Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

There was a very interesting happening in the social media space recently, when a customer put out a promoted tweet, to sound out his frustrations against British Airways.  Perhaps the first instance of this kind, this was a topic of a lot of discussions, including this interesting debate that happened on my own timeline.

timeline

In fact, there was more deliberation on the subject, as Karthik Srinivasan did a blog post on the subject, cuing it with the above-referred discussion on my timeline to begin with, and sharing his details point of view on the subject. More opinions were expressed as Karthik shared the post on Facebook and Twitter.

So, as always, Karthik does a good and thorough job of putting together facts and his viewpoints on the subject, and I fully respect the same. I agree with most of the points he makes in his blog post.

Why do I still see the need to make some additional comments here? That is simply because, I believe, the point that I was trying to make, via my FB post, and the conversation that I had, mostly with Paul, on my timeline as referred above, was slightly different. And which I want to bring out and highlight hereunder.

First things first, and specifically in reference to Karthik’s blog post, let me clarify:

1. I am definitely of the opinion that the power shift has happened into the hands of the consumer, with the advent of social media. And I am all for it. I talk about this to my clients, almost everyday, and also at speaking events, often. Personally, I have had a few occasions when I have had to take my battles with certain brands on to the social media spaces, after having tried all other traditional means, and not managed to make any impact on the brand.

So I recognise the need and the relevance of consumers using social media channels to put out their perspectives about brands, especially the negative ones. This is happening, will happen more, and I have no issues with this trend.

2. I also do NOT believe that social media platforms would prevent some kind of content about a brand coming on to their platforms, because that brand is also an advertiser, and they would fear that the advertising revenue will be lost. No, I don’t believe that would be a motivation for the social media platforms to stop a piece of content coming up on their platforms.

If these are not the issues, then what else are the points that I was making, when I had some concerns about the trend of consumers putting out anti-brand / negative content, via paid digital advertising methods?

1. As Karthik has sighted in his post, there ARE certain guidelines that platforms prescribe, in regards to advertising content. I will quote from Karthik’s post itself, with examples of Google and Facebook:

a. From Google: 

Google AdWords doesn’t allow the promotion of “discrimination” or violent concepts, such as the following:

Ad text advocating against an organisation, person or group of people

b. From Facebook: 

Ads may not insult, attack, harass, bully, threaten, demean or impersonate others.

Why do they even want to put some restrictions of this kind, if they have no liability towards the advertising content?

Why do platforms have a process of “reviewing” the ad content, at all??

I believe they DO have some level of liability, even if it may be a grey area of sorts, and due to which reason they would want to not let things go totally out of hand.

 

2. So do I believe that a genuine customer, making a genuine case about a brand, can take things ‘out of hand’??

No, certainly not. My point was in regards to potential abuse of the system, due to allowing such anti-brand advertising. Few days back there was this rumour floating around, about how Delhi police had issued a warning to not consumer Frooti, as it caused AIDS!! Obviously a hoax, but an extremely damaging one for the brand. The company had to take very strong action, as you can see here.

This hoax could have been someone’s mischief.

It could have been motivated by a unscrupulous competitor. The spread of a rumour of this kind, in a country like ours, could seriously knock off market share of Frooti?!  And which would be hard to recover back.

A prankster who does it for fun, and puts out a blog post or a post on his Facebook page, or a review on some customer review site, will generate x amount of reach. Bad enough for Frooti, but not AS damaging as it could get, if one actually put out paid ads on various platforms propounding such misinformation!

AND if there was a competitor’s hand at the back, and where crores of rupees of market share is involved, does it stop the unscrupulous competitor putting out several lakhs of rupees, to have this come out as an ad, and put out in the name of a consumer?!

The damage caused by an activity of this kind can end up causing substantial damage to Frooti, before it is picked up, and recovery efforts are put in place.

And to think that, it would be so easy to achieve something like that? Today, Frooti, tomorrow Nescafe or Cadburys or whoever.

And if a few thousand crores of “loss” happens, does the brand have ANY hope to sue that fronting consumer, and expect to recover even a fraction of that amount?

Would they then make the platform also a party to the legal damage caused? Perhaps…

 

3. The question then could be, that if damage had to happen, it can happen with organic content also, and not just with paid content. So if we cannot stop organic content (a user’s FB post / her tweet / her blog post / her posting on a customer review site, for example), how and why should platforms stop the paid type?

Yes, there’s clearly a thin line here. My view is only motivated from the fact that these platforms HAVE some process of guidelines for advertising, for ad reviews, etc. So there is an element perhaps, of an involved liability, which will force them to not accept rank potentially derogatory advertising, from anyone. If Twitter does not have guidelines of this kind, maybe they will also create some. In the absence of guidelines and in the absence of scrutiny of ad content, things could get chaotic out there?!

We have fought a fierce battle for one of our clients, where as a market leader, they were attacked by one of their upstart competitors, by relentless, fake accounts based complaints lodging, on various consumer review platforms. It took a massive effort to quell them down, and clean up the space.

