I originally posted this on Techcrunch, and cross-posted here on the Web Strategy blog.
If you’re like me, you may have noticed that Twitter may be arbitrarily, randomly, and haphazardly, unfollowing people you fully intended to follow. Similarly, if you’ve ever noticed your friends and contacts unfollowed you, it may have caused a sense of confusion, dread, or self-insecurity. Before one spirals into a series of apologies or deep-depression, it’s likely not your fault, (whew!).
What’s causing this? I’m not sure, so I asked my proper contacts at Twitter who responded “This is a bug, and our team is working to fix it.” They also sent me a link to their support FAQ, which indicates the known issue. I’ll leave it to the team at Twitter to get this resolved, but in the meantime, let’s discuss how we can cope with this industry phenomenon.
Imagine this bug in the physical world: Your dear Aunt Margaret wasn’t invited to your wedding due to mail parcels gone missing, or your executive wasn’t invited to your big presentation meeting because your address book deleted him, or you couldn’t call your best friend to let them know about your funding announcement because his contact info went missing.
The act of following someone in Twitter is an important social indicator for at least three reasons: 1) A follow suggests the individuals content is worthy of listening to and you want to hear their thoughts –even the most mundane ones 2) It’s an important indicator that you’re willing to engage in deeper conversations by receiving direct messages and 3) At a broader social perspective, this is a gesture this person is in your broader social clan, your kin, your affinity.
Importantly, in my line of work (and probably in yours too), direct messages have become a mainstay of communications with clients; in fact, some overloaded executives ask me to DM them, rather than email them. In more than one case has a qualified business request come by direct messages requesting my research and advisory services. Unlike the overloaded email channel, direct messages are an important opt-in business communication channel of higher quality signal.
Despite the business communication opportunity losses, there are broader social impacts that may relationships around you. Just a few days ago, one of my dear colleagues Susan (@Setlinger) pointed out that she wanted to send me some information, but noticed I had unfollowed her and half-jokingly wondered if she’d offended me. This wasn’t any passive-aggressive maneuver by me, I had full intentions to follow her, and quickly apologized and refollowed her.
Yet, I wonder how many business, personal, and casual relationships are strained by the bug haphazardly unfollowing. It causes us to give pause and question the stability of the Twitter infrastructure, usage of my personal data and social network, and what important messages I may have missed from my trusted Twitter network.
So what can you do? If you find that you’ve arbitrarily unfollowed someone in Twitter (or maybe you need an excuse to escape the ex), and you’re in a potential embarrassing situation, I recommend bookmarking this blog post, and sending it your apparent victim, explaining the situation was out of your hands. Hopefully no relationships were damaged, and we can continue happily twitter-ing with relationships salvaged.
I’d love to hear from you, have you been a victim of the bug? How are you coping?
Related Links: My findings spread to Telgraph, Huffington Post, Mashable, Verge, cnet and many others.
This Monday, I’ll have spent five years on the microblogging service Twitter. Exactly how much of a commitment is that? Let’s do some crude math: starting with the baseline of 30,000 published tweets, (about 13 a day), I estimate this to be equivalent to writing about 4-8 books. In aggregate, that seems like a lot, but when one publishes on this micromedia network it’s hard to even fathom how it could add up.
To share how I got into this journey, let’s go way back to when I worked at PodTech, a fledgling social media network that pooted out. I did however work with some of the best in the industry, and I recall my colleague Robert Scoble coming by my cube proclaiming “You need to get on Twitter right away Jeremiah”, his eyes ablaze in geek-citement. To me, this was nothing new, as with every week, Scoble would come into the office telling me about the next greatest thing from his interviewing adventures. Yet this one had legs. It felt right. The conversation was small, there were just a few folks on from Silicon Valley, NY, a bunch of edgelings, in fact, I recall the top 100 list looking similar to the top 100 list of Google+ a few months ago, a cadre of mostly well read tech bloggers.
