Paid Media… Meet Social Media: The New Twitter Model

For three years, many of us skeptics have wondered aloud about the viability of Twitter. Will they sell sponsorships? Can they corporate tools help merit their billion dollar plus valuation? Would power users be wiling to pay for their services? Apparently, the answer is no (or at least not at the core). Instead, Twitter is taking a page out of the paid media book of tricks — but with a social twist.

Witness, the promoted trend. Some of you who still make your way over to Twitter.com may have noticed that at the top of the trending topics list, their is now a little yellow “promoted” box. According to a trusted source, this slot is purchased for 24 hours and as of right now, is selling for somewhere in the $100,000/slot range. While little data has emerged about the success of these promoted trends (or the accompanying promoted tweets), up to 80% of the advertisers who have tested promoted trends and tweets are repeat buyers.

Twitter also has a third product called recommended accounts which they plan to dial up over the coming months (beta tests with select brands ran in September). These accounts can include people, companies and services. What I like about this last model is that it fulfills on the promise of marrying social media (an annuity) with paid media (ongoing costs). It will also put pressure on companies to get strategic about their bio, picture and quality of their tweet streams.

Coming Soon

While I’m still not 100% sold on the value of the sponsored tweet (apparently they are sold on a cost-per-click basis), I do like the idea of the trends and follower recommendations, especially as things like geo, demographic and day-part targeting come into effect (I’m assuming that Twitter has plans for those in the works). All of a sudden, brands will have an opportunity an amazing opportunity to present relevant content via links based on location, profile, current trends and past behavior. And most important of all, this gets done in a place that’s become a regular hang out spot for millions of regulars.

Where things could get really interesting is when tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are fitted for these same types of paid media opportunities. I’m just guessing here but I have a hunch that Tweetdeck’s launch of their latest version that includes real time updates is signaling a tighter integration between Tweetdeck and Twitter (otherwise, I can’t imagine that Twitter would allow Tweetdeck full access to its API). It’s this kind of integration that will prevent Twitter from being disintermediated from itself by the ecosystem of tools and clients that have cropped up over the last three years.

Which brands will be most successful using Twitter’s new paid offerings? I guarantee that any kind of travel and entertainment business will benefit from this. Retailers — particularly around the holidays — should also benefit from the opportunity. B2B will definitely have a tougher time cracking this nut but then again, many B2B companies are more niche advertisers anyway.

What do you think? Will Twitter truly realize it’s billion dollar plus potential this way? I have a feeling that they may just be onto something.

Who is Powered?

Normally, it is realistic to think that a company’s website can easily answer the question, “who are we.” That’s because in most cases, companies start off as something and grow organically. Occasionally, however, companies acquire (or are acquired by) other companies. And while this adds accretive products and services to their general offerings, it doesn’t radically change the focus of the business. In the case of Powered, nothing could be further from the truth… but we see that as a good thing.

In case you missed it, last January, Powered announced that it had acquired not one, not two, but THREE other companies. To borrow a term from Bill Watterson’s well-known cartoon series, Calvin and Hobbes, earlier this year Powered Inc. was transmogrified from a company that focused on building online communities to a social media agency.

Given what we were hearing in the market, this was the right move. But at the same time, January is a tricky time to merge four companies together because in our case, all four companies had a bunch of business that they were trying to close before the year got started in earnest. So all four companies were given a fair amount of leash and allowed to continue using their own names and pitching prospects using products and services that were in their wheelhouse.

As the head of marketing for Powered, you can imagine that my job of trying to promote a business comprised of four distinct entities located across three geographies — Austin, TX, New York, NY and Portland, OR — could be tricky. Up until a few months ago, that was absolutely true. But over the last three or four months, our collective companies are starting to gel and we now have a much more cohesive story to tell when asked “who are we.” But it’s taking a little time to catch the website up (kind of like changing the tires on a moving car).

In the spirit of giving people a little bit better sense of who we are, I thought it might not hurt to give a quick drilldown of what we say we do, who we we work with and then provide a few case studies. Oh, we also have a number of folks that work here who blog and tweet and podcast. If you haven’t met those folks (or didn’t know they were all under one figurative roof), I’ve provided links to them as well.

WHAT WE DO
Powered is a dedicated social media agency that helps brands fully capitalize on their social initiatives, make them more relevant in an increasingly digital, connected and social world. Now with 75+ employees in its offices, we bring our clients “best-in-class” expertise across the social spectrum by offering a combination of strategy, planning, activation and management for social presence and programs including those centered on Facebook, location based/LBS, mobile applications, influencer activation and community building, content marketing, earned media and experiential marketing.

Clear as mud, right? Well they say that a picture is worth a thousand words…

At our simplest, you could say that we actually do three things:

  • Help companies “socialize” their websites
  • Build branded presences in places like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube
  • Get prospects, customers and enthusiasts to “do stuff” on behalf of companies. The “stuff” includes evangelizing, sharing, buying, referring and educating among other things.

WHO WE WORK WITH

Powered is lucky enough to work with A LOT of really cool brands. Rather than trying to list them all here, I’ve provided links to the various industries that we work with — each one contains company names and mini case studies about what we did (or are doing) with each of the brands:

Note: for a deeper dive on some of our active Facebook projects, be sure to head over here (StepChange is one of the four companies that is now a part of Powered Inc.

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP

As I mentioned before, we have the benefit of working with some extremely smart people here at Powered… many of which try and practice what they preach (myself included). You can find the blog and twitter activity for many of us on the Powered.com home page. But for a slightly more comprehensive list, here are the folks that are regular content creators (alphabetically):

So what did I miss? What more can I tell you about Powered? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer!

Podcast: Driving Awareness & Engagement with Social

Author & Blogger, John Cass

John Cass

David Armano

David Armano

One of the things I love about my job is that I get a chance to meet and interview tons of interesting people. Some are execs at big companies? Others are authors of thought provoking books. And some are just plain smart individuals who are teaching companies how to embrace the power of social networking and online communities with an eye toward improving customer service, product innovation and tradional sales and marketing efforts.

Last week, I had yet another opportunity to interview a couple of the aforementioned individuals. The two gentlemen I speak of are none other than David Armano, a senior partner at the Dachis Group, well-known blogger and former VP of interactive agency, Critical Mass and John Cass, author of Strategies and Tools for Corporate Blogging, blogger and former community manager at Forrester Research. Our topic was that of tapping into “social” to drive awareness and engagement.”

As usual, David helped me think outside the box by sending me a blog post he had written back in 2007 titled The Marketing Spiral.

Armano's Marketing Spiral

Armano's Marketing Spiral

So with that as a backdrop, here are some of the questions I asked during our podcast:

  • Do you have best practices to recommend in terms of driving awareness and engagment using social?
  • Do you have examples of companies who do it right? Do it wrong?
  • How do you create excitement for a product that doesn’t seem exciting (you know, like toothpaste—and you know that’s a trick question)
  • What are your predictions for social marketing as it relates specifically to Engagement and Awareness?

To download this podcast, right-mouse click here.

  • Do you have best practices to recommend?
  • Do you have examples of companies who do it right? Do it wrong?
  • How do you create excitement for a product that doesn’t seem exciting (you know, like toothpaste—and you know that’s a trick question)
  • What are your predictions for social marketing as it relates specifically to Engagement and Awareness?

Weekly Social Marketing Links: August 11, 2009

Each week, the members of Powered’s marketing, business development and product teams pick a news article, blog post or research report that “speaks” to them. With that article, they need to come to our weekly staff meeting prepared to give a 120 second update on what the article was about and why they found it useful. I’ve been a little behind in my updates recently so you’re getting a few weeks worth in one fell swoop.

Links are below:

Beth Lopez (Marketing)
I enjoyed reading the article, Desperately Seeking Personal Brand, which talks about how you can tell if a social marketing “expert” is really a true guru or pretender.

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Marketers Like Twitter More Than Consumers Do
Interesting stats between the different views of marketers and consumers re: Twitter. While marketers see Twitter as a platform that is here to stay, consumers either don’t have an opinion or think it’s somewhat useful or dead. Both marketers and consumers feel it’s not a good platform for advertising or promoting products, which is interesting considering we get a lot of questions about using Twitter for just this purpose.

I do agree with the article that Twitter can be useful for awareness efforts, but I don’t think that by promoting your business you will generate leads or new business from Twitter. Twitter is about relationships. It’s about connecting with people that you find interesting. It’s about people…not about businesses. And if consumers don’t know or don’t care about Twitter, then it begs the question – Are marketers wasting time and energy in trying to figure out how to use it to propel their business?

DP Rabalais (Marketing)
In doing competitive intelligence this week I cam across an interesting story about Passenger and how they’re helping Mercedes Benz tap into 20-somethings (some current, but mostly future customers) help shape their future product offerings. Definitely worth the read if you get a chance.

