Paid Advertising Opportunities on Twitter

With 140 million registered users and 350,000 new sign-ups per day, it’s past time for marketers to think about taking advantage of the paid advertising opportunities on Twitter. Twitter will continue to monetize its site by rolling out new advertising products in the near future, and there are two opportunities that are currently live: Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends. A third opportunity called Promoted Accounts is currently in testing for a select few advertisers.

With 140 million registered users and 350,000 new sign-ups per day, it’s past time for marketers to think about taking advantage of the paid advertising opportunities on Twitter. Twitter will continue to monetize its site by rolling out new advertising products in the near future, and there are two opportunities that are currently live: Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends. A third opportunity called Promoted Accounts is currently in testing for a select few advertisers.

Promoted Tweets
Promoted tweets allow advertisers to bid on keywords on search results pages. The ad unit shows up at the top of the search results and looks like a regular tweet except that it’s labeled “promoted.” Similar to paid search, the advertiser pays when a searcher engages with the ad, which Twitter calls cost per engagement (CPE).

An engagement is classified as a click on a tweet, a retweet, a favorite or an @reply to the tweet. CPE is currently reasonable because of limited competition. Promoted Tweet advertisers mostly only bid on their brand terms and have little or no competition for those terms. Thus, a small budget can go a long way.

Links within Promoted Tweets can go anywhere — like to a brand’s native website, its Facebook fan page or a YouTube video. With Twitter’s new version being rolled out through September, advertisers can embed content within a Promoted Tweet. Promoted Tweet users will also have access to a dashboard that measures engagement metrics for their tweets.

Twitter users may be searching for product names to see what the Twitter universe is saying about a product they’re considering purchasing. Promoted Tweets give advertisers the ability to show up on top of the search results for their product names. Thus, a Promoted Tweet can do things like help manage a brand’s reputation, provide more information on certain products and offer coupons.

Promoted Trends
Promoted Trends allow advertisers to show up in the “trending topics” section on the right rail of Twitter. For Twitter’s redesign, the trends show above the fold. The first 10 trends are topics that are naturally trending on Twitter that day. Promoted Trends show as the 11th trending topic, and are labeled “promoted.” Promoted Trends run for a day at a fixed cost. When a user clicks on a Promoted Trend, they’re taken to the Twitter search results for that trend, where the advertiser’s Promoted Tweet ranks on top.

If you’re thinking about running a Promoted Trend, pick a topic that seems to fit with the day’s other trends. Keep in mind, the topic could have trended naturally. This makes Promoted Trends ideal for keywords around new product releases that will be generating some amount of buzz on Twitter.

Movie studios have embraced Promoted Trends for new releases. Twitter users are likely to be buzzing about topics related to a new movie release. A Promoted Trend will help create even more buzz around the movie. Promoted Trend advertisers thus garner more engagement — e.g., clicks, retweets, favorites and @replies — and followers.

Promoted Accounts
Promoted Accounts launched this week and is currently in testing. They allow advertisers to pay to be included in the “Who to Follow” feature, which is displayed on a user’s profile page. “Who to Follow” suggests accounts that users should follow based on their interests, as determined by other accounts they follow. Promoted Accounts should be a great way to gain more followers who are interested in a particular brand or service.

The Twitter phenomenon isn’t something that advertisers can ignore. All brands should be using Twitter to engage with their fans and critics naturally. And for some brands, paid opportunities like Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends can help increase engagement, manage reputation, gain followers and sell products.

5 E-Marketing Lessons from Social Media News Links

“The stories and issues that gain traction in social media differ substantially from those that lead in the mainstream press,” says the Pew Research Center‘s Project for Excellence in Journalism in a recent study, expanded here on Journalism.org. “But they also differ greatly from each other.” These differences highlight traits in these mediums that e-marketers must understand to effectively market through social media channels.

“The stories and issues that gain traction in social media differ substantially from those that lead in the mainstream press,” says the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism in a recent study, expanded here on Journalism.org. “But they also differ greatly from each other.” These differences highlight traits in these mediums that e-marketers must understand to effectively market through social media channels.

