Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Promoted Tweets, A Marketer’s Dream?

Well, it’s finally happened. Earlier this week, after several months of buzz on the blogosphere, Twitter launched its Promoted Tweets program, a new advertising strategy that delivers contextually relevant ads in a user’s search results. At launch, advertising partners include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America.

Well, it’s finally happened. Earlier this week, after several months of buzz on the blogosphere, Twitter launched its Promoted Tweets program, a new advertising strategy that delivers contextually relevant ads in a user’s search results. At launch, advertising partners include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks and Virgin America.

“Promoted Tweets are clearly labeled as ‘promoted,’ but in every other respect they will first exist as regular tweets and will be organically sent to the timelines of those who follow a brand,” according to an April 13 blog post on Twitter by Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. Users can retweet, reply or bookmark the messages, which are called out at the top of some Twitter.com search results pages.

Twitter is working hard to distance Promoted Tweets from other sponsored ad programs, such as Google AdWords, in my opinion. In his blog post, Stone wrote, “since all Promoted Tweets are organic Tweets, there is not a single ‘ad’ in our Promoted Tweets platform that isn’t already an organic part of Twitter. This is distinct from both traditional search advertising and more recent social advertising.”

There is one big difference between a promoted tweet and a regular tweet, Stone said: “Promoted Tweets must meet a higher bar — they must resonate with users. That means if users don’t interact with a Promoted Tweet to allow us to know that the Promoted Tweet is resonating with them, such as replying to it, favoriting it or retweeting it, the Promoted Tweet will disappear.”

A home run?
Advertisers and users are cautiously enthusiastic about Promoted Tweets, at least according to what I’ve read in the blogosphere this week.

They’re not sure whether the program will succeed, especially since corporations can already use Twitter to advertise to a targeted audience just by having Twitter followers. Why should they buy a promoted ad when they’re already interacting with customers and prospects? Others are concerned that Twitter-based advertising is similar to unsolicited email.

Two things are clear, though: One, users and advertisers are curious about the program and will be watching it closely in the days and weeks to come. And two, this program was created to generate revenue for Twitter beyond the search deals it’s signed with major search engines.

What do you think? Will you be experimenting with Promoted Tweets? If so, let us know. We’d love to follow up and do a bigger story on this.

Margie Chiu’s 15 Minutes Ahead: Observations from SXSW – Checking Into Geosocial

SXSW 2010 has come and gone, but to the dismay of press, attendees and those who yearn to claim “I was there when … ,” there was no sign of the next breakout app at this year’s event. Instead, the consensus was that geosocial – the convergence of location-based data and social networking – was the unexpected star of the event. 

What’s the big deal with SXSW?
South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) has become the must-attend annual event for the digerati. Some of the brightest digital starlets in recent years, including Twitter and foursquare, were first “discovered” at SXSW. Those in attendance at Twitter’s launch in 2007 and foursquare’s in 2009 still delight in having the bragging rights to “I knew them when … ”

So what created the buzz this year?
SXSW 2010 has come and gone, but to the dismay of press, attendees and those who yearn to claim “I was there when … ,” there was no sign of the next breakout app at this year’s event.

Instead, the consensus was that geosocial — the convergence of location-based data and social networking — was the unexpected star of the event. Take, for example, the thoughts of one venture capitalist interviewed by The Wall Street Journal: “One thing that was interesting was it ended up being a little of a social experiment with everybody there. All 17,000 or 18,000 people were connected on Twitter, Foursquare and Gowalla. It served almost as a big test for what would the world be like when people start adopting all these social tools.”

There was definitely no shortage of tweets and foursquare check-ins. In fact, foursquare set up 16 new badges and other exclusives for the event. Gowalla, foursquare’s rival location-based social network, also put its best foot forward. (Side note: Gowalla was also launched last year at SXSW, but like Jan Brady to Marsha, Gowalla has largely been in the shadows of foursquare. But Jan got her day; Gowalla beat out foursquare this year as SXSW’s best site in the mobile category.

