Last week, Twitter unveiled Twitter Moments at a well attended advertising industry event they hosted in Manhattan’s Meatpacking district. As I looked around the room, I was struck by the attendance, a veritable who’s who of industry thought leaders that I have come to know in my two plus decades working in advertising. This was not your typical advertising event over attended by young planners and buyers lured by the promise of post event cocktails and appetizers, the room was packed with the decision makers who are shaping the future of an industry desperately seeking to reinvent itself in the “attention era.”
Marketing panel at #VideoNOW. Moderator, @sminero making a point to @joinniche’s dlach5 while @beatsbydre’s @jwhitelikes, @robbyjayala and @Cody look on.
Conversations before and after the event confirmed what I suspected, attendees were largely there because, as marketing practitioners, they recognized the rich array of unique opportunities that Twitter provides marketers to create connections with consumers around their passions in real time. The deeper insight, however, and the one that catalyzed the erudite audience to attend, is that these consumers, in large measure, are what Ed Keller described in his great, pre-social media book “The Influentials” as the ten percent who influence what the other ninety percent think, do and buy. Now, I am the first one to say that ‘generalizations are generally bad,’ but when you really understand the dynamics of Twitter users, their insatiable appetite for all manner of instant news, their comfort with sharing their opinions and the scale of their followership, which extends well beyond Twitter, you quickly realize that Twitter is a platform rich in influentials. This insight, in conjunction with the superior breadth and depth of Twitter’s tools to help marketers make connections with those influentials in moments of receptivity is well understood by savvy marketers who know that in the attention economy we now compete in, we are in a desperate battle for relevance. For many of us, Twitter is our most important weapon in that battle. Moments adds another dimension which offers convenience to regular users and ease of entry for new ones and I have no doubt that it will quickly become the latest addition to Twitter’s constellation of unique resources that consumers turn to in all manner of moments in their lives, whether they are mythic or mundane in nature. Each one offering marketers opportunities to connect with people around the events in their lives that truly matter to them.
Let me be clear, Twitter has its flaws to be sure. Some people have exacerbated their FOMO to the point of addiction because of the speed at which their feed updates (Some of us news junkies actually love that). Twitter has made some brilliant acquisitions in the last few years but failed to incorporate them into the core offering as seamlessly as one would expect, leaving marketers to stumble through the dark as they try to bring them to bear to meet their own needs. I am truly confounded by their inability to bring aboard a dedicated CMO. The Twitter Board seems to have been somewhat frenetic throughout the company’s history and that has probably contributed to some of these challenges as well as the tumultuous relationship with Wall Street.
Which brings me to my biggest frustration with Twitter, its inability to effectively articulate the differentiated value of its offering in the face of the cacophonous “scale, scale, scale” chorus that Wall Street analysts bleat out like modern day Monty Python players who don’t realize how permanently and profoundly the marketing industry has changed and must continue to change in order to continue to thrive. Consumers are now very much in control and scale as we know it has become a way for advertisers to mask the ever shrinking engagement rates they are seeing on ad products as a result. The legacy thinking underpinning the advertising construct is a holdover from an era where consumers dutifully endured ads. Those days have been swiped away forever. The future requires us to recast “scale” within the constraint of context and measure outcomes against an understanding of meaningful engagement. Marketers must redefine what matters in the struggle to be heard and commoditized solutions and ancient axioms are not the way forward.
Twitter stands tall in this new world. It is an open architecture platform that allows me to follow @pontifex without his blessing and engage with @potus without first being vetted by the secret service. It allows me to be with @taylorswift13 the moment before she takes the stage half a world away and with whole world as we come to grips with the tragedy that has become the middle east. Increasingly, it is where we as a culture convene to share the great moments and those less so, whether just with family and friends or as an entire city, with other crazy sports fans, concerned citizens or fellow travelers on spaceship earth. This is an incredibly compelling medium for influentials that has quickly become their virtual global coffee house where they can convene in a moments notice and without the need to be proximate to each other to share an experience or reaction to it. Periscope adds another tantalizing dimension to this which, while not unique, enjoys a palpable symbiosis with the overall Twitter franchise.
Perhaps the attraction of these aspects of the Twitter experience today are more appealing to influentials than the general population. But to stop there is to truly miss the point. Influentials tend to have disproportionate numbers of followers, that is, by definition, not in dispute. Today it is also easily quantified. In social media this is known as “downstream reach” (with everlasting gratitude to @peretti for enlightening me to it) and marketers who know what they are doing understand it and understand its true value. Not because it is scale, but because it is scale in the context of a relationship that is opted into and thus yields more consistent engagement and delight than thinly veneered retargeting schemes built on lowest common denominator algorithms ever could. The value of downstream reach was not in dispute among the marketing industry elite who turned out for the launch of Twitter’s Moments. Nor was the value of Twitter as a whole. Somewhat lamentably, there just are no other platforms available to marketers today that allow them to intersect with such a valuable and influential audience at the precise moment and in the precise context of their engagement and from that potentially create a connection that endures. This was something the crowd that gathered in Meatpacking understood clearly, even while the mob one mile south on Wall Street continued their chant about scale in an hommage to simpler days gone by when consumers didn’t control the world around them with an interactive device in their pocket. We have to recognize Twitter for what it is, the best conduit available for marketers to connect with an influential audience in moments of receptivity in the post advertising era. Old world measures obscure that and if unaddressed will distract the marketing industry from the true path forward.
@adambain summing up @twittermoments benefits to a packed house.
Opinions expressed are my own and do not reflect those of my employer or Twitter.