I shudder to think the level of damage that paid advertising of anti-brand reports could have caused then..?!

 

4. So am I sounding very soft and sympathetic towards brands, in my stand here?

No, even though I earn my bread and butter from working for brands, on social media, this post is not to bring sympathy for brands. They do have enough money, many do enough wrong, and when necessary, we need to go after them, and expose their failures.

My concern is about the playing field becoming one mega chaos where then, you cannot distinguish fact from make-believe.

Let’s visualise a scenario, especially after seeing this promoted tweet case of the customer, against British Airways.

That say, every grieved customer who has a few thousand rupees to spare, goes out and creates such promoted tweets or promoted posts, or Facebook advertising.

Add to that, a certain breed of agencies (of the kind that buys you millions of fans from anywhere in the world, or who black-hats your SEO.. you get the drift, right, about the kind of agency I am referring to?!) who will start offering to companies, a route to ‘bring down their competitors’ for a few lakhs of rupees. So we see a huge surge of similar anti-brand advertising emerging from such agencies (with a front name of a consumer…).

Are these difficult to imagine? Not to me at least.

What would this result in? Mayhem on the advertising platforms, and consequently, disaster for the brands.. ?!

Yes, it could generate more moneys spent on digital advertising (or “anti-advertising” to be more precise), and due to the damage caused, more money spent on ORM.

But would it be healthy?? Would the platforms and the media itself lose credibility as a consequence??

THAT is my fear. Once opened up, can the tap be shut? I doubt it..

If you will go back to my Facebook timeline and my discussion with Paul, the specific concern that I raised there, and which I have elaborated here, IS about misuse and not about genuine use, by genuine customers!

Perhaps my concerns are unfounded…

Perhaps anti-advertising will happen, but will be used with more discretion by consumers…

We will have to wait and see.

Hope I have made my point of view a little more clear, at least, now..

I caught this news early on Thursday morning, on a tweet from Guy Kawasaki. That Techcrunch was reporting about late stage talks of Google acquiring Twitter. I checked to ensure that it was not an April 1 story, and that these were indeed “truemors”!

If this were to happen, I believe it would be a good move for all parties concerned.

Let’s understand first, who are the parties directly  involved:

1. Google

2. Twitter

3. We, the users of both!

Well, there is also Facebook which went after Twitter, failed to acquire it, then started aping Twitter. And then there is Microsoft, an investor in Twitter, still trying to catch up in the social space. And other such.

But really, the main three constituents of the deal are the ones enumerated above.

So why would it be good for all of them.

Google has been struggling to find the next wave of growth. Ad revenues have been down, many of the new projects it invested in, have not delivered. There is constant pressure, at least from media and analysts, that its losing its way. And that Twitter is a big threat on account of its ability to offer real time search results.

So it would be a good boost for Google at this time, to get Twitter.

Twitter on the other hand, has been under pressure to get revenue flow started. Its clean interface without clutter of ads, is appealing, but it haunts them now, as they cannot suddenly be seen to fill it up with ads. They did raise more funds recently, but I am sure the investors were also looking for some revenue side action from Twitter. A feeble attempt to put a small ad on home pages and talk of a pro-version coming out soon, were starts  on to the revenue path. But when you start from zero, its always a LONG way to go!!

So being acquired by Google would not be bad for them either.

What does Google bring to the table then?

A working advertising model, with advertiser and publisher relationships like no other, in Adsense / Adwords.

A model of revenue sharing which is well established and which can be put in place on Twitter in some or the other way, in no time.

A huge understanding of contextual advertising model, and some ability to filter our spam from the same.

All this can be unleased on to Twitter, to generate revenues for Twitter, very quickly.

While we all like it clean and free, we also know that there is nothing like a free lunch. So rather than wait for Twitter to run out of money or get desperate, or have its service quality suffer, this may be just the right antidote.

And where does that leave the last constituent of the puzzle? We, the users of Google and of Twitter?

I think it benefits us as well.

For one, we can be sure that our favorite microblogging service is here to stay.

And our favorite search engine is more empowered now.

And that for our search, we can go to a single place, and pick up real time as well as historical data.

And can get amazing trending information, for now, and for the past.

Yes, it would be good.

I would say, its a real WIN-WIN-WIN for the three parties involved.

Where does that put Facebook? I don’t know. Maybe there would be one more interface revision of Facebook, with a Google like search (maybe powered by MS Live) to go with the Twitter like updates that they have already incorporated??!

So what’s the typical Twitter users that one comes across nowadays?

There are newbies, who are trying to figure their way around. So they are in transition in a way.

Then there are the other ‘veterans’. Most of these are on Twitter for a purpose. To largely be able to promote something or the other. Their services or some product or some brand. And they have come to the conclusion that the way to get there, is simply by having as large a follower base as you can.

And so we have people following, and getting followed by tens of thousands of people.

And they figure that when they send out their spams or their blog links or their status messages, their various followers are interested, and would catch it and that is their Twitter success.

Or like telemarketers, they figure that on a large base, a small percentage hit rate, still counts, and that’s the way to go.