Over time, we saw it grow, and mainstream media celebs moved in, media companies, and brands. Spam started to happen, and we saw a strain on their service as fail whales emerged at great frequency –causing a migration to the ‘backup’ network on Plurk. Over time twitter continued to grow, we saw applications emerge, marketers jump on, and even political figures join into the fray. Things started to grow into a frenzy as there was a race to get to a million twitter followers between aplusk and news networks –a testament to the turning tide of people gaining power over larger corporations –and the the impact this tool had to regime change in distant countries that really don’t feel so far away now. While I could go on and on about what I saw, I’ll leave that to expert story tellers like Shel Israel, he captured the history so well in his book Twitterville, I’ll let you revisit his tome.
Now, on to the future. Where is Twitter going? As my colleague Charlene says, “Social media will be like air”. It will continue to be part of many of our digital communications. I expect automated devices to tweet on their own (from Puppy Tweets, Fridges, and Plants) it’ll spread to cars, appliances and even our heart monitors. Twitter themselves, has gone through a series of internal leadership changes, and has recently launched a new layout, and I expect them to roll-out more features similar to Facebook’s brand pages. In the end, Tweets will become a data layer, just a way to simply pass information, much how we rely on RSS, and then fade into the background as a cultural utility.
It’s been a fun five years on this network, and I look forward to the next 5, as social disappears into the background –and people surface to the front. Thanks Twitter, and all those that are using it.
Infographics. I love them.
Nothing tells a story better than using colorful, easy-to-read illustrations that couple important data points that justify the meaning. In fact, over a year ago, I said that “Infographics are the new white papers. Our media consumption diet has shifted from steaks to shish kabob“.
Infographics are becoming the norm –the medium is at risk to get saturated
Yet lately, I’ve started to see this once early adopter medium get saturated. We’re starting to see infographics for every topic, and I’m getting infographics sent to me as part of press releases, or you can create infographics out of your resume on demand. Heck, there’s even an infographic for infographics on HuffPo and a different one on my friend Scott’s site Laughing Squid. In fact, there are over 570,000 counts of infographic images on Google, and even one Flickr pool has over 5000 pictures.
How else could they evolve?
Well let’s think. As more data emerges, certainly we must continue to make data presentable and consumable, we a mixture of shish kabob (short form content) –and steaks (long form). Well, they could be interactive, so as you click on them, additional information appears and you can dig in to the nested data, see how Newsweek is doing this for data on World’s best countries, or how Forbes is tracking migrations across the United States or how National Geographic layers on infographics on how we’re quickly approaching 7 billion inhabitants on Earth.
I like what Joe Chernov at Eloqua did, I think he’s doing some of the most interesting stuff in this space when it comes to marketing in new mediums, he created a Probook that has elements of stories, data, graphics, in a deeper format. As one of our clients (disclosure), I worked on this project with Joe and Jess3, who popularized this medium, so much so, that many other firms are emulating Jess3. I look forward to seeing how they will continue to push the medium forward.
If you see some interesting evolutions of infographics (3D, interactive, digital books, video) please leave a comment and shout out these new projects, let’s give them some visibility.
Infographics are Useful –But They Must Evolve.
The Altimeter Group was pre-briefed by Twitter COO Dick Costolo last week about this upcoming launch, we’ve had some time to think over what it means to the industry. Help your boss fight through the clutter, send them this post.
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 jeapordizing 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. (Update: Just saw Dick’s recent video suggesting that promoted tweets will appear in other locations beyond search) 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.
Matrix: What Twitter’s Promoted Tweets Business Model Means to the Ecosystem
This has several implications to the ecosystem as a whole, we’ve broken down the impacts to the various players in this matrix:
||What They Will Do
||What No One Tells You
||Finally gets a business model beyond search deal partnerships with potential to scale. Taps into deep pockets of online advertisers.
||Experiment. Expect black and gray hat marketers to try to game this system, in order to obtain resonance. Twitter will constantly tune algorhythm like Google does.
