You’d think it would be impossible to get those who haven’t signed up for Twitter to get hooked on the immediacy and community of “tweeting.” You’d be wrong.
Just now I wanted to watch the statistics while I had the USA – Canada Olympic Gold Hockey Game on the television. I logged into the official Winter Olympics site. I found paydirt — and a surprising real-time Facebook status feed. You can click the image for one that’s easier to read:
What struck me about the Facebook feed is I didn’t have to log in. Since I already had Facebook loaded in another browser window, it immediately gave me the opportunity to add my own two cents to the cheering / jeering session. I didn’t, but I did find the flow of other people’s comments to be a fun addition to my solo enjoyment of the game.
A question about using social media arose this morning — one that I only had time to half-answer. I was on a panel at a Milwaukee Social Media Breakfast (#SMBmke). The question (to paraphrase): “I don’t sell a sexy product. I’m a business that sells to other businesses something that they need. But they don’t necessarily blog about it or tweet about it. Can social media support my goal of lead generation?” I said yes. Below is the second half of my answer.
I did mention The Long Tail. Click through that link to learn what that is. And if you do, think about that link. Jeff Jarvis coined the phrase link economy. Chris Anderson coined the phrase the long tail. I propose a new coinage: the hashtag economy.
The long tail is the book, and the concept, about how niche markets find what they need in a world this isn’t hindered by the economics of brick-and-mortar. There are no carrying costs associated with iTunes offering one more song that just happens to be obscure. Their inventory is limited only by digital storage costs and the bandwidth necessary to deliver the song when someone buys it.
The link economy uses this free, or nearly free, paradigm. It cost me nothing to create the link that pointed readers to an explanation of The Long Tail. The link led to Wikipedia. There again, the power of almost-free. This crowd-sourced encyclopedia saw the most minuscule of incremental costs to provide you with that definition.
The upshot is this. Since we are rewarded nearly every time we click on a link, we do it more often. That generates something that very often can be monetized: Significant volumes of traffic.
Smart businesses — such as the publishers of Wired Magazine and Anderson’s book — leverage this link economy to sell more books. And they leverage The Long Tail Phenomenon in the very sale of a book about the long tail; Anderson’s book might never have become a best-seller if it hadn’t been offered in a virtual bookstore like Amazon first. His readers might have simply been just too darned “niche” to persuade bricks-and-mortar book stores to stock it in their shelves.
Scott Baitinger, co-owner of Streetza Pizza, and I were talking about niche marketing earlier this week. I complimented him on his use of Twitter Hashtags to find a narrow group and to market to them. That narrow group is @FitMKE. Scott has been peddling his pizzas to this group by tweeting to them with the #FitMKE hashtag.
Analog broadcast channels (those based on radio / television wave frequencies) are valuable enough that they are regulated by the government. There are rules about what businesses must do to earn their right to be there (e.g., public service announcements and public-oriented programming). Things that are scarce have value, and these channels are no exception. A recent auction of analog broadcast channels garnered bids in the many millions of dollars.
Twitter handles are not limited by the spectrum of a radio or television broadcast frequency. If I auctioned off my Twitter handle, I would get zero bids. Why? Everyone who knows anything about Twitter knows you can create accounts limited only by the nearly infinite combinations of letters and numbers.
This makes Twitter a spectrum of a nearly infinite number of nearly-free channels. It draws lots of people because it is so cheap and teeming with variety. It uses both the long tail and the link economy.
Increasingly, Twitter is also spawning communities of likeminded people around hashtags. One example of #SMBmke. Another, ironically, is #MKElikemind (another breakfast group — here’s the info on my blog). Scott, and @StreetzPizza, found #fitMKE to be a channel to narrow-cast his offer of healthy pizzas (and also indulgent pizzas, since — hey — you have to be getting fit to enjoy life, don’t you?).
The Hashtag Economy is one way smart marketers are finding their niche audience within the cacauphony of other channels. They’re tuning in, conversing, and doing business there.
Here’s a challenge, especially for my friends (old and new) who attended this morning’s breakfast: What hashtag conversations have you been a part of? And how have they improved your life and work? More important: What business relationships have formed from them?
I’ll admit that, for the longest time, I was exasperated by the Twitter hype. Like the world needs ANOTHER ego-massaging, social-networking time drain? Between e-mail and blogs and Web sites and Facebook and chat and text messages, who on earth has the bandwidth to keep interrupting the day to visit a Web site and type in, “I’m now having lunch”? And to read the same stuff being broadcast by a hundred other people?
Then my eyes were opened. A few months ago, I was one of 12 judges for a MacArthur grant program in Chicago. As we looked over one particular application, someone asked, “Hasn’t this project been tried before?”
Everyone looked blankly at each other.
Then the guy sitting next to me typed into the Twitter box. He posed the question to his followers. Within 30 seconds, two people replied, via Twitter, that it had been done before. And they provided links.
The fellow judge had just harnessed the wisdom of his followers in real time. No e-mail, chat, Web page, phone call or FedEx package could have achieved the same thing.
I was reminded of this again over lunch yesterday, when I was chatting with a couple of really smart tech types. My lunch companions were very Pogue-like in their misgivings about Twitter. One was even leery of Facebook. Both made points that sounded familiar to me.
The octopuses were found to occupy empty seashells, discarded coconut shell halves or manmade objects, and on several dives, the researchers saw them carrying coconut shell halves below their body and swimming away with them.
Sometimes, an octopus would carry two shell halves and then put them together to form a shelter, the scientists said…
“Using tools is something we think is very special about humans, but it also exists in other animal groups we’ve never considered before, a low life form, a relative of a snail. These octopuses, they’re not simple animals.”
I learned about that story through — what else? — Twitter. This platform, and the ambient awareness it harnesses, is literally a new tool for helping those who put it to use. It helps us work, play and generally be the social creatures that we are.
The joke is grim but makes its point. Two hunters are relaxing around the campfire before heading to their tents for the night. An angry grizzly bear charges out of the woods at them. One of hunters leaps up and immediately begins running away, still in his bare feet. The other takes a moment to step into his boots. The first one yells over his shoulder: “You’re wasting time! Don’t you know that even with those boots you can’t outrun a grizzly?” The other replies, as he begins making up lost ground: “I don’t have to outrun the grizzly. All I have to do is outrun you!”
In this same “whatever it takes” spirit, many small- and mid-sized businesses are strapping on a new pair of shoes. Their new shoes are social media, most notably Twitter. It’s a logical calculation for businesses that are newer and more agile. Or so it seems, from reading the results of this recent research by BIA/Kelsey. Here are a few highlights of the survey:
Social media by SMBs is more prevalent among younger businesses. The percentage of SMBs by age of business currently using Twitter for promotion is as follows:
16 percent of SMBs in business three years or less
11 percent of SMBs in business four to six years
6 percent of SMBs in business seven to 10 years
2 percent of SMBs in business 11-plus years
There is considerable thought and effort needed to use a channel like this properly, but for those that adopt this two-way communications channel effectively, it could help them outmaneuver more entrenched competitors.
It’s definitely making the competitive foot races more interesting.
A week ago I was a co-speaker at a C2 Five Dollar Friday event. One of the last items I touched upon was how to measure traffic that comes from Twitter and other social media posts. I promised the group that I’d document the process.
It wasn’t too long ago that there were no definitive examples of strong positive ROI from Twitter. Since then several high-profile companies have publicized their successes. You might have read a recent account of how, according to Forbes and other sources, a division of Dell Computing has earned over $3 million from sales generated from its Twitter posts.
Here’s how your business can accurately measure direct sales — or track sales leads – generated by this powerful communication channel. All you need is a free Google Analytics (GA) account and the following new GA profiles (a special thanks to eConsultancy for their terrific post on this topic in May):
1.) Track all clicks from Twitter and major Twitter agents
a.) Add a new profile in Google Analytics
Name this new profile something like Twitter Traffic. If you’re creating this profile significantly later than the rest your Google Analytics set-up, you can add a date to the profile name. That will help you know how far back in time your results reach. In this case I haven’t:
Marshall makes some excellent points (he’s not @WebMetricsGuru for nothing!), including this one: “Social Media isn’t really designed, at this time, to analyze Acquisition or Retention - but Web Analytics, is — and I maintain this is one of the strongest arguments to merge the two, in a formal way, rather than in an informal way.”
Datamining and CRM
How do you begin merging these data in a “formal” way? Tools are emerging to allow for the mining of conversations, and linking them where possible to a CRM database. Here’s Marshall’s take on this process:
David Berkowitz talks about Target Audiences, but you’d first have to figure out what your Target Audience is for your Brand or for a particular product or promotion of your Brand – then do CRM datamining using house database lists, or the Social Media CRM outreach to collect names and classify them according to Target Audience Segmentation — best done with data analytics. Let’s say, that for the purposes of this post, my article on Entrepreneur.com on Learn to Measure Your Web Presence using Unbound Technology or Rapleaf, is the way to go.
If you’re a mom-and-pop shop, you’d do nothing as elaborate, more just Twitter research, much as I’ve shown above, but if you’re Zappos, or Dell, well … that’s another story — the story I tell in Learn to Measure Your Web Presence and others, like it.
Of course, a big brand can make a lot of money whereas the mom and pop shop, probably won’t — so a big brand can afford to spend a lot of money on data mining — and it’s well worth doing because of the potential money and value that can come from it.
Scarcity of Resources
The biggest constraint in doing this sort of work isn’t technology. It’s time. Even properly guided, the process takes many people-hours, and that is a resource in short supply for most businesses today. I see a major challenge in the linkage between prospects / customers and Twitter profiles. (Ack!, I can hear you yell. Yet another datapoint to capture in our CRM databases: The client’s Twitter handle!)
But it is becoming clear that this is an area where a business should focus some of its energies — assuming the business passes David Berkowitz’s Ten Ways test.
Years ago, Don E. Schultz co-wrote Measuring Brand Communication ROI. In this marketing chestnut, he and his co-authors built a surprisingly relevant model for tracking spending and estimated returns for each brand communication (How old is this book? The included Excel file was loaded on a 5.25″ magnetic diskette). A huge category — and ROI black hole — was customer service.
Twitter is a communication channel more than a marketing tactic, and this channel has more to do with customer satisfaction and brand education than driving sales. It’s another touchpoint and nothing more.
But like email and other important touchpoints, it should be measured. Conversations like the one taking place today will help determine how this measurement takes place and to what end.
Most online marketers recognize Twitter’s power to connect people. This virtual network is great for many B2B marketing types. In some ways Twitter — and microblogging in general — is the new Power To Get In. But what about driving consumer business? And here I’m not talking about ephemeral branding. I’m talking about getting people to your business with money in hand.
Last month Journal Sentinel business writer Tannette Elie (@Telie) cited Woelfle as saying that Facebook is responsible for 10% of his sales. This, he explained, was primarily through the soft-sell of publicizing wine- and beer-tasting events.
One tenth of a “bricks-and-mortar” retailer’s business attributed to Facebook? It seemed a lofty claim, but when I asked Joe earlier today if he would revise that estimate, he said only to throw his newest tactic — Twitter — into that mix.
The wall-to-wall turnout at the event last night certainly suggested that Twitter was powerful at something. But what? Skeptics would say you could use plenty of other methods to spread the word about a free event at a beer, wine and liquor store — one that included plenty of liberally-poured product samples!
Time will tell how effective @BlatzLiquor‘s Twitter efforts are at growing real sales and loyalty. But in the meantime, someone else at the Tweetup has a Twitter-fueled business already road-tested by other entrepreneurs.
Korean BBQ Tacos and Pizza By The Slice
Scott Baitinger is co-owner of Streetza Pizza (@StreetzaPizza). I was excited about connecting with him for two reasons:
His business just had its official launch this Memorial Day weekend and I was eager to find out how it went
Scott’s business is a glimpse at a promising future for retail — for everyone from food vendors to dry cleaners to banks
Streetza’s business model uses Twitter to tell hungry customers where its truck will be parked next. It even polls followers on questions such as future locations and product offerings. I wrote about this business model — this promising taste of the Web 3.0 world — last week. It was in a SOHOBizTube article. In that piece, I cited the wildly successful Zogi BBQ, a Los Angeles purveyor of “Korean tacos” that informs its tens of thousands of Twitter followers (@KogiBBQ) where it will be next.
As odd as it sounds, these customer-centric Tweets are truly a taste of things to come.
That’s because the next meaningful digital innovations won’t provide consumers with cooler web sites and more content. They will be mobile applications that provide exactly the content we crave, talking to us when we are physically in a place to scratch the itch.
The future of the web is about place. And like Kogi, Streetza Pizza, in sleepy little Milwaukee, will be leading us there one slice at a time.
More than two years ago word spread of a new type of ad unit. It was called Hosted Conversations, a creation of Edelman and Newsgator. I’ve periodically checked back on the concept and to my disappointment, it seems to have fizzled. The subsequent silence was deafening.
Then, yesterday, it was announced that Google was going forward with a similar ad unit. It would contain the advertiser’s five most recent “tweets” from Twitter. The first client is Intuit, the maker of TurboTax. These @turbotax ads would be distributed throughout the Google AdSense ad network, where the ads (i.e., short list of tweets) would appear on web pages within the network that are deemed relevant.
I’ve been writing a lot about Twitter lately. Far more than I should. It can be a distraction from more relevant and proven marketing tactics and media. However, it’s important to note that as Twitter becomes part of our cultural zeitgeist, this variety of micro-blogging becomes easier for marketers and consumers to understand. And with understanding comes adoption.