So what actually happened?

I decided to dig a little deeper into this delightful microcosm of SXSW where “everybody” was connected.

First of all, most SXSW venues only had foursquare check-in rates in the double digits. On average, SXSW tagged locations registered a lackluster 35 check-ins. The Austin Convention Center had the highest number of check-ins at 4,634, but that also included 2009 numbers. So let’s say 75 percent of those were in 2010. With a base of 18,000 attendees, that’s a participation rate of just 19 percent. Gowalla didn’t fare much better (sorry, Jan), with 2,634 check-ins at the Convention Center — about 15 percent of total attendees.

And Twitter? Well, using Wunderman’s Listening Platform to sift through the retweets and mentions from nonattendees, we estimated that just over 5,000 unique individuals were actively tweeting from the event. Not bad at about one in four attendees, but definitely falls quite shy of “everybody.”

What’s the takeaway?

Even among the early adopters, usage of geosocial clearly hasn’t yet caught up to the hype.

But the real story that’s still writing itself is how eerily similar all of these services have become. Let’s see: You can post tweets simultaneously to Facebook and Twitter. Gowalla lets you tag your check-ins with comments and photos, not unlike Twitpic. Twitter is now rolling out geo-tracking, bearing an uncanny resemblance to foursquare and Gowalla. And there are rumors that Facebook is getting into the game by integrating with Gowalla and foursquare.

Who’s going to win?

My money is on Facebook as this year’s gorilla in geosocial. Its user base dwarfs that of every other social networking service. In fact, it’s recently eclipsed Google as the most visited site on the web. It already serves as the default cc: for many who are broadcasting Twitter updates, check-ins and mobile photo uploads via other services. A partnership with Gowalla and foursquare will place Facebook squarely in the sweet spot of geo-based social networking — without the fuss of building its own technology.

If you haven’t done so already, take a closer look at geosocial marketing. Once Facebook gets into the mix, it’ll explode. Guaranteed. Anywhere your company has a physical presence — retail locations, local events, industry conferences, etc. — is a great place to test the waters.

Recently my company tested foursquare and Twitter for a consumer product client’s local events. It’s been consistently seeing participation rates of around 10 percent or higher. Certainly not “everybody,” but definitely a respectable showing for a mass-market play.

Time to get on it. Perhaps you can be the one to say, “We knew about geosocial when … ”

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Business Schools Offering Social Media Courses

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as H.E.C., in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums. Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

I read a March 30 New York Times article that said that many national and international business schools are incorporating social media strategy courses into their curriculums.

Take that, all of you social media marketing naysayers!

To meet the demand from companies for skills around social media strategies, tony business schools — including Harvard Business School; London Business School; Insead, the international business school based in Fontainebleau, France; and the École des Hautes Études Commerciales, known as HEC, in Paris — are incorporating courses on social media into their M.B.A. curriculums.

Social media strategy courses, according to the article, “aim to build on existing skills to teach an understanding of social media, of how to build marketing strategies within social networks and of how to track their effectiveness.”

While most of the students entering these programs may be adept at using social networking tools in their personal lives, that’s not enough, says the article. Companies want executives that “can transfer this experience into the commercial world.”

Textbooks aren’t required in many of the courses; instead, students are asked to follow industry-specific blogs to keep up with developments. They’re instructed to communicate with people involved in the social media industry, listening to the issues they deal with on a strategic level.

Schools are teaching social media marketing in a variety of ways. In an upcoming course at Insead, students will work on a project for the luxury brand Hermès, generating detailed social media marketing strategy ideas for the brand. A course at London Business School required students to participate in the 2009 Google Online Marketing Challenge, where teams were given $200 of free online advertising with Google AdWords to work with companies to devise effective online marketing campaigns. Meanwhile at Harvard Business School, a second-year elective course on “competing with social networks” is being offered as part of that school’s M.B.A. program.

