From "all the news fit to print" to "all the news you can fit [in a tweet]".
It looks like the news media model is moving into the social media realm. Sell and buy ads and you'll have sustenance for the tool and a way for brands to get something out of it without having to put too much time, attention, and work into it.
What happened to the notion of personally earning attention on social networks? Where have all the conversations about brands engaging, interacting, and being human gone? At the end of the day, nothing happens until a sale is made - and a lot more sales need to be made.
Editorial and advertising will blend as advertorial. Brands will look to leverage influentials who already have pull and charisma to gain greater reach - a reach many do not have because they have not invested time and people in it. Will the relationships transfer?
This tweet sponsored by
Along with the ability to create lists, or groups of people individuals choose to segment, we now have gone from "what are you doing?" - a question that could have been interpreted too literally and result in messages like "I'm eating a pizza" - to "what's happening?" - a question that for a fortunate brand might yield messages like "at 'X brand name' they make pizza with fresh dough" with link to location.
I recommend a thin pizza made in the province of Modena, but you probably won't be there any time soon and I can't even remember the name of the place. If we meet face to face there though, we could go together.
All the data released recently says that we trust recommendations by peers more than we trust brand messaging. Since many companies have been unable to earn recommendations from customers (in many instances even from employees) at the rate they'd want, they're now experimenting with buying them by sharing the profits with the user.
How many brands would you authentically recommend? Be honest. Now you might like many more, if you stand to make a buck from doing that, right? We'll have to let it play out to see what happens, of course.
Relevance and authenticity
Will relevance trump authenticity? Do you care if your friend truly believes in something he advertises if it's relevant to you? This question goes to the heart of behavioral science and trust - you might want to think about it more than just a little.
Relevance is something that advertisers have been struggling with for years. Even with search, you have no idea why someone is looking for that term. Although you pay only if that person clicks on the ad, it is more likely more of the clicks will go to organic content, which we perceive to be authentic. As people spend more time online, many more learn to tell the difference.
As we now spend so much more time chatting with friends online than searching, advertisers want in our conversation. So do the tools that need to turn a profit. The ad model in question at the moment is ad.ly for Twitter, in-stream advertising "connecting top tier twitterers with top tier brands". Right.
Why won't brands take the time to learn about the way customers make purchases? Embedding an ad in a tweet is not context marketing! As coldbrew notes in a comment to Scoble's post about in-tweet advertising, the company's model:
fails to consider the nature of 2-way communications, trust, and transparency which are increasingly more common in the digital age. It seems an attempt at supplanting the organic, word-of-mouth style of most discourse on Twitter and Facebook, with an artificial one where the conflict of interest is blatant.
Can something be authentically relevant? This is not a play on words. If you have enough information about what your customers like and want, would they welcome your targeted ad as authentic (you disclose it's an ad) and relevant (it hits home)? When in doubt, ask first.
Value and numbers
I think we can agree that value as in being relevant matters. When given the choice, your customers will choose to be in control of when they accept a message from you. "I'm not ready to talk to a sales rep" applies online as well. Would they expect a sponsored in-line tweet as part of the conversation?
It would be the equivalent of breaking into a commercial when someone asks you for a referral. The thought alone has me in stitches. Imagine the cacophony on Twitter where the ratio signal to noise could get perilously close to messy, especially if the etiquette is to follow as close a number to that of people following you - you know many of your followers are bots, right?
Does value for the individual therefore go down as the numbers go up? We already know that brands think value in terms of numbers. I've been in meetings where people have recited the volume needed in a purchase list to get a % of leads. Mind you, leads not conversions. That, in turn, is a (diminishing) number.
Does top tier mean with lots of followers? I suspect it does. All other indications seem to point to porting the same ad model we're used to ignoring elsewhere into the stream.
Opt-in and Opt-out
Are we back to the conversation on opt-in and opt-out?
Let's take newsletters as an example. In my direct experience, very few ask you permission to opt you in a specific communication. Most will opt you in all lists globally if you corresponded with them once. Many will start pushing their newsletter or blog post into your inbox if you've merely exchanged business cards or corresponded.
Why do so few ask?
Because they think it's easier if you just opt-out. Except for it isn't. It takes time and the junk crowds your inbox. So much so that filters and validation software work overtime. How do you like being reported as spam? The alternative is to act offended when someone unsubscribes to something they didn't subscribe to in the first place.
Many of the arguments on ad inventory streamed within social conversations touch upon this very mechanism. You don't like it, you opt out. But social media was supposed to be opt-in.
Do we really want to push in the direction of opt-out?
We know what opt-in looks like. But it's a lot more work, and the revenue is not coming in fast enough. Will ad.ly or other similar ad models be a turn off for you? Will you use them as a brand?
The main question to me is not whether this is a good idea. The question should be one about execution. How can we change the way we do communications online? We touched upon advertising and open systems not long ago. For customers, I'd look more into the mutual benefit route. We'll talk about it in another post.
[image by massdistraction]
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