weaknesses to game and guarantee results. Twitter now has its own search facet, a search engine facet, and a new form of tweet — so lists, third party client accommodations, and of course tweeting practices are all affected. The user experience need not be at risk, but is clearly in play.