||Expect this to cascade to their partners and grow into the ecosystem as Twitter aggregates resonation on other 3rd party sites
||Have power over which promoted ads will stay visible
||Initially be shocked by changes, then learn they can help self select tweets that will be promoted.. In the real time resonace world users have a lot more power
||Power tweeters like celebs and digerati will be targeted by marketers to engage and resonate tweets. Twitter users that retweet tweets may be surprised to see their promoted tweets in search engine results ads.
||The conversation is now being monetized, with changes to the outcomes of whats expected of the online conversation and engagement.
||Educate traditional marketers. These folks will try to increase resonance of tweets by interacting with community. Will build an inventory of top promotable tweets
||Don’t go overboard, make sure you think of this in the larger context of integrated marketing. Avoid shiny tool syndrome. Must pay close attention to what terms are resonating with community to build inventory
|Direct Marketers and Advertisers
||Finally traditional advertisers and direct marketers have skin in the social game in a way they know.
||Flail. Many will try to buy their way in and obtain resonation without asking why a tweet resonates. Will fight over top searched terms in Twitter, expect a lot of contests to promote tweet engagement.
||Expect tension between this marketer and the social marketer if education is not completed.
|Developers and Agencies
||A clear goal (resonation) has been put forth, with opportunity to get a cut of the incoming advertising dollars.
||Developers are waiting with baited breathe for Chirp developers conference this week to see how this will be tied in. Twitter has indicated that promoted tweets will spread to clients, expect revenue sharing to be offered
||Don’t buy the first ‘resonation solution’ that comes around, expect half a dozen vendors and agencies to approach brands in the next quarter offering the ability to increase ‘resonance’ and case studies will show increase in resonance.
|Competitors and Search Engines
||A new player being in town a new form of advertising is afoot changing the game.
||Expect nervous deals to come to the table on how search engine results can factor in Twitter’s resonance. Expect players like MSFT and Yahoo to quickly launch their version of defining how the social web should be categorized.
||They will have the advantage of built in ad base of advertisers and millions more users. Expect existing Twitter partners Google Search and Microsoft Bing will fold this in and reward resonance and combine with page rank, or will create their own metric to reward social engagement
For Resonation, Brands Must Pay Closer Attention To Users –This Isn’t Traditional Spray And Pray. Power continues to be in the hands of the users, however brands that pay attention to why tweets resonate will have a leg up. here’s how you should approach this new space:
- Change your mindset, as organic and paid merge: This is a combination of organic and paid ads, you’ll need skills from both worlds to be successful. Direct marketers should educate social marketers, and social marketers should explain how resonation occurs in the conversational web. Remember, this gives top tweets staying power beyond the constant stream of chatter. In the end, remember that users have power over which advertising inventory will be created, chosen, and allowed to stay as a promoted tweet.
- Remember Twitter users have power over which promoted Tweets will work: Remember that users they get to choose which tweets can be put into the advertising inventory as their interaction will self select which tweets can become promoted. Secondly, promoted tweets that don’t yield community engagement will also fall off the stream. is that in the real time resonance world users have a lot more power. Brands must analyze what works for users first before promoting tweets.
- Then, carefully pick tweets to be promoted by analyzing the conversation: First, monitor which tweets are already resonating with your brand, take note of what is causing it to resonate and in what context. Secondly, recognize that these tweets should have long term impact, not a daily special as the tweet is promoted, users will interact with it, forcing it into a viral loop. For best results, experiment with promoting tweets from your customers –not just those that you create.
- Recognize that ‘Resonance’ is the page rank of microblogging: Advertising agencies and social marketing agencies will come out of woodwork with “resonance solutions”, yet most will do it wrong. Instead, look for a sophisticated partner that knows the value of social conversational marketing to create an inventory and the long term experience of an advertising agency. Expect resonation to also cascade to other social networks like Facebook and even community platforms and content management systems to derive what content should surface. Twitter has made nods to new dashboards to appear, expect your agency partners to align around resonation as the new ROI.
This post is the result of the collaborative efforts of the Altimeter team including Charlene Li (Leadership), Alan Webber (Web User Experience/Government), Michael Gartenberg (Mobile and Devices) and Christine Tran (Customer Strategy Research), learn more about the Altimeter Group. For more news, see Twitter blog, AdAge, we’ve cross posted on the Altimeter blog, and NYT for details.
This post was collaboratively written on a wiki by Charlene Li, (cross posted) who maintains a focus on Leadership Strategy and Jeremiah Owyang, who maintains a focus on Customer Strategy. Together, we’re covering the convergence of emerging technologies at the Altimeter Group.
Twitter brokers a deal that offers search engines Microsoft Bing and Google Search access to their real time data streams. Also, Facebook, offers up public status updates to be searched and served up to Microsoft’s Bing. This trend towards micro media requires companies to pay attention to the real time and social web for marketing, support, and competitive strategies. There are several impacts to the ecosystem, here’s what you should know:
- Deal Fills In Technology and Relationship Gaps for Twitter. Twitter lacks the computing power of a premiere search engine, as their current Twitter search results are littered with spam, duplicate tweets, and are only sorted by time. Leveraging the sophisticated engineers at Microsoft and Google affords Twitter an opportunity to focus on their platform –not search. From a business aspect, this deal makes sense is that Microsoft and Google both have relationships with advertisers and brands, with trained sales forces to cut deals. Although the terms of the deal aren’t public, it’s suspect there was an exchange of material goods, it’s likely that Twitter will benefit from revenue share in the near future.
- Social Search to Serve Results Based On Time, Authority. Expect real time data to merge with existing search engines, as a result we should see Google Search and Bing to serve up search results based on: 1) Real time information based on what Twitter users are saying, including memes from trending topics, 2) Preference given to links and URLs that are tweeted by users with more followers or authority, 3) Geo location of tweets to influence search results. As users seek “Thai Restaurants in San Mateo” location based tweets could provide additional context. 4) Eventually results will be served up by your friends. Google has given a nod to serve up information based on your social graph (your friends) using Google Profile.
- To Compete, Facebook Must Make More Content Public. For closed social networks like Facebook, this means they need to continue to offer up more data that can be searched in public by search engines. With default settings in Facebook set to ‘friends only’ this will continue to be a challenge as Facebook’s community prefers the filters and privacy settings that this closed social network provides.
- Twitter’s Future: Seamless Integration with the Web. Success for Twitter isn’t about becoming a destination site, but instead about becoming a data protocol that’s embedded everywhere. Like “Air“, microblogging features are already present in multiple applications, desktop and mobile clients, and the bite-sized information is becoming available in context wherever it’s needed.
- Customers Influence Search Results An even more amazing impact of these announcements is that for the first time, consumers will be able to directly impact web search results. Although companies spend thousands of marketing dollars controlling their search results by using Google’s advertising services, customers and competitors can quickly and cheaply impact search results using simple tools like Twitter. Consumers, empowered using mobile devices as a publishing platform can link to content and influence search results. Now, a simple tweet with a picture of a plane landing on the Hudson from a mobile phone will show up at the top of search results.
Key Takeaways: Customers Impact Brand Search Results Using Twitter
Even if your company is not active on Twitter, your customers can influence the search results related to your company –you must pay attention to this trend. Just as your company likely already has a search strategy through search optimization or paid search terms, you’ll need to extend micromedia to your strategy. In order to be prepared for this change, companies must:
- Develop a Listening Strategy That Starts With Roles and Process. Every business and market is now moving faster and faster as information spreads around the globe in minutes –if not seconds. Companies must be ready to quickly identify flare ups, be ready to respond, and correct incorrect information. Develop a listening strategy that has internal roles set in place, a process to respond and the right tools like Radian 6, Visible Technologies, BuzzMetrics, or Cymfony.
- Change The Marketing Mindset –Legacy Methods Ineffective. Search marketers must understand that blasting marketing information through Facebook or Twitter won’t be effective, as search engines will filter out irrelevant messages that nobody listens to. Instead, marketers should allow content on all web properties and email marketing to be easily added to Facebook, Twitter, and other social sites by offering icons that encourage people to share. Providers like ShareThis and AddThis make this simple to do.
