The Future of Advertising Has Been Promoted: A New Study

For years, Twitter focused on building a fervent community while other established and burgeoning social networks attempted to do so while fueling growth with advertising dollars. 2011 will go down in history as the year when Twitter was officially promoted from a micro blogging network to a full fledged  interest network, with each of its denizens expressing their likes and dislikes Tweet after Tweet. Combine a highly engaged interest network with the ability to introduce relevant promotions or brands in a way that’s non-intrusive and you have an interesting recipe for fusing a social network with an ad network.

Welcome to Twitter 2.0

Depending how you’re keeping score, we’re either at 2.0 or 3.0. With a new look and a new CEO, Twitter is no longer quiet about its new advertising strategy. IT’S HERE! The demand for Twitter’s new Promoted line of Tweets, Trends, and Accounts have the support of Virgin America, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and many other leading brands. And, there’s a waiting list.

Twitter’s monetization strategy lies more in the ability to reach interest graphs rather than social graphs. The difference is that in a social graph, it’s all about who you know. With interest graphs, we form strong, weak, and temporary ties based on long and short term interests. For the time being, we define those interests based on what we say and with whom we connect.

Twitter’s advertising products are designed to reach the right people, in real-time, at the point of attention and intention (P.A.I.). This means that if you search or utter keywords, you may see a relevant Promoted vehicle. The reason why I refer to this as the Point of Attention and Intention, is because your words and actions, say Tweets and Search Queries, are focused on keywords. And when you’re presented with a Promoted campaign that’s inline with your intention, you’re more likely to take action.

Promoting Promoted Tweets

Much of a brand’s success on Twitter is defined by its ability to lift awareness and drive desired outcomes or clicks to action. Promoted strategies are designed to offer the presence of engagement with the reach of advertising. Brands managers and advertisers have questions and concerns, naturally, about performance. And, there is also genuine sympathy towards consumers and whether or not Promoted activities introduce unwelcome and disingenuous participation.

TWTRCON, the conference dedicated to understanding Twitter for business and OneForty, led by good friend Laura Fitton (@Pistachio) recently ran an informal, but telling poll on Twitter’s Promoted products. I should also point out that I’m an advisor to @OneForty. Now, let’s dive in to see the depths of understanding and perception around this evolving new marketing platform.

Of the 110 completed surveys, 51% live in the marketing realm, with Tech/Web management, PR, and business management functions representing an additional 30%.

As branding and advertising is at the center of this discussion, the participating companies are indeed those paying close attention to Twitter’s Promoted program. 39% of respondents represented agencies, 26% work in media companies and another 26% work for brands directly.

Promoted products are gaining ubiquity at least in terms of understanding or recognition. Promoted Tweets lead the group with 82%, but Promoted Trends and Promoted Accounts could benefit from promotion following with 68% and 60% respectively.

Not only are the participants of this poll marketers or brand mangers, they are also social consumers. Their impressions here start to reveal the personal stake that they individually feel about Promoted products. We are also social consumers and stakeholders in this very rich egosystem that we help define. This is key, because this will change how these campaigns are ultimately designed…with the 5th P of marketing fully represented during the creative and execution process. On average, most are neutral on the subject ranging between 40-44%. Somewhere between 3-11% are holding out for more information or to also come to terms with their own emotions on the subject. But surprisingly, there are very strong or negative opinions across the board.

30% are positive around Promoted Tweets, 25% support Trends, but only 15% find the good in Promoted Accounts.

On the other hand, 27% are not big fans of the Promoted nature of Tweets, 20% don’t value Promoted Trends, and a very significant 31% would rather not see Promoted accounts.

The goal of Twitter is keep messages and brands alive in the stream, not just in real-time, but also at the right time. To do so, campaigns, especially Promoted campaigns, require clicks to actions, outcomes, and most importantly, social triggers to coax response, reaction, and sharing.

Only 29% of this group clicked on a Promoted Tweet.

A disappointing 13% retweeted or replied

A notable 37% clicked on a Promoted Trend to read more about it…which is, what they’re designed to do…entice curiosity.

And for now, only 12% actually followed a Promoted Account.

The participants in this poll are experienced with paid promotional campaigns. 59% are funding Google AdWords programs, 55% are financing Facebook Ad campaigns, and 11% have already piloted Twitter Promoted initiatives.

Here’s the telling part…which, if you look closely, you’ll see a crystal ball that tells the future of Twitter’s Promoted suite.

24% are very interested in using Promoted products as a marketing vehicle.

27% are somewhat interested

Combined, these numbers represent 51% of companies that are considering Twitter’s marketing mix

For the optimists, part of the 27% who are not sure, could be swayed to the interested camp based on buzz and case studies.

For the pessimists, merge the 22% of those not interested with the 27% of not sure, and we have 49% that are not ready to experiment.

Finally, we can now see a clear picture of intention versus attention on the marketing front. This is important for Twitter to embrace, as how it markets and explains its Promoted products will help sway favor and financial support in its direction. Equally, education and communication will also steer perception and inspire more meaningful campaigns (R.R.S.).

55% are waiting for more information…preferably data around the prevailing topic of ROI.

42% believe it’s far too early to make a decision.

Tally the two together, and we’re overwhelmed with apprehension. 77% are waiting for insight, direction, and success stories. But, a noteworthy 13% say that this is a bad idea and users will push back.

On the other hand, 21% believe Twitter’s Promoted products represent powerful tools and are eagerly watching its evolution. However, for those early adopters, 20% say that this is the beginning of the future of advertising. And I agree.

We are at what is nothing short of transformative for an advertising industry that is both starting to show and act its age. We are realizing that the shift from marketing to social graphs to interest graphs sets the stage for a more welcome audience. Connecting with people where their attention is focused, when it’s focused, and aimed at what moves them, we can not only open the consumer’s attention aperture, we can inspire desirable actions and perceptions that carry benefits for all sides of this developing advertising exchange.

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Image Credit: Shutterstock (Edited)

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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