1. “Bloggers gravitated toward stories that elicited emotion, concerned individual or group rights, or triggered ideological passion,” according to Pew’s report on the study. Obviously this highlights the partisan boil of recent U.S. politics, but it also exhibits what bloggers want: something to talk about. To have a marketing or PR campaign picked up in the same way, it has to be a conversation starter, something that inspires bloggers and their readers to comment. If you’re going to feed bloggers, make sure there’s meat on the bones.

2. Bloggers gravitate toward newsy items more than opinions. According to Jounalism.org’s expanded report, 83 percent of the news items bloggers link to are news reports, and only 13 percent are opinion pieces. This makes sense when you consider that bloggers want to voice their own opinions on subjects, and are therefore more likely to pick up stories that report — or publicize — core facts about which they can pontificate. Your own opinionated items tend to speak for themselves, and could get picked up by bloggers more to argue against than discuss.

3. For Twitter users, “the mission is primarily about passing along important — often breaking — information in a way that unifies or assumes shared values within the Twitter community.” Twitter is known for its discussions, but it’s not a great discussion space. Updates are fast, widespread, easy to ignore and perfect for passing on actionable information: “Company X is giving away free thingamajigs! LINK. #YourCompany.”

4. YouTube’s “most watched videos have a strong sense of serendipity. They pique interest and curiosity with a strong visual appeal. The ‘Hey, you’ve got to see this,’ mentality rings strong.” However, videos don’t have to be funny or outrageous. Outrageousness can seem like the only videos that go viral because that’s what shows on the web and TV (“Web Soup,” “Tosh.0”) make famous. But any video that’s really interesting can go viral and drive sales. Companies like Dynomighty Design have had success driving whole product campaigns with simple videos showing how cool their products are, such as this video for the company’s magnetic jewelry.

5. “Across all three social platforms … attention spans are brief.” This goes both for the length of the message and the length of time it’ll remain relevant. The majority of top stories remained top stories for no more than three days, especially on Twitter. The study also found that social media picked stories up much more quickly than traditional media. Combined, these traits mean lift can be short from any one message. A marketing or PR message delivered on Sunday and picked up by Tuesday will likely lose its buzz before the weekend.

What Would the Korean Taco Truck Do?

Some of the most interesting marketing ideas aren’t coming from big consumer brands and award-winning agencies, but instead from scrappy local businesses such as Kogi BBQ, AJ Bombers and The Roxy. Los Angeles-based Kogi BBQ, for example, started the mobile food truck Twitter trend and is now a marketing legend, its story covered by everyone from the New York Times to the BBC (and, coincidentally, eM+C).

It’s 12:30 in the morning and you need a Korean taco fix. No worries, Twitter is there to enable. If you live in a metropolitan area, odds are there are a dozen or more mobile food vendors that are broadcasting their latest location, specials of the day and wait time via Twitter.

Some of the most interesting marketing ideas aren’t coming from big consumer brands and award-winning agencies, but instead from scrappy local businesses such as Kogi BBQ, AJ Bombers and The Roxy. Los Angeles-based Kogi BBQ, for example, started the mobile food truck Twitter trend and is now a marketing legend, its story covered by everyone from the New York Times to the BBC (and, coincidentally, eM+C).

Another small business that’s getting its share of headlines is AJ Bombers, a Milwaukee burger joint. It made news in March when it attracted over 150 foursquare users to its restaurant who were looking to earn a coveted “Swarm Badge” — awarded when 50 or more foursquare users check in at the same time. It has since held another Swarm Badge party, most recently on foursquare day. Yes, there’s a foursquare day. It’s April 16th, mark your calendar.

When the new owner of The Roxy took over the famed L.A. nightclub, one of the first things he did was replace its website with a blog. He also collaborated with other entertainment venues on the Sunset Strip, including The Viper Room and The Comedy Store, to promote each other’s events via Twitter and Facebook. And then came the Sunset Strip Tweet Crawl, now an annual event, where tweeps (Twitter followers) enjoy free cover charges to bars and clubs on the Strip, prizes, and drinks specials announced via Twitter throughout the night.