The article made the argument that the high level of engagement of top digital media professionals with these courses has reciprocal benefits. Students get to learn from the skills and experience of the executives, while the companies get to make contact with potential future hires with the skills needed to exploit social media channels for commercial gain.

Sounds like a win-win to me. But what do you think? Do you think social media strategy or social networking skills can be taught, or can they only be mastered by folks after they’ve gotten their hands dirty with them?

And should elite business schools — elite, expensive business schools, that is — bother with social media strategy or social networking courses? Should they be instead focusing on more lofty subjects?

Let me know by posting a comment below!

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: A Social Media Sweepstakes Platform, From a Traditional Direct Marketer

Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the traditional direct marketing arena — Publishers Clearing House — is partnering with social media marketing tools provider Wildfire Interactive on a cool platform that enables companies to launch, administer and fulfill social media sweepstakes.

Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the traditional direct marketing arena — Publishers Clearing House — is partnering with social media marketing tools provider Wildfire Interactive on a cool platform that enables companies to launch, administer and fulfill social media sweepstakes.

To me, it’s another example of traditional and social marketing worlds colliding.

Wildfire Promotion Builder, according to a press release that appeared in my inbox this week, is a “scalable and self-service social media marketing platform that makes it easy for companies and agencies to build online sweepstakes and simultaneously publish them on Facebook fan pages, Twitter and company websites, which are automatically integrated with Facebook Connect.”

Promotion Builder has also been integrated into PCH Boost, an application programming interface that automates the legal and fulfillment aspects of running sweepstakes — also known as the unsexy stuff. With PCH Boost, according to the release, “companies can easily offer their customers winnings of up to $100,000 without having to deal with the administration, high costs, legal issues and logistics associated with managing sweepstakes and awarding prize money.”

I think this will be a great and useful tool for online marketers who want to launch sweepstakes programs — which have had a rebirth of sorts thanks to social media — with the expertise of a traditional direct marketer.

Young Affluents Love to Go Social Shopping

Many young affluents are using a social networking niche — social shopping sites — at least according to a new report from Unity Marketing.

Many young affluents are using a social networking niche — social shopping sites — at least according to a new report from Unity Marketing.

What are social shopping sites? They’re sites like Woot.com, Gilt.com, HauteLook and Rue La La that offer “in-the-know-shoppers” deals on cool merchandise. Woot.com, for example, has one product for sale daily until it’s sold out or the clock strikes 11:59 p.m. CST, when it’s replaced by the next day’s item.

Rue La La, on the other hand, is an invitation-only social shopping site, which means you have to be invited by an existing member to enjoy its benefits. Exclusivity adds to the interest factor in this site. It also features premium designer clothes and accessories in private-sale boutiques that are only open for a limited time.

The report, How the Affluent Luxury Consumer Uses the Internet and Social Media: An In-Depth Profile, found that one in three affluents surveyed have visited a social shopping site in the past three months. Social shopping sites are most popular among young affluent consumers under the age of 45. In fact, 43 percent of these young affluents use social shopping sites versus 33 percent of affluents as a whole, the report found. What’s more, affluent consumers’ use of social shopping rose from only 3 percent in 2007 to a whopping 33 percent this year.

“Social shopping sites are going to continue to grow in popularity among the affluent market, especially among young affluents,” said Pam Danzinger, president of Unity Marketing, in a press release about the report. “They offer young affluents shopping experiences they enjoy: quick action, limited access and value pricing. For luxury marketers targeting young affluents, these are the places to be.”

For the study, 1,614 affluent consumers with incomes of $100,000 or more and who bought luxury goods or services in the fourth quarter were surveyed from Jan. 8 to Jan. 27. The average age of respondents was 45.9, and the average household income was $239,300.

Almost 20 percent of those surveyed were classified as “ultra-affluents,” or those at the top 2 percent of U.S. households with incomes of $250,000. Virtually all respondents use the internet for personal uses, including shopping, and nearly 80 percent are social media users.

