November 28, 2010

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Typecasting Twitter As social media become routine in consumers’ lives, marketers are eager to understand how and why different social networks are perceived and how they are used. Twitter, the 140 character service, part news ticker, part party line and part message forwarding service, confounds many clients because of its skyrocketing awareness, intense, often time sensitive usage patterns and the novelty of brevity. Twitter calls itself “an information network,” an identifier amplified by Ben Paar’s sense that it has a news media feel. Brian Solis focuses on its fluid nature and constant morphing by observing, “On Twitter, we form contextual (and incidental) networks characterized by week and strong ties spanning online and offline experiences.” Twitter has come out of nowhere and, in roughly five years, has achieved an 87 percent awareness in the United States. With 180 million unique visitors a month the potential is vast but a small minority of tweeters accounts for most of the 90 million tweets per day. Twitter has 17 million active users, approximately seven percent of the US online population. Sixty-four percent of these users are adults 35 or older, 51 percent follow at least one brand or company and almost one in four access the service by mobile phone. Yet Twitter works like talk radio. A few people drive the conversation but the vast majority of “lurkers” watch and listen to the on-going conversation, but don’t participate. Thirty four percent of registered users have never tweeted. Another 73% have tweeted ten times or less. Twenty five percent of registered users have no followers. There is a huge voyeuristic curiosity at play. Lots of people don’t want to miss what’s happening on Twitter. The new (September 2010) design changes make it easier and simpler to add or embed links, video, audio, maps, pictures or other elements that flesh out or add dimensions to the story. According to Social Twist, Twitter posts draw a click-through-rate (CTR) of 19.04 percent, almost one in five, which is astounding in terms of interest and interaction and eight times greater than the CTR on Facebook. Twenty nine percent, one in every three tweets yields some kind of reaction – comments, re-tweets or clicks. Ten percent prompt a reply to the original tweet. These are direct marketing nirvana numbers. The hashtag convention (#subject) makes it easy to find and participate in any conversation. Hashtags are early warning radar blips for marketers monitoring conversations, scouting trends and policing brand reputations. Ongoing broad public conversations on a national or lobal scale are the unique and differentiating aspect of Twitter and enable us to characterize a handful of unique uses for this channel. From what I can see, the seven dominant uses of Twitter are: Customer Service. Twitter enables real time praise and complaints as well as a channel to address and respond to either. Best Buy’s Twelpforce has mobilized 2300 employees to respond to 19,500 customer service queries in the past year. Other brands are engaging and monitoring the flow of positive and negative opinion about their products or services, operational performance, personnel and credit, shipping, return and merchandizing policies. Early Warning Radar. Brands routinely track, monitor, count and characterize the conversations about them and their products on Twitter. This enables them to assess social sentiment, establish benchmark attitudes, follow viral transmissions and measure market or message penetration. It is common for brands to assess the impact or resonance of TV commercials or important promotions by looking to see if and how much Twitter patter they generate. Direct Sales. Dell pioneered direct sales on Twitter and holds all the bragging rights. With 80 different Twitter handles pitching a full line of products and services, they have opened up an unexpected and growing revenue stream. Coupon & Deal Distributor. A third of registered Twitter users signed up to get deals and discounts. Brands are regularly experimenting with distributing coupons and discount codes on Twitter. Other brands are offering sneak previews of new products and services, limited time and exclusive access to new stuff or priority access and pricing to Twitter savvy customers. Every brand is trying to understand how many of its Twitter followers are actual or potential buyers and several brands are testing offers and incentives to convert followers into buyers or convert one-time buyers into repeat VIP customers. Breaking News Ticker. Twitter is a news source, a barometer of reactions to breaking news and a distribution channel. 19 percent of all tweets are about breaking news. With 600 tweets per second, Twitter is...
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Why We Must Encourage Opt-Outs New kinds of data collection and analysis about consumers’ online activities will dramatically increase the productivity of the Web and social media as brand communication channels. But marketers need an open attitude toward privacy plus widely available and easy-to-use mechanisms for opting out. Ownership of your online behavior is a fundamental human right. So is the option not to be tracked and not to play with brands. The only debate about the Federal Trade Commission’s “Do Not track” policy should be about the terms and conditions for implementation. The marketing reality is that effective opt-out tools, full disclosure and avenues to avoid tracking, yield better, more responsive databases filled with consumers who are open and interested in messages from brands. That’s why marketers must support neutral third party solutions like the Open Data Partnership or concepts offered by the IAB or the DMA. We must set forward industry standards and best practices for protecting individual rights and privacy. And we better move quickly before the administrators at the FTC lay down arbitrary regulations or before a gaggle of ham-fisted showboating politicians impose a set of draconian rules that kill the Golden Goose. The ability to create highly targeted anonymous target lists is growing exponentially. The ability to zero in on individuals with both an expressed interest in a product or category and a high propensity to respond or buy is within our grasp. Traditional data aggregators and processors are being joined by online tracking firms with the ability to build rich, detailed psycho-demographic and behavioral profiles that will give marketers a whole new magnitude of targeting precision. Media efficiencies and ROI beyond anything we’ve seen before are on the horizon. These new capabilities will scare the beJesus out of many people. But frankly the more opt-outs we provoke, the cleaner and more productive these lists will be. So our near-term mission needs to be to create easy, well-marked ways out, develop visual cues that alert consumers about tracking and scrupulously respect the stated preferences of our customers and prospects.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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