By now, everyone has heard about Twitter’s move into the paid advertising world. This week’s announcement that companies will be allowed to pay to have their posts lead search results on the popular social media platform launched hundreds of news items and more than 1,000 blog posts per hour (according to Google Blog Search) in the immediate aftermath of Biz Stone’s communiqué to the Twittersphere.
The avalanche of coverage, sandwiched in between breaking news of major nuclear disarmament negotiations and the largest U.S. coal mining tragedy in a generation, speaks volumes about just how far our little smiling whale has come in terms of reach and relevance.
It wasn’t long ago that the micro-blogging platform had business communicators of all shapes and sizes wondering if it could survive in the crowded online information marketplace. After all, argued the naysayers, how much time is really left for social messaging if the average user is already spending close to an hour on Facebook each day? With tens of millions of “Twitterers” sending an average of 50 million daily tweets, it’s safe to say that those concerns have been put to rest –- and corporate America has been paying attention. According to the results of a recent survey, 65% of Fortune Global 100 companies are now tweeting away. That’s more than are on Facebook, YouTube or in the blogosphere.
To my colleagues in the communications world now examining the new Twitter paradigm, caution should seem to be the word of the day. Unfortunately I fear many will very likely miss the meaning of Twitter’s maturation entirely. As The Wall Street Journal noted on the day of the announcement, “The new feature could appeal to the millions of businesses who have created accounts on the service to share deals and other corporate updates. Today, those brands must get users to follow them to get out their message. Now, they will be able to push their message to users who search any keyword they buy.”
Keeping Twitter Monetization Social
If there is one thing we know about social media, it is that previous attempts to “push” corporate messaging have largely fallen flat. In some cases, they have backfired entirely.
During the past year, Twitter has trained successful online brand marketers, reputation managers, and digital thought leaders to focus on the “value of providing value.” Unlike almost any platform to date, Twitter has urged, nudged and down-right forced messengers to infuse value into the dialogue, 140 characters at a time. With Twitter now offering an expanded road map for pay-for-play engagement, those entrusted with managing online reputations forget these lessons at their own peril.
As we jump into the brave new world of paid “twinfomercials,” a few points bear remembering when deciding how best to leverage this social media sea-change:
1. The Acceptance of Advertising. Twitter’s core demographics are familiar with paid online advertisements. They largely accept that the best things in life cannot remain free if providers fail to leverage the financial opportunities they bring about. They do, however, want their preferred platforms to be as discreet as possible in pursuit of profit. And, above all, they want full disclosure of how their engagement is capitalized.
Twitter’s approach to advertising has so far been one of the more transparent and open to feedback we’ve seen in the social media space. And by remaining transparent to its community, as Twitter has successfully done to date, the platform could avoid many of the same pitfalls that continue to plague just about every new update Facebook has let loose on its half-billion users.
2. Advertising Alone Won’t Do the Trick. Despite the eager hopes of corporate communicators and brand managers who might be looking for the path of least resistance, promoted tweets are no silver bullet. They, and whatever future developments roll out in the months ahead, are but one instrument in a symphony of Twitter engagement tools. Used in coordination with sustained, value-driven engagement, they will certainly help to amplify messaging. Made to stand alone, however, they will unquestionably fail in a marketplace that values continuous personal interaction.
3. Tailor Your Advertising to Twitter. Corporate marketers need to step up to the plate and take it upon themselves to create value-driven Twitter ads. This is not another opportunity to rehash a Facebook Mafia Wars advertisement or show users how they too can have a ripped six pack. Advertisers need to sit down and think about how content is used and shared on Twitter, and, importantly, what makes a Tweet (paid or not) successful.
The clear challenge for marketers is to avoid the siren’s song of instant Twitter ROI soon to be peddled by many in the online sales business. The temptation to drop earned affinity efforts –- which have come to define corporate stakeholder engagement during the platform’s meteoric rise –- in favor of a “promoted tweets only” approach ought to be resisted at all costs. While Twitter has matured in its offerings for advertisers, its community’s appreciation of thought leadership and value-oriented dialogue remains the same.
For those brands up to the challenge, ultimately, Twitter’s millions of users may find themselves having even greater affinity for the brands and organizations that put the time, energy and commitment into quality paid advertisements that compliment integrated value-driven dialogue.
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