- Develop Influence Marketing Programs. Since these search engines have all noted that they will rank real time information on a person’s authority and not just traditional page ranking, marketers must double down on building these relationships. More than ever, brands will need to foster discussions within Twitter as retweet, replies, and linking behavior will influence what is served up on results pages. It takes time to build real relationships that develop into public conversations so get started now.
For a list of social networking stats (including Twitter) we’ve a 2009 collection we keep up to date.
Shel, a contemporary, a friend, a mentor, knocks it out of the park yet again with this follow-up book on the next set of smaller faster tools: microblogs. Twitterville is a collection of stories that tell how the protagonist overcomes challenges from organizations, cultures, or crises.
One of the challenges of writing a technology book is that the tools and technologies change faster than the ink can dry. Shel Israel’s Twitterville overcame this challenge with ease, as he focused not on just the tools, but instead the stories about how people were connecting to each other –not just a focus on the technologies. I noticed the same crafted stories in his first book Naked Conversations, which focused on the impacts of blogs to business.
If you’re a social strategist at a corporation or agency and are trying to develop plans, efforts, or programs to connect with customers that are on these microblogging tools you should have this book.
Why? You should keep abreast of all the different tools, tactics, and deployments in your toolchest –this book has 15 major sections, each with multiple case studies. Such as Rubbermaid’s lethal generosity, IBM’s thousand twittering experts, and the growth of personal brands (page 170 has a case study outlining how I use Twitter). In the end, you’ll find practical steps to getting started, best practices, and the nuances of online twitter etiquette.
I still talk to the press about the emerging technologies and their impact to business, and will keep Twitterville at arms length, it’s a desktop reference to quickly find case studies of how people have used simple technologies to connect to each other. And thanks to @shelsisrael who gave me the first signed copy.
Brands often ask how they should position their persona on social media profiles and accounts, this guide should be a helpful breakdown. This post is inspired by Michael Brito, one of Intel’s social media strategists who presented on this topic with me at Stanford a few weeks ago. There are different purposes for different needs, so my standard breakdown is designed for you to weigh out the pros and cons as you make your decision.
From Corporate to Personal: The Four Types of Twitter Profiles
1) Pure Corporate Brand
100% corporate branded with primarly corporate related content. These accounts, which are often sporting the proper brand name of a company are used often to provide corporate news, deals, and support. There is no indicator of any individuals involved.
Example: Four Seasons corpoate or McAfee News feed which indicates it’s not an interactive feed.
Pros: This account can be managed by a team, and less risk of an individual being co-branded with the brand, as they may leave later.
Cons: This may be perceived as a just an extension of corporate PR or the corporate website with little human interaction.
2) Corporate With Persona
Estimated with about 80% corporate brand and 20% personal brand this account may be a corporate branded account, although it’s clear there’s an individual participating.
Example: ComcastCares, which shows the account is run by Frank Elliason, or CiscoNews, by John Earnhardt
Pros: This account maintains the face of the corporate side, yet shows a human element, building trust with the community.
Cons: The account may be limiting itself as the community may come to expect and rely on the individual person to participate.
3) Employee With Corporate Association
In a rough estimate this account consists of 20% corporate related content, and approximately 80% personal information. Perhaps the most common account are the thousands or maybe millions of accounts my employees that may not explicitly represent a brand –but they represent their individualism and often indicate they’re an employee of a company.
Example: Take any personal account, which often indicates their name, they indicate they’re an employee, although may have disclaimers that their opinions are theirs alone. Bert Dumars of Rubbermaid.
Pros: These personal accounts are often organic and are a great way to build connections with a community.
Cons: Even if a disclaimer states that “these opinions only represent me, not my employer” they still are representatives of the brand.
4) Pure Personal Account
These accounts are 100% personal content and have no tie or mention of corporate or branded information. These personal accounts, either created by an individual that doesn’t want to be associated with their employer –or their employer won’t let them is void of any corporate ties.
Example: There are various personal accounts, without any affiliations to brands.
Pros: This account has no tie or risk to a brand.
Cons: Although the risks are reduced, so are the opportunities. The chance to evangelize the brand with their community are lost.
Each Profile Type Serves A Different Purpose
Which type is right for your social media endeavors? It depends on the culture and goals of the organization. Expect many brands to have several of these accounts (For example, Cisco has types 1, 2, and 3) within their social arsenal). Type 1 may be useful for sharing facts, Type 2 may be helpful for support, Type 3 may have advantages in evangelism and type 4 may be helpful for employees that have little connection to the product or customers.
Having multiple types of profiles for your brand strategy is useful, play to the strenghts of each, however it’s important to note that having internal coordination with process and policy will also help to provide a common, high-quality experience to customers.
Love to hear from you, what profile types does your company use? If you found this helpful, tweet out what kind of account you are, with this URL to this post http://bit.ly/3fZOHt
Update: July 6th, I added a 4th way, as I recently met a developer this weekend who showed me the scripts he created to quickly auto follow thousands of folks.
Companies who don’t have iconic brands with millions of adoring fans, often have to resort to other ways to get the attention of the market. This isn’t evil, nor is it uncommon, it’s just business, and was here before the web, and will be afterwards. Don’t get mad or emotional about it, let’s break it down to understand how it’s going to work, if you’re a concerned user, use this post to figure out how to beat it. If you’re a marketer, figure out what works –and throw away what doesn’t.
Breakdown: How Brands Are Buying –and Earning– Followers on Twitter
As a result, we’re seeing some of the same method applied to the web and email as to the social space. Here’s three examples (again in outline form) that I saw this week.
1) The Sweepstakes Giveaway: Moonfruit becomes a Trending Topic
- Summary: This giveaway contest spurs word of mouth –results in opt-in “registration”
- How they did it: Moonfruit offers website building services, and is offering a new computer to those that tweet about the contest (see their official contest page), the only way to receive a product is if you follow their account (opt-in). Of course, this means the members are subject to future messages.
- This is the same as: Contests, WOM marketing, tell-a-friend.
- Benefits: Rapid word of mouth about a brand driving awareness and opt-in as people follow the account, likely a percentage of followers will convert and buy the service.
- Risks: This doesn’t build long term engagement with a brand, and it’s likely many will unfollow after the contest is over.
- Costs: 10 Macbook Pro (13″) which is $1500 each for a total of $15,000. If the follower count retains at 10k a day (it’s day 3 today) for 10 days resulting in 100,000 followers, that’s about $.66 a follower, not including marketing efforts.
- Results: Big wins. Moonfruit is a trending topic 3 days after the contest landed, there are thousands of retweets and tweets about the brand, as well as an increase in followers of about 10,000 a day (graph).Update: It’s now July 6th and the Moonfruit account has stalled out at 43k followers –it didn’t grow 10k as the first 3 days did. It’s also no longer a trending topic. Techcrunch Europe comments.
- My take: A natural extension of other marketing forms to Twitter. The giveaway prize matches well with the type of clientele the brand wants, and it’s certainly generating a high degree of discussion for at least 10 days. This really isn’t a new model, and we should expect more brands to offer these types of sweepstakes, however to make it better, the tweets should be more inline with the brand promise, such as asking the followers to tweet about “what website they love, or would build”
2) Buying Customer Matching Lists: uSocial Promises Relevant Followers
- Summary: Service called uSocial offers brand cost per action (CPA) advertising resulting in customer match
- How they do it: uSocial matches brands with suggest followers that have similar affinities, keywords, or profile information, BBC has the story. It looks like they will find matches, and suggest to twitter users that you follow that brand, (likely through an automated spammy system) till the reserve is met.
- This is the same as: What’s new is old again. This is very similar to direct marketers buying email lists of prospects that have similar demographic or affinity information. Martin agrees. Kevin Marks makes a good point that it’s not like email, as you can’t make folks follow them on Twitter. I suggest it’s the same, as you can’t get a user to open a spammy email.
- Benefits: They promise lots of followers within a few days, a very low cost.
- Risks: Brand damage. If the market finds out (it should be easy) that a brand isn’t earning their followers, they risk backlash and people unfollowing, or even worse, unfollowing.
- Costs: The lowest package (there are others) is $87 for 1000 followers–it breaks down to 8 cents a follower. If you buy the 100,000 follower package it drops down to 3 cents a follower.
- Results: I’ve not heard if this works, I’m sure someone will report back to me.
- My Take: Use as a last resort: If it looks to good to be true, it probaly is. The uSocial site looks like a ‘get rich quick’ site, the design comes across really spammy themselves. It’s likely brands that do buy this will likely act in a similar way, and I wouldn’t expect followers to stick around if they behave in a similar way. It’s likely a brand that goes for the quick hit doesn’t have a long term strategy to interact with their public market, and will use Twitter as a distribution point. However, brands that do have a community strategy, and have developed relationships using Twitter, could certainly benefit from the increased awareness to likely prospects –the only risk is that it may come across as spammy as uSocial makes recommendations.
3) Product Discounts or Specials: Dell Offers Followers Specials
- Summary: Some brands are generating followers by providing special deals to followers.
- How they do it: For some time, Dell is offering reduced priced or refurbed products on their Dell Outlets Twitter account.
- This is the same as: signing up for emails to receive discounts.
- Benefits: A low cost channel to sell products to an opt-in crowd, avoiding excess inventory.
- Risks: Can’t think of any, leave a comment if you have one.
- Costs: Inexpensive. It appears there is a community manager responding and answering questions, so the cost of this part time employee, or contractor, must be accounted for.
- Results: Dell has made the claims they’ve generated over $3 million in revenues from this single account. Of course, that’s a drop in the bucket for this tech giant.
- My Take: Replicate. This is a great use of using the medium to obtain more interested followers that are requesting to be customers. The downside is that not every company has products to offer on a discount, nor the brand appeal. Brands should find ways to offer special deals to this highly viral community, offsetting the costs by weighing in the benefits of WOM and press coverage.
4) Auto Following Scripts and Services: Get followed by following
- Summary: A variety of services have been released that will find followers for your account to follow, then do an auto-follow script that will add them. The hope is that many of them will auto follow you back, out of courtesy, in order to increase follower amount. The downside? It can look spammy, and many who return the follow are often bots.
- How they do it: Similar to the Usocial service, they find followers (sorted by keyword, geo, name, etc) and start to follow. There’s a limit to how many Twitter will let a script auto follow per day. After a few days, the Twitter account will be following thousands of other accounts, and the hope is that many will follow in return.
- This is the same as: Cross linking and link farms. Websites a few years ago would share cross links in hoping of increasing their page rank –soon Google caught on to this and started to regulate. A whole industry of ‘link farms’ emerged, however some of the sites involved with this were penalized by Google.
- Benefits: Cheap way to get lots of followers.
- Risks: Brand damage by being somewhat spammish, and many of the return followers are likely bots just returning the follow. As a result, the returns for this may not be mixed: some new followers may be your target market, although not all will be the ideal individual.
- Costs: I’ve heard of package that can add a few thousand followers for around $25-$100, it’s just a simple script to run.
- Results: You will get lots of followers if you follow others –although you’ll have to live with the risks
- My Take: Easy come, easy go. While many popular twitter users go on a rampage to follow as many people as they can, I find the slow organic way of letting the right folks opt-in is the a better long term strategy. The Twitter founders Biz and Ev told me first hand they frown on people who do mass follows, at some point we should expect Twitter to clamp down on this behavior, just as Google did with link gaming.
Hope this breakdown is helpful, it’s important to look under the covers and analyze. Of course, I’ve not discussed the organic way of brands providing helpful content, interacting, or supporting customers, but that’s been written to death by the many social media bloggers.