So if you target affluents (and who doesn’t?), examine the sales models of these sites to see if you can emulate anything like them on your site. Can you offer your customers or subscribers a “special, one-day only” promotion or the like? Or try selling a different, cool or unusual item each day? I bet this approach will keep your customers coming back to your site each day. I mean, everyone wants to be “in-the-know,” right?

Have you ever tried social shopping techniques? Have they worked? Do tell by leaving a comment here or sending a message to me at mcampanelli@napco.com.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: Two Signs That ‘Traditional’ and ‘Social’ Online Marketing Are Becoming One

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

Two announcements were made this week that in my eyes signify a true integration of traditional and social marketing.

The first was the announcement that Omniture and Facebook have joined forces to provide online marketers with solutions to optimize Facebook as a marketing channel. The partnership builds on the Facebook analytics and Facebook application analytics capabilities Omniture announced last year.

This alliance is designed to help companies integrate Facebook as a marketing channel and connect to relevant conversations with the site’s 400 million active users.

Initially, “the two companies will focus on the most fundamental needs of online marketers today: the ability to automate Facebook media buying and access analytics that measure customer engagement on Facebook,” according to an Omniture press release.

The solution, for example, will enable advertisers to buy media and track media on Facebook through Omniture tools such as SearchCenter Plus. It will also enable them to generate reports designed to understand ad effectiveness of Facebook pages and other Facebook applications.

The two companies will continue to expand their partnership as marketers increasingly use Facebook to optimize visitor acquisition, conversion and retention, Omniture said.

The next announcement came from email marketing provider ExactTarget, which announced this week that it has acquired CoTweet, a web-based collaboration platform that allows companies to manage multiple Twitter accounts from a single dashboard, support multiple editors, track conversations, assign roles and create follow-up tasks.

The acquisition will enable ExactTarget to offer marketers a solution for managing communications across all interactive marketing channels, including social media, email and mobile.

A key reason for the acquisition was because ExactTarget was finding that while “organizations are moving quickly to try to capture the potential of social, they’re also discovering that it’s siloed and not integrated effectively with other forms of digital communications,” said Scott Dorsey, ExactTarget co-founder and chief executive officer, in a press release. “By combining the power of ExactTarget and CoTweet, we can provide businesses with a complete solution to tie together all forms of interactive communications and drive deeper customer engagement online.”

I’ll bet there’ll be more announcements like these to come in 2010, as digital marketing software and service providers really begin to understand the impact social media is having on consumers and marketers alike.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: From the ‘Now I’ve Heard It All’ Twitter File

Mattel, for one, is set to release Puppy Tweets this fall, a $29.99 high-tech plastic tag toy that will allow dogs to publicize their everyday activities on Twitter via a sound and motion sensor.

I came across a couple of wacky Twitter ideas this week and wanted to share them with you.

Mattel, for one, is set to release Puppy Tweets this fall, a $29.99 high-tech plastic tag toy that will allow dogs to publicize their everyday activities on Twitter via a sound and motion sensor.

The plastic tag attaches to a dog’s collar and generates one of 500 canned tweets when it detects barking or movement, and automatically posts an update to the dog’s own Twitter page, according to a Feb. 11 Los Angeles Times article.

To use Puppy Tweets, dog owners are outfitted with USB receivers they connect to their computers. Then, they download the toy’s software to create Twitter accounts for their dogs. When a dog moves or barks, a signal is sent from its Puppy Tweets tag to the receiver, which updates the dog’s Twitter page. Owners can check Twitter to see their dogs’ latest posts.

Mattel executives say the toy bridges Americans’ love of pooches with the growing popularity of sites such as Twitter and Facebook, according to the article. Amazon.com has already signed on to sell the toy.

Silly, no?

And here’s another one:

At the 2010 Grammy Awards, avant-garde singer Imogen Heap wore a self-designed Twitter dress on the red carpet, according to a Jan. 31 Mashable article.

A Twitter what? Yep, a Twitter dress.

The dress, which had its own Twitter feed, displayed Twitter pictures sent by fans in real time using the hashtag “#twitdress.” Heap tweeted on the morning of the award show that the dress was envisioned as a way to let fans “accompany me on the red carpet.”

Yes, these ideas are offbeat and a little silly, but they verify one thing: Twitter has made it into the mainstream. It’s turning up in real products targeted at American consumers, and as part of internationally broadcasted television shows.

The message for marketers? If you’re not taking Twitter seriously, you’d better start.

Talk to the (Twitter) Hand: The Perils of Non-Engagement

Every day, companies are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon—and perhaps, yours has done the same. Maybe it’s the lure of gaining new followers. Or possibly the attraction comes from all those Twitter success stories circulating the ‘Net. Or maybe it’s because Twitter takes five minutes to set up and doesn’t cost a dime. That’s OK, too. The thing is, many brands forget that Twitter is more than having a “who’s bigger” follower list or having the ability to Tweet pithy sales pitches.

Every day, companies are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon—and perhaps, yours has done the same. Maybe it’s the lure of gaining new followers. Or possibly the attraction comes from all those Twitter success stories circulating the ‘Net.

Or maybe it’s because Twitter takes five minutes to set up and doesn’t cost a dime. That’s OK, too.

The thing is, many brands forget that Twitter is more than having a “who’s bigger” follower list or having the ability to Tweet pithy sales pitches. Twitter is two-way communication, people. Not a one-sided soliloquy where you’re Tweeting solely for corporate self-gratification.

So let’s talk about two major brands that “get it” and use Twitter to its fullest potential. And then zero in on one company’s massive Twitter #fail.

Alaska Airlines and Starbucks give really good Tweets. When you read them, you get a sense that there is a person behind the computer—rather than a faceless corporate PR entity. In fact, Alaska Airlines even names the person handling the Tweets that day. And yes, their Tweets are more than just what these folks had for breakfast. For instance, Alaska Airlines promoted gift certificates and Starbucks previewed an upcoming sale on Cyber Monday (see the actual Tweets in the media player at right).

But here’s what makes both companies decidedly different: These brands engage with their customers. Starbucks and Alaska Airlines chat with their Twitter followers, answer questions and provide real-time customer service (see more examples in the media player).

Pretty cool, eh? And that’s why many people follow Alaska Airlines and Starbucks. The content is good, you know you’ll get a response and you’ll learn something. Maybe it’s early notification of a sale. Maybe it’s when in-flight wi-fi will be back. It’s useful information.

Let’s compare this to Citibank’s Twitter stream.

To say that Citibank has had reputation management issues in 2009 is putting it mildly. From taking bailout money to hiking credit card rates on some customers to 29.99 percent, the bank’s latest missteps have caused many good customers to cut up their cards. If there ever was a time for a robust social media campaign so people could “meet” the friendly customer service team members behind the scenes (that is, humanizing the corporation), now would be that time.

The good news is that Citibank has a Twitter account. The bad news is that it’s running it all wrong. Rather than using Twitter as a way to engage customers, the firm’s locking its customers out.

For instance, check out some Tweets mentioning @citibank in the media player, above, followed by a screen capture of Citibank’s Twitter page.

So, OK, let’s give Citibank the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it signed up for a Twitter handle to protect its brand identity—but doesn’t plan to leverage this account for some reason. You could almost forgive the bank … except for the Twitter account promoting the Citi Forward credit card (see the media player again, please).

Here are three problems:

  1. Although it will re-tweet, Citibank doesn’t answer Tweets (I tried)—so there’s no real interaction
  2. Saying that Citi Forward is “the card that rewards you for good behavior” seems a bit disingenuous considering that other Citibank customers with good credit histories have had their interest rates hiked to almost 30 percent.
  3. There’s no customer service component.

