How To Use Promoted Tweets To Shorten Your Sales Cycle
Did you know? A 260 lb. dolphin eats approximately 33 lbs. of fish daily.

Twitter recently announced Keyword Targeting for their Promoted Tweets ad product.

Performance marketers rejoiced,

Now we can generate leads and sales from social networks using native, keyword-targeted ads!

Maybe…

As Forbes pointed out in a recent article, the jury is out as to whether keyword-targeted advertising in social media will deliver search-engine level of performance. There are good reasons to doubt it will. The biggest difference? on Twitter, you are often interrupting conversations with your content, not responding to personal inquiries for help.

While you can definitely sell stuff on Twitter, it’s clear that most of Twitter’s marketing value (impressions) lies in top-of-funnel branding, prospecting and lead nurturing activities, where Twitter’s real-time content-sharing and interest-based relationship-building competencies shine.

Can Twitter Be Used To Generate Leads At Scale?

Absolutely!

Twitter’s real-time content marketing advantages can be leveraged to capture warm leads, build email lists and shorten sales cycles. This is because Twitter is uniquely awesome at getting the right content in front of the right person at the right time – in real-time.

Now, with keyword targeted Promoted Tweets available to everyone, Twitter has made getting your content to people who need it a whole lot easier – because now you can automate your outreach marketing (the most frequent request from our users). Yes!

This post describes a simple process you can use to generate leads and to shorten your sales cycle using Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets.

Here’s a deck we put together that explains the method in detail, along with a few lessons we learned along the way:

 

The cool thing about using intent-targeted Promoted Tweets is that it gets your best content in front of your prospects when THEY need it.

It’s like having a dedicated direct marketing team monitoring Twitter for leads, 24/7.

Even better: you don’t have to sit in front of the screen all day to monitor and respond!

Of course, you have to pay Twitter for the privilege of automating your content marketing. But for many marketers, it’s well worth the price.

The Strategