An open love letter to Twitter on how to save yourself as you save the world.
I write this as a long time and unabashed fan going back as far as 2008 where I published many an article gushing to my marketing peers about Twitter as one of the most powerful communication channels a brand can use (see sampling of articles below*). My devotion resembled the zeal of the newly converted as Twitter quickly became my broadcast platform and the lens through which I experienced my world.
Over time, businesses caught on and once they did — they adopted Twitter as a “must-do” connectivity platform that happened to be “free.”
Perversely though, (and to my horror), I realized the more Twitter became “must-do” for brands in customer or influencer outreach, the faster the ad platform withered into a “nice-to-do” ad play. This weird and reverse algorithm dynamic created the 140-foot advertising wall that’s getting higher. This is stunningly painful for me to watch and I write this in the hope that somehow this post will wind its way into the right channels before the wall is insurmountable.
We’ve not a moment to lose.
HACK YOUR WAY TO GROWTH
To hack the advertising world, don’t ask engineers or consultants, ask a marketing hack — someone who has toiled in the trenches of the ad world and lived to tell the tale. For good or bad, I happen to be a master marketing hack. I needed 30+ years’ experience to get it right including my current stint as Founder/ CEO of a programmatic content marketing firm. It’s been my hacking prowess that helps us beat the odds and pass our fifth birthday. Not too shabby making my POV at least worth some consideration.
THE HACKABLE POINT OF DIFFERENCE (aka play to your strength)
The hacking strategy for Twitter lies in giving advertisers the ability to ride the river of real-time traffic aggregating around topics. The subtlety here is that most ad campaigns work hard to “whip up” traffic but the hack for you here is that Twitter lets brands surf the real-time topic traffic that is naturally occurring.
The potential to advertise in a “real-time topic interest moment” is for you to own and differentiated. As it is, your elegant albeit “me-too” ad platform is a demo based with some interest-based/ keywords targeting capabilities doesn’t translate into a “must-do” for advertisers given the broader options like Facebook. In terms of engagement, your ad offering is like offering a surfer a wave created in a bathtub. Yawn.
Let’s transform your POD into a differentiated ad platform.
THE ULTIMATE HACK — MARKETING TRUST
Advertising is going through a paradigm shift from tonnage to quality; from demo targeting to topic targeting; from opacity to transparency and trust. This is a rare second chance for you because as the industry moves quickly toward real-time topic engagement with authenticated users, you stand apart as a trusted ad platform. Through all the ad tech scandals, Twitter rose above the fray and maintained its reputation as a trusted platform with a genuine interest in doing right by people and advertisers.
Monetizing your trust reputation along with real-time topic advertising needs hack strategies that lets you catch ad dollars by thinking like a marketer:
1) Own real-time topic search traffic.
This is meant literally — maybe even down to a search page (versus your current rather lame search window). Maybe you thought you could not compete with Google. Well that’s where you are wrong. People think in topics terms but Google makes them think in keyword terms — often a bad match. Google plays guessing games with topics with a wide range of results accuracy which also explains why Google does not really have a real-time topic (not keyword) ad offer.
Fully own the real-time topic search space because nobody can really compete. Your data already powers topic functions in other platforms but you’ve yet to use that data in your ecosystem. Delivering an excellent, real-time topic search function will drive more traffic.
That’s the opening and the first rung of the ladder to scale that damn 140-foot wall.
2) Real-time topic traffic will attract real-time ad dollars.
Any good hack will tell you to use your opponent’s strength against them. Imagine then if you will, offering advertisers a way to buy dynamic, real-time topics that looks similar to Google’s PPC platform only directed against real-time topic traffic trends. Advertisers, for instance, can buy future topic trends when the topic hits a certain volume in “trusted” velocity. (Technically, programmatic is the hack to get there.)
Google’s PPC is a “must-do” for advertisers. Twitter’s real-time topic advertising can be a “must-do” advertisers.
3) Maintain your authentic timeline to maintain trust.
Trust is the new currency in ad tech and Twitter, largely, has remained untarnished in the trust crisis that now haunts Facebook in particular. Your authentic timeline is your armor against any play Facebook may make because people’s trust in their Facebook timeline is forever tainted.
This is important because Facebook is looking to take over your real-time topic turf as Techcrunch explains: “Facebook wants to more quickly surface big stories going viral because the topic is being posted about by lots of people…” (Source: https://techcrunch.com/2017/01/31/facebook-authentic-news/?ncid=rss).
Keep it real. Keep it real-time. Keep it authentic. Advertisers will reward you as a trusted advertising platform.
4) Broaden base by tweaking user experience against a topic paradigm:
It is easier to find Twitter handles on Google than Twitter. C’mon. Or if someone is looking for a link in a tweet they did — fahgetboutit.
The user interface has seen virtually no change in a long time and it shows. Twitter can’t become the “must-do” for advertisers until it becomes a “must-do” for consumers. Today, the user experience lacks good basic controls/ search/ management functions that lets users manage their Twitter experience within the context of topic vision. For instance, users should be able to organize tweets by their topics (another potential advertising moment); do a search WITHIN a person’s tweet stream or follower list and; be able to resolve troll issues better — all designed to increase trust. If you want scale trusted engagement, then you need authentic way for people to control their Twitter experience.
I’ll end by readily conceding that probably many a “cool” consultant has offered sage, perhaps similar advice. If true and there is a plan — then great and “never mind.” As it is though, the lack of visible evidence suggests there is room for my outspoken chutzpah; rooted in my distress at seeing your results languish whilst your salvation is so close within your reach. Advertisers trust topics as the engine for trusted engagements that has the authenticity to transcend the toxicity of ad tech today. I know this because our venture’s success rests on this vision. If Twitter calibrates itself to fully deliver on a real-time topic experience for advertisers and users, Twitter will move from being a “nice-to-do” to an advertiser’s “must-do.”
I know you can do this and I stand ready to help.
Sincerely — Your most worried and possibly devoted fan.
Ad Age | June 18, 2009 . “What Can You Trust? Let Twitter Help You Decide”
Ad Age | September 25, 2009 “Judy Consumer Is Finally All A-Twitter”
Trenchwars | July 11, 2010 “The Twitter Secret — why & how to use Twitter for B2B and technology businesses. Rant #1”
Social Media Today |December 28, 2010 “The “why” of Twitter — Rant #2”