In short, Citibank is basically telling its Twitter followers to “talk to the hand” (or perhaps, its middle finger.) Rather than dealing with its reputation management issue head-on—communicating with folks and showing the human side behind the financial institution—Citibank is sending out Tweets that provide useful tips, yes … but talks AT its followers rather than WITH them.

If you’re planning a Twitter account (or currently maintaining one,) remember that Twitter is a real conversation (in 140 characters or less.) You wouldn’t keep a friend who constantly talked about herself, seemed oblivious to how other people perceived her and never listened to you.

It’s no different in the online world.

The perils of non-engagement in the Twitter universe are real—and the rewards for an excellent, interactive campaign are also real.

After all, what would you rather do? Tell people to talk to your Twitter hand or, instead, engage with your prospects and customers in a new, interactive (and profitable) way?

Seems to me, the choice is easy.

Marketers, Stop Ignoring Your Content Marketing Strategy

As I write this, I’m on the plane heading back from DMA09. While I was moderating the Search Marketing Experience Labs, one common element ran through every site review: When you ignore your SEO content marketing strategy, you’re hobbling your conversions, ignoring your customers and forfeiting your search engine rankings. Here’s why.

As I write this, I’m on the plane heading back from DMA09. While I was moderating the Search Marketing Experience Labs, one common element ran through every site review: When you ignore your SEO content marketing strategy, you’re hobbling your conversions, ignoring your customers and forfeiting your search engine rankings. Here’s why.

Seth Godin had it right when he said, “The best SEO is great content.” A well-written product page can skyrocket your conversions. A fantastic blog post can gain your company new leads and incoming links. The right Twitter tweet can gain not just followers but evangelists for your brand.

It’s really that important.

I’ve been in the SEO industry for 12 years. During that time, I’ve seen companies spend six figures on design, embrace five-figure monthly PPC costs and chase the latest “sexy” online marketing tactic.

Yet unfortunately, these same companies will ignore the foundation of their SEO and conversion success—creating customer personas, developing a keyphrase strategy, and developing useful, keyphrase-rich content that helps prospects across the buy cycle and engages customers.

Instead, the content becomes an afterthought. The one piece—heck, the only piece—of a company’s marketing strategy dedicated to engaging with customers becomes, “Isn’t SEO content supposed to be stuffed with keywords in order for me to get a high ranking?”

And that’s sad.

Think of your SEO content marketing strategy as your online salesperson, enticing your prospects to learn more and communicating with your audience. Your SEO content strategy could encompass many things, including:

  • Product/service pages.
  • Blog posts.
  • Articles, FAQs and white papers.
  • Twitter tweets.

Every word you write is a way to engage, inform and, yes, sell. But most importantly, a content marketing strategy helps you communicate with your prospects on multiple levels.

Fortunately, some companies “get it.” Forbes reported in its 2009 Ad Effectiveness Survey that SEO (and yes, that includes your content play) was the most effective online marketing tactic for generating conversions. Furthermore, Mediaweek reports in its article, “Marketing Must-Have: Original Web Editorial,” how AT&T created more than 100 how-to articles targeted to small business owners. Paul Beck, senior partner and executive director of Ogilvy Worldwide, is quoted as saying, “Having a core content strategy is the secret to engaging an audience.”

And at the end of the day, isn’t engagement what it’s all about? The company that engages, profits. The company that doesn’t—even big-brand companies that dominate the brick-and-mortar world—get left in the dust.

My monthly SEO & Content Marketing Revue posts will show examples of companies who “get it”—and what they’re doing right. I’ll share what’s worked for companies like yours, as well as what to avoid.

Most of all, I’ll share how the right SEO content strategy can gain your company the SEO and conversion “win” you may have been missing up to now.

And I’ll answer your questions (because, yes, you will have questions,) showing you how to leverage the power of strong, customer-centered content.

Stay tuned. This will be fun. Promise.