But really is that the right way to use Twitter?

Let’s think for a moment, from the average Twitter user’s point of view. Chances are that she also has hundreds of people that she follows and gets tons of updates as a result. She is not watching her Twitter feed whole day long. Even if she has clients set up, she really “looks” at the feed, few times a day. At the rate at which tweets come in, I am sure she is not going back to see all the tweets that she missed between her consecutive Twitter sessions. So she is likely seeing only those which are active and fresh at the point of time.

And in those, if something appeals to her, she reads, takes action and others she lets go.

So for those other Twitter users, who had sent their tweets in between her sessions, and who counted her as amongst their thousands of followers, she was a waste. She did not read their tweets, and did not react to them!

Twitter used in this manner, then is a complete hit-or-miss situation.

For a tool that is so amazingly simple to use, that is so popular, can it’s utility be left to sheer chance, in this manner? There’s got to be a better way.

And sure enough. Enough serious and real knowledge gurus have been using the medium with a lot of understanding and foresight.

They ensure that their tweets are all relevant and good 140 character bits, which would actually be of interest to their followers. They ensure that the content is good. They don’t spam you with links, they don’t aggressively pitch you their wares. They don’t update each time they’re having coffee. In short, they don’t overburden their followers. They ensure that their tweets are made to count, and are worthwhile for their followers.

When done consistently and repeatedly, they make a reputation for themselves. And then if an average user is following them, even if she has infrequent Twitter sessions, she will look out for their updates. And pause to read, or click a link posted by them. Over time, she will eagerly await updates from them.

NOW, the sphere of Twitter influence has been established.

This is the way that a Twitter account needs to be built and used.

And here is where, the core point is same for Twitter as it is for web pages (and search engines), viz. that good content counts!

To summarize my two point formula for success on Twitter:

1. Don’t run after creating large number of followers. It is important to have a focused follower list, one that is typically your “target group” for whatever it is that you are trying to achieve. If others come on board, and they don’t react to your tweets and then leave, so be it. Don’t be obsessed with the number. Seek quality of followers rather than just quantity.

2. Good content works here too. If you give useful tweets, which are not just re-tweets or links being passed on, but your knowledge being shared, that will be valuable to your followers. Develop credibility on the basis of your content. Then your followers will watch out for your updates and you will truly have a sphere of influence via Twitter!

In recent days, I have followed a few discussions at different forums, debating the possibilities or the lack of it, for monetizing Social Media. There has been an extended discussion on the Web 2.0 group at LinkedIn. Then there was the post by Robert Scoble, and there have been others too.

At the end of the churn, the jury remains out still. No clear answers, and anyone who emerges with a brand new monetization model will be hailed like Google was hailed for creating revenues out of search!

I posted a comment at the post of Robert Scoble, which was somewhat inspired, in as much as it related Social Networking to offline Social Clubs (known by different names in different communities), and seeing if a parallel could emerge there. I am reproducing part of that comment here:

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1. We are looking currently at known methods of monetization. The answer will more likely emerge from methods that are unknown today. The monetization of search that Google did, was a thought out of the box. Amazon Cloud Computing is also a different direction from known methods. Twitter and others may also discover a model which will only become a new method and a new standard, thereafter.

2. I try to relate web models with similar offline businesses / models. The social media online is most similar to a social club offline. My understanding of these clubs are:
a. They are cheap – which is how large numbers find it easy to congregate there,
b. There are few expensive and more exclusive types, but they offer significant value in terms of ambience, luxury and services, and for which the elite are willing to pay the price,
c. Social clubs do not meet out their costs, from the members’ contributions; there have to be other ways to supplement their incomes,
d. What they end up doing is to run a good restaurant and give out the contract for the same, to someone who pays them a good chunk of money; or they give out the space that they have built, every once in a while, for others to use as a banquet location; or they charge a decent sum for a one time membership fee, which is usually a lifetime fee then.

Mapping some of these observations to the online social media, it might indicate that:
a. Social media sites will not be able to charge the members, especially if they are going after the mass markets,
b. A few exclusive ones, with seriously high value added offerings, might manage to keep exclusive usage, and charge a good fee for the same,
c. The typical social media property, might be able to contract their platform to the “restaurant” (some paid service equivalent, that is reasonably universally required by the users), and charge them a good fee for giving that exclusive access, for the particular vertical (“food” in case of the offline restaurants); such engagements can be for a period of time, just like the restaurant contract in an offline social club would be say, for a period of 2 years at a time,
d. Then there is the equivalent of the social club giving out its space for a one-day banquet event. The analogy here could be banner advertising on all Twitter screens, for example.
e. Finally there is the one-time fee from members, that a social club can charge. I am not sure if the analogy can be pulled off on the online social networks. But seeing that users spend $1 to send virtual gifts on Facebook, there could be an option to ask members to pay say, $10 (or $50 or whatever that makes sense) as a one-time fee for being members at Twitter. I am not sure, but its an idea again..

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As I said earlier, the jury is still out. Whether Social Networking can be monetized and to what extent remains in the realm of inquiry at this time.