Immediacy of Social Media Models Gives Marketers the Twitters

03 December 2010

Like many revolutionary technologies, it’s taken the human species a little time to figure out the best uses for Twitter—and along the way we’ve discovered some glorious mistakes, as well. Twitter Product Management Head Elizabeth Weil and Cotweet CEO and Founder Jesse Engle shared their perspectives with the CMO Club Summit in a discussion moderated of Jeff Rorhs of Exact Target on where Twitter does—and doesn’t—drive business forward.

Nobody can deny it—Twitter is crossing into the mainstream. With approximately 175 million users and about 90 million tweets each day across the platform, Twitter has become the marketing opportunity—and threat—we can’t afford to ignore. No argument there.

So what do marketers do about it? Twitter would suggest marketers first take a look at three new advertising products they’ve launched: Promoted Tweets (which lets advertisers broadcast specific tweets to broader audiences), Promoted Trends (which lets advertisers kick-start or seed a viral discussion by leveraging a highlighted discussion trend on Twitter) and Promoted Accounts (which boosts the visibility and following of a specific advertiser on Twitter).

But even those promoted products are just the beginning. Weil was quick to note that only discussions that are truly resonant—that are interesting, organically followed and re-tweeted—will break through and achieve meaningful results for marketers. “Tweets are supposed to be spontaneous and right for the moment,” Weil commented, adding that when marketers over-think tweets and try to make them brand-compliant and on-message, “it makes it artificial and it starts to not feel like Twitter.”

According to Engle, the first task is to find ways to take advantage of conversations taking place on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, and to find the most natural place for a brand to dive into the discussion.  Weil concurs. “One of the biggest misperceptions around Twitter is that you need to Tweet,” she noted. “Such a great way to get into Twitter is to observe just what’s going on.”

Engle also points to a fundamental difference between Facebook and Twitter: the speed at which bad news travels. “Facebook is something you can choose to do or not to do as a marketer,” he noted, “but Twitter is something you have to pay attention to. A single tweet can disrupt your whole brand.” He advised being ready, knowing what discussions to watch for, and having a response plan in place.

But one thing Facebook and Twitter do have in common is the massive database of information and insights they are gathering about their ever-growing populations. What we tweet, when we tweet, where we tweet from, and what we do with other tweets all speaks volumes about our connections, our desires and our preferences. One participant was curious to know what kind of data Twitter is in fact capturing, and at what point Twitter could transform into a data targeting and research entity.

“I can’t tell you,” noted Weil, “But advertisers tell us they want to geo-target better and demo-target better … and we have something unique.”

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