What I’m getting at is this:
If it what killed Hosted Conversations was a failure to grasp the concept, then we can attribute the success of Google’s new ad unit to that scrappy, 140-character micro-blogging platform whose name I am frankly sick of invoking.
Thanks for at least that, Twitter. Now would you please stop distracting my clients?
Twitter is approaching a critical mass in users, and they’re a mobile bunch. These two factors, substantiated in a recent Pew Internet and American Life report, make 2009 the year when place-based events finally get a strong boost from Twitter.
A recent report by the Pew Internet and American Life project shed some light on the typical U.S. Twitter user. This person is more “mobile” than the norm: “As a group they are much more likely to be using wireless technologies — laptops, handhelds and cell phones — for internet access, or cell phones for text messaging,” according to the report.
Here are a few other highlights:
Twitter users are young. Their median age is 31. In comparison, the median age of a MySpace user is 27, a Facebook user is 26 and a LinkedIn user is 40.7
Most likely because of this comparative youth, Twitter users are slightly more racially and ethnically diverse than is the full US population “Younger Americans are a more ethnically and racially diverse group than is the full population,” according to the report.
Users of Twitter are reaching a critical mass: 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others.
What this means for marketers is that they can begin seeing real benefits from crowdsourcing their place-based events, even with less tech-savvy users. Expect to see more messages like this one in the months to come: “Come see us at [event name] today. Bring [related object or clipping] and receive a free [premium]. Please re-Tweet!”
This morning I was part of a panel discussion, talking to the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s Insider Breakfast, held at The University Club. The topic was social media. One of the questions from the audience was (to paraphrase), “I know of MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc., but the only one I am a member of is LinkedIn — and I barely know how to use that. How do I prioritize as I get my feet wet in them?” Panelists had varying opinions, but I opted for a one-word answer: Facebook.
Start with Facebook, I advised.
Others, notably GMC president Julia Taylor (whose Twitter presence is @JHTaylor) and Cd Vann (@ThatWoman_SOHO), “participating visionary” of SOHO|biztube.com, disagreed. They leaned more toward Twitter as a place to start. As much as I enjoy Twitter, and find it invaluable in my consulting business, I rarely suggest a client start there as a way to understand the experience. Here are my reasons:
4 Reasons Why Facebook Is A Better Set of Training Wheels
Twitter is too scary — Three weeks ago NY Times tech columnist David Pogue finally dipped his own toe into the waters of Twitter. Pogue began the column by saying, “I’m supposed to be on top of what’s new in tech, but there’s just too much, too fast; it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I can only imagine how hopeless a task it must be for everyone else.” This was his apology for being a “geek” and not being willing to face the ugly, 140-character beast that is Twitter. I feel for him. But more importantly, I feel for the clients who have to learn the arcane nomenclature of “re-tweets,” hash-tags and Twitter agents. When the panel discussion was over, I confided to Mary McCormick of the Rotary Club of Milwaukee that mere mention of Twitter causes most of my clients to go into spasms. I wouldn’t knowlingly wish that on anyone!
Twitter is too amorphous — The same quality that makes Twitter so popular also makes it a little too much like a multi-faceted, super-charged desktop application (think Excel) that is daunting specifically because it is so versatile. I find myself using Twitter for a lot of things, and this versatility can lead to early abandonment and disappointment (read the book The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less for how this veritable banquet we face can be psychologically overwhelming).
Facebook lowers the chance of a “crappy first experience” — Robert Scoble wrote that there is a barrier we’re facing today. It’s a “new digital divide.” The divide is between the folks who can swim easily in the social network pool and the “normal” people who refuse to or are afraid to dive in. Scoble writes that when these normal people get into a social network, “they enter a pretty lame environment since there are no friends … The first experience is a real crappy experience, since there’s no input. And it’s all about input from other users.” Facebook is more helpful than Twitter, and it’s easier to find a group of folks you can immediately “friend.” They can help you, and reduce the crap risk significantly.
Facebook is becoming more like Twitter by the week — Just this week Facebook announced new changes to their interface. They make this social networking site, which already has a version of “tweets” in their mini-feed feature, even more like its competitor for user attention and participation.
I think all of us on the panel would agree that if you are a business leader, you need to start personally leaping the chasm — the digital divide — to get a feel for the new communication medium. You need to give social media a try. If you choose Facebook, I’m here. If it’s Twitter, I’ll see you there too, at @TheLarch!
Marketing Technology Musings and Tips by Jeff Larche