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Fortune 100 CEOs & Companies: Social Media Use & Statistics

Good article on how CEO’s at top companies use social media, and also how companies are using tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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I liked this post by blogger, Mack Collier titled Why Many Marketers Struggle with Social Media because it does a good job of succinctly calling out where traditional marketing and advertising is relevant vs. where SM is beneficial to companies. My favorite quote:

If you’re Burger King and you’re looking to influence whether I go there or not, use plain old marketing. It’s just fine. It’s the right tool for the job. So is advertising. You don’t HAVE to use social media for that.

But, if you’re Burger King and you want to understand me, to get what’s really going on inside my head, and know what we have in common, then THAT is where social media can be useful. Talk to me. Get to know me. Ask me about me and the things that aren’t about you.

Doug Wick (BizDev)
The danger of being an innovative start-up that is a little resource-challenged is that your innovations can be easily imitated. Facebook has been slowly learning from Twitter and incorporating their features while Twitter struggles with problems like infrastructure that Facebook solved long ago. This article does a nice job of showing where the endgame for Twitter might be, now that Facebook has acquired another sophisticated Twitter-imitator, Friendfeed.

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My article this week is Virtual Worlds are Getting a Second Life. Some interesting stats about the rebounding explosive growth of virtual worlds (especially among youngsters), and how they have been faster to develop revenue models than their 2-dimensional social counterparts like Facebook and Twitter. I would guess that is related to the fact that Facebook and Twitter ultimately deliver stickiness through the exchange of content (an activity that is complementary to our real lives), where 3D simulations can expand the possibilities for other social behaviors – such as commerce – more naturally since they do not complement, but instead emulate, our own reality.

Jay MacIntosh (BizDev)
Women are more relational and nurturing while men are more transactional…at least that’s the theory from a study by RapLeaf. http://digg.com/u3AQJa I’ve always been fascinated by how women and men think and behave differently. To see it in action, pay attention to the dynamics the next time you’re in a group setting (children or adults). You’ll likely see female energy more focused on understanding others and connecting with them by validating their experiences and feelings. On the other hand, male energy is usually more focused on being understood by others especially in terms of what we know and our past success. How do these differences show up in social media environments? Though I don’t have the data to support this…yet, I’ll bet women use “friending” features more than men, while men participate more in things like reputation management. Anyhow, something to consider when talking strategy with clients.

Bill Fanning (BizDev)

Bill’s been out doing some major sales stuff but time to get him back on the “article” wagon. 😉

Don Sedota (Product)
This is a good list from Jay Baer on 11 Timely Social Media Takeaways. It’s basically a short-list of 11 recent social initiatives or planned initiatives by companies/brands and a key takeaway from each. My favorite is the one on Lane Bryant and their recent announcement of a “Plus-Sized Community” for women. It’s a great example of striking an emotional chord with the customer for a brand that on the surface may not seem to be a great social candidate. Lane Bryant is also hoping to leverage member questions/comments for the purposes of product innovation which seems to be an increasing trend.

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In the spirit of interesting stats and prospective customers potentially finding Facebook Connect as an attractive demand generator, here’s a post from Brian Solis on up to date Facebook stats . Unfortunately, he doesn’t mention the source of his information but he says that the statistics will be used in his next book so take that for what it’s worth. Anyways, some highlights that could be used to sell prospective clients on the attractiveness of Facebook/FBC as a demand generation source include:

  • More than 5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook each day (worldwide)
  • The average social graph equates to 120 friends
  • 120 million users log onto Facebook at least once a day
  • 15,000 and counting websites, devices and applications have implemented Facebook Connect since its launch in December 2008

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I found this article pretty interesting, Please Don’t Follow or Friend Me, posted by Steven Hodson on the Shooting at Bubbles blog. It talks about how the concept of “friends” is different across different social networks and whether being someone’s “friend” on one social network is an obligation to accept that person as a “friend” on all social networks. A good quote from the article that sums it up (and I tend to agree) is “The richness and value of the Friending Economy comes from the quality and closeness of your ‘friends’, not the number of them. By blindly reciprocating we dilute the value of our ‘Friending’ not just for ourselves but also for those people who do decide to follow or friend us.”

There’s also an excerpt to another thoughtful post in the article’s sidebar (near the end) called “What Have You Done for Me Lately – Keeping Score in Social Media” which is similar in spirit but speaks to the viewpoint that just because you’ve followed someone, re-tweeted their comment, linked to their blog post, etc. doesn’t mean you should hold them in debt until they return the favor. The payback will be eventual and long-term, and in the end everything evens out.

Audio from 1st Social Marketing Help Desk Webinar

A few weeks ago, we launched a new flavor of webinars called the Social Marketing Help Desk. You can read more of the details here in colleague, Doug Wick’s excellent post. The goal is to focus more on the questions vs. the content since we always get way more questions than we can answer during some of the recent thought leader webinars we’ve done like:

Our special guest for this webinar was Adam Cohen, a good friend and a partner at agency, Rosetta.

If you missed the first webinar, we’ve provided the audio portion as a podcast below. If you’d like any of the slides (more just links to our bios/blogs/etc., let me know and I’ll e-mail it to you. My address is aaron DOT strout AT powered DOT com.

Weekly Social Marketing Links: July 7, 2009

Each week, the members of Powered’s marketing, business development and product teams pick a news article, blog post or research report that “speaks” to them. With that article, they need to come to our weekly staff meeting prepared to give a 120 second update on what the article was about and why they found it useful. Links are below:

Beth Lopez (Marketing)
Facebook’s Own Estimates Show Declining Student Numbers; Now More Grandparents Than High School Users – Intereting article that speaks to changing demographics of Facebook users. What’s even more interesting is that the data is from Facebook’s own ad platform and the data is showing there are fewer high school and college users on FB today than there were six months ago. Interesting read to say the least.

DP Rabalais (Marketing)
My weekly article is, Three Ways Healthcare Brands Can Leverage Social-Media (from MarketingProfs). While the lead-in is actually quite good, the three big points that are promised… well, let’s just say they didn’t blow me away.

Here’s the Cliff Notes from this article. The big “Three Ways” are:

  1. Listen
  2. Participate
  3. Learn

I have to say, I’m a little disappointed that this article didn’t deliver a little more value (because MarketingProfs is usually pretty awesome)

Bill Fanning (Business Development)
The first post is from Scott Berkun (The Berkun Blog) titled Calling Bullshit on Social Media.  Similar to the post I shared a few weeks ago predicting the demise of Twitter, I had to read this one simply based on the title.  Scott takes an honest and somewhat cynical look at “Social Media”, the hype, history and the behavior of both participants and marketers of social media.  While he makes a lot of good points, I don’t think of most PR firms or Social Media Consultants as the “greedy” gaming the system.  Sure, there are always a few but typically they don’t stay in business long.  Call me naïve.     

The second post was written by Tim Walker and titled In Defense of Social Media Manager.  This post highlights the debate between Chris Brogan and David Thomas about the necessity of the role and job title “Social Media Manager”.  Included are links to each of their blog posts stating their positions.  Both worth the read.  In part, I agree with Chris that companies ultimately should focus measuring what they need to change like sales, trials, PR coverage etc and that Social Media is a set up tools to help facilitate the necessary changes.  He also says that using these tools is “part of a job function, not a standalone vocation.”  This is where I have to agree with David Thomas, especially with larger organizations.  Until everyone clearly understands the tools that are available to them and how to behave while using them, it probably makes sense to have someone focused on understanding the medium thoroughly.  As the medium becomes more widely understood, we will probably see fewer and fewer “Social Media Manager” titles.

Jay MacIntosh (Business Development)
The article is entitled A CMO’s Guide to Social Media. It’s authored by a woman named Dana Theus who is a strategic marketing consultant with years of client-side experience. Though it’s much longer than the 140 microbites we’re accustomed to, I found it to be very worthwhile (but of course I did else I wouldn’t be sharing it with y’all now would I?). Anyhow, it’s an insightful POV on the societal and technological trends that have made the world more “social”. AND she offers a few strategies that marketing leaders might actually pursue. One of the things she discusses is something I’ve been hearing a lot of marketers say during my past 8 months of social media immersion – “Social media is simply another communications channel.”

I agree that social media is a communications channel but it’s not “just another” one. It’s radically different. As one of my social media heroes, Doug Wick, points out social enables three-way dialog to take place; brands with consumers & consumers with consumers. That changes all the rules of engagement. Which reminds me, wasn’t it Einstein who said “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results?” Time for marketers to stop the insanity!

Doug Wick (Business Development)

This article is about Moonfruit’s high-exposure campaign on Twitter where they gave away Macbooks in exchange for retweets and followers. While the campaign was a wild success, it provides a little context on the downside. First, the campaign giveaway didn’t exactly link with Moonfruit’s real business, which is web design. There is a relevancy issue. Also, there are reports that Twitter had to cap or control the buzz because it was a strain on their infrastructure, showing that these free tools have their limits when used for marketing. An interesting case study in the evolving medium.

Don Sedota (Product Management)

Based on some of our recent prospect efforts, I found the latest Razorfish Social Media “Fluent” report  had some interesting info regarding the financancial services industry and social media. The report was Twittered pretty heavily yesterday and was also Yammered internally, but thought I would mention a few takeaways I had regarding their financial industry insights:

  • Out of 7 industries, Financial rated last with regard to propensity for social context interaction with a brand (only 13% being likely to interact)
  • As an industry, the financial industry ranks a very distant second to the Auto industry (92 vs. 6.3) as far as positive consumer sentiment (as determined from positive/negative conversations on the web) and ranks 6 times better than Pharma (6.3 vs. 0.96)
  • BofA has the highest share of voice (31.6%); almost 3 times more than Wells Fargo
  • Wells Fargo has the highest brand sentiment out of 6 financial brands at 71%
  • Online share of voice and sentiment is closely tied to offline voice and sentiment
  • With the recent tumultuousness in the financial industry, there’s a ripe opportunity to improve these metrics for financial companies

Why All the Talk About Dog Food?

Cross-posted from MarketingProfs (original publish date May 2009)

Have you ever heard the term “eat your own dog food?” It’s a funny sounding concept that essentially means that one is “walking the talk” or leading by example. For instance, a lot of well-known companies have talked about being “customer-focused” but how many really are? Unfortunately just saying you’re committed to do something is dramatically different than actually doing it. There is no place where this idea is more true than in the world of social media and online community.

To highlight this point, [several] months ago, Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research released the first ever Social Platforms Wave Report. In essence, this report rated the top online community providers according to their tools, services and methodologies. What the report didn’t do (and I’m not advocating that it should have) was take into account of how many of the companies reviewed in the report were “eating their own dog food.”

Being the socially engaged person that he is (there is no question as to whether Jeremiah eats his own dog food), he announced the arrival of Forrester’s Social Platform Wave Report on his blog. In his post, he offered some color commentary on the process, the companies that were selected and why the companies that were picked made the cut. One of the first comments on Jeremiah’s post asked if Forrester had taken into account whether or not these social tool providers were “walking the talk” by offering communities to their customers, creating corporate blogs and engaging with potential customers, prospects and partners in social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and even Twitter.

While I was honored to be mentioned as an example of someone that does “eat his own dog food,” it got me to thinking about how important it was for companies that were engaged in social media or their customers to engage in these same practices. The reason I believe the “dog food” concept has become so important to businesses thinking about “social” and “community “ is threefold:

  • Creating a great online community or social marketing program has just as much to do with the philosophy behind the effort, as it does the tools that facilitate these offerings.
  • Just like the field of e-mail marketing adopted best practices like opt-outs and truthful subject lines, the discipline of community building and social marketing has best practices that should be upheld. Piss off your customers by posting fake comments in your own blog posts or talking trash about your competitors and you’ll pay through negative PR or worse yet, customer attrition.
  • In such a transparent environment, there is little room for error (just ask Edelman how their “Blogging Across America” campaign for Walmart turned out a couple of years back). You also need to make a lot of decisions on the fly so having an experienced “pilot” can make for a much smoother ride.

To explore the concept further, I wrote a blog post recently called How We Market that talked about the importance of taking a “give before you get” approach, being authentic and embracing the social tools and sites one’s clients are using” while keeping in mind the need as a business to create awareness and leads. This is not always an easy balance to strike but it’s the key to succeeding in the new marketing world order.

In response to this post, I got dozens of comments from other “big brains” in the industry (including MarketingProfs very own Ann Handley). The resounding response was that social media is all about creating and sustaining relationships through active listening and conversation. Establishing valuable customer relationship online is much more effective when you are providing content to your community via social media channels.

With that as a backdrop, if you’re a brand looking for a company to build your online community or create your social marketing program, what should you look for?

  1. Do they philosophically embrace the concepts that they’re asking you to adopt e.g. transparency, authenticity and a “give before you get” approach to value?
  2. Are they practicing what they preach by blogging, engaging customers through their own customer support community, commenting on other industry blogs and engaging the public in places like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter?
  3. Do they have “community” or “social” experience working with brands like yours?

Once you find a company you’re comfortable using to power your community or social initiatives, the question will shift to whether or not YOU are ready to eat your own dog food. If the answer is “yes,” just be sure to do so in moderation. Your customers will be happy to see you eating your own dog food but not if you stick their face in the dog food. Or worse yet, if you pretend that you’ve ALWAYS eaten dog food and can’t imagine someone not enjoying the taste.