What they’re doing right
These businesses have all succeeded in standing out by embracing new marketing techniques, letting their unique personalities shine through. But above all, they’ve maintained a relentless focus on pleasing their customers. What they’re doing feels personal because it is personal. Here’s a look at how you can do it, too.

1. Lighten up. Have some fun and don’t take yourself so seriously. Over 230 foursquare users showed up at A.J. Bombers last month to claim a custom “I’m on a Boat” Swarm badge by checking in at the kayak located at the front of the restaurant. It’s not always about the “value exchange” of coupons and points; often, good old-fashioned silliness can be an incredible motivator to join in. What’s your kayak?

2. Stay in touch. Communicate frequently with your customers. Use digital media to reflect the vibrant, living, breathing company you are. This is especially important for social media. If you have a Twitter follower base or Facebook fans, these are your hand raisers — i.e., people who want to hear from you. Talk to them; tell them what’s going on.

3. Play nice in the sandbox. Man cannot live on kimchi quesadillas alone. Many of these small businesses have a collaborative approach with their competitors. Koi Fusion, a Portland, Ore.-based Korean BBQ truck, regularly banters and sometimes smack talks with competitors such as Whiffies (the deep fried pie guys) and Potato Champion via Twitter, but also wholeheartedly cross-promotes them on its blog. Might there be alliances with “frenemies” that are mutually beneficial?

4. Behave like a person, not a “brand.”
Think about the way you’re treated by your favorite supermarket cashier, bartender or restaurant waiter. That’s the standard by which you should be addressing your customers. If you’re going to start a Twitter account or already have a Facebook page, get ready to respond. Want to see this in action? Just mention JetBlue in a tweet and see how quickly you hear back from them.

Think small

Imagine yourself in the place of these entrepreneurs. What would your company do differently if you just started a brand new business? Is it getting by on a shoestring marketing budget (OK, maybe that part doesn’t take that much imagination) with just a few hundred customers, most of whom you know by name? What would the Korean taco truck do?

Most Twitter Users Follow Brands

A new report from Edison Research’s Arbitron/Edison Internet and Multimedia Series, Twitter Usage In America: 2010, contains all sorts of interesting Twitter facts. It presents three years of tracking data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,753 Americans conducted in February 2010.

A new report from Edison Research’s Arbitron/Edison Internet and Multimedia Series, Twitter Usage In America: 2010, contains all sorts of interesting Twitter facts. It presents three years of tracking data from a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,753 Americans conducted in February 2010.

A key finding for marketers: Fifty-one percent of Twitter users said they follow at least one brand on a social network, according to the report. That number drops to just 16 percent for users of all social networks.

What’s more, 42 percent of Twitter users said they use the tool to learn about products or services, and 41 percent said they use it to provide opinions about them. Twenty-eight percent said they use Twitter to look for sales or discounts, 21 percent use it to purchase products or services, and 19 percent use it to seek customer support.

Here are some other key findings from the report:

  • Awareness of Twitter has exploded from 5 percent of Americans age 12 and over in 2008 to 87 pecent in 2010. By comparison, Facebook’s awareness is 88 percent.
  • Despite near equal awareness, Twitter trails Facebook significantly in usage: 7 percent of Americans (17 million people) actively use Twitter, while 41 percent maintain a profile page on Facebook.
  • Nearly two-thirds of active Twitter users access social networking sites using a mobile phone.
  • Blacks make up nearly one-quarter of the U.S. Twitter population, twice their share of the total population of the country. In contrast, whites make up more than 69 percent of internet users, but about one-half of Twitter users.

The report said that high usage in the black community could be related to the mobile nature of Twitter. While many users update their status with a PC, mobile devices are a major conduit of microblog posts. Research shows that blacks and Hispanics are both more likely than whites to use the mobile web, especially among younger users.

Pretty interesing stuff. Were you surprised by any of these findings? If so, please leave a comment below.

Melissa Campanelli’s The View From Here: How Twitter Helped Tax Season Run Smoothly for TurboTax

If you think you’re busy putting your taxes together during tax season, think about how busy it must be for the employees at Intuit, who work with its TurboTax brand.

If you think you’re busy putting your taxes together during tax season, think about how busy it must be for the employees at Intuit, who work with its TurboTax brand.

To help make the process of answering all the questions it receives during tax season more efficient and effective, TurboTax launched a major Twitter initiative in February. It enlisted 40 employees — everyone from tax experts to product managers to support reps — to answer both tax and software questions through its Twitter account.

The process was managed with the help of ExactTarget’s Twitter platform CoTweet, a sort of CRM Twitter software that enables users to easily search for questions across Twitter about taxes; assign customer tweets to the right expert within the company; and respond to the customer in short order. In fact, the program enabled TurboTax employes to answer tweets in less than four minutes.

The program worked. After April 15, TurboTax surveyed its customers and received the following results:

  • 54 percent of TurboTax Twitter followers specifically sought tax help;
  • 48 percent of users said TurboTax was effective in helping them complete tax returns; and
  • 77 percent of users said they’d likely recommend TurboTax.

Best practices
Because of the success TurboTax enjoyed, I asked Chelsea Marti, public relations and social media manager at TurboTax, to come up with some best practices associated with using Twitter for business. She offered the following three:

1. Remember that you’re a brand. “While you may want to personalize your approach with your Twitter followers, remember that you’re a brand first; don’t invade their personal spaces,” Marti said. “Start out by introducing yourself and saying hello, then start answering questions. Don’t start hawking your products or throwing information at them right off the bat.”

2. Keep it fun. “We find that we have much better engagement with followers when we’re light-hearted and friendly,” Marti said.

3. Plan ahead. “Before you begin an enterprise-level Twitter program, have a plan in place,” Marti warned. “Spend a substantial amount of time searching for how people are talking about your brand on Twitter before answering questions.”

Do you have any Twitter for business best practices you’d like to share? Please do so here.

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: 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.

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.

How Dell Leverages Social Media Across the Company

While attending the eTail East conference in Baltimore this week,  I was pleasantly surprised at what seems to be a pattern in online retail shows this year. While the show was small, all the sessions were packed. And everyone seemed to be in generally good spirits — despite the economic situation.

While attending the eTail East conference in Baltimore this week, I was pleasantly surprised at what seems to be a pattern in online retail shows this year. While the show was small, all the sessions were packed. And everyone seemed to be in generally good spirits — despite the economic situation.

One session I attended on Aug. 5 featured Liana Frey, the director of communities and conversations at Dell. Her session, “Community 2.0 — Lessons Learned From Engaging in Conversations With Customers,” focused on the success of the Round Rock, Texas-based firm’s use of social media.

Dell’s successful use of social media has been well documented. Dell Outlet, for example, has attributed $3 million in revenue to its presence on Twitter, where the division posts its latest offers.

What’s more, Dell Outlet has almost 1 million Twitter followers and is a “recommended” presence to follow by Twitter. It also occasionally makes “Twitter-only” offers available to followers.

Dell has put a concerted effort into its social media programs, according to Frey. It started them through a small group that was part of its corporate communications department. Today, however, social media is embedded throughout the entire organization.

“We’ve changed our organizational structure so that our tech department can answer specific technical questions through Twitter, and our customer service department can answer customer service questions,” she said.

While Frey admitted there’s some risk to this approach — where someone may say something that’s inappropriate, despite the social training, and damage the brand — she added that using this approach was worth the risk.

“We had enough confidence in our employees’ expertise that we felt it was important to make them transparent,” she said.

At lunch later that day, many folks agreed with Frey’s comments. Almost all of my tablemates said that for social media to work, it has to be part of a corporation’s culture. And, most importantly, there has to be buy-in from the top of the corporate structure — the CEO or president.

Do you agree? Let me know by leaving a comment here.