After chatting with Loic today of Seesmic, we discussed what brands may want from Twitter. It’s true, I’m getting more client calls from the world’s top brands about how to use tools like Twitter as a collective team. Based upon my discussions with them, here’s what I see are some key needs in:
What Brands Want In a Twitter Client:
- Ability to quickly scan what is being said about the brand, products, services, employees and competitors. Although difficult expect sentiment tools to appear that help brands with thousands of mentions manage the discussion.
- Ability to understand who is saying what, and understand their influence.
- Manage multiple accounts (Dell has about 35 seperate accounts) from a central team.
- Enable employees to tweet from their account: BestBuy created a custom CMS systems that allows approved employees to tweet to the main BestBuy account with a specific hashtag
- Triage incoming requests and topics to the appropriate teams for followup, much like a CRM system
- Tag and flag these requests, denote and track who responded to what, when and what are the end results.
- These point solutions should integrate with other system such as brand monitoring, CRM systems
- The savvy companies will aggregate the discussion in Twitter about their products on their corporate website, making them more relevant. Zappos was an early adopter, yet Skittles went too far.
- Enable multiple employees to post to single Twitter accounts (like a CMS system) some may have approval systems.
- Keep track of which employee tweeted and when, build in workflow as global teams will need to work together to respond to customers.
- Update: A few folks in the comments have requested a publishing timer, where folks could preschedule tweets.
- Brands must be accountable of corporate resources, every resource is an investment and reports about time-to response, number of followers, number of mentions and sentiment will matter.
- Be able to benchmark all of the above and deliver time based reports.
There’s a few companies that are emerging that can do bits and pieces of this, but I’ve yet to see anyone vendor meet this. From the brand monitoring side, Radian 6 and to some degree Scoutlabs can do listening and workflow. CoTweet and Hootsuite are often discussed in the corporate context, yet many personal usage is tied between Tweetdeck, Seesmic Desktop (formerly Twirl) and Peoplebrowser.
Want more business case studies, I’ve read the proof of Twiterville by Shel Israel, it’s loaded with business case studies and written in a great story telling format, it’s going to be a desktop reference for me once it publishes.
Although it’s Sunday, I’m on way up to San Francisco to the Twtrcon conference on the closing debate panel, where I’ll be arguing a contrarian position in Kara Swisher’s panel, I’ll make the case that Twitter doesn’t matter: instead we should focus on trends, and that Twitter is overhyped, I said the same thing at my 140TC keynote last week, Joe has the details. Should be fun.
Are you managing a corporate Twitter account? Leave a comment
Enough from me, what features to corporations want in Twitter clients, please leave your thoughts and needs below.
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This by no means represents all brands, but just some brands, perhaps those that are a bit more sophisticated.
Last Friday I had a conversation with a manufacturing firm that had some relativily sophisticated questions about how they will prepare their plan around Twitter. This was a nice break from the “why does Twitter matter” questions I usually get, as they were thinking through a plan.
Here’s some of the excellent questions this organization, and a handful of others brands are starting to ask:
- Should we create multiple accounts for different divisions? How should we name them? How should the content be different?
- Is it ok to just tweet out news on our main corporate account? Or should we be conversational?
- How do we get our corporate reps (sales, product teams) to use this tool, and be conversational?
- Should we follow folks? If so, what’s the protocol? Should we only follow folks that follow us? We don’t want to appear like ‘big brother’
- What are the tools to use to manage multiple authors/tweeters?
- How can we find other examples of B2B twitter examples?
- How should we brand our Twitter backgrounds images?
Ok, that was more than 8, but I grouped them into related questions. It was refreshing to hear this much thought being put into their conversational efforts, this was actually a manufacturing firm, not a high tech company and certainly not a young startup out of southpark in SF. In general, the level of interest has gone up about Twitter since late Q4 2008 from my clients, and recently, we’ve been getting more questions about the topic.
What questions are you hearing from brands that are approacing Twitter? I gauge the level of sophitication of a brand by which of these five questions they’re trying to answer, just change out ‘social media’ to ‘twitter’ to gauge.
Are you at an agency or at a brand? What questions are you hearing about Twitter?
Update: Antonio has answered, as has Jess, and so has Dirk who heads social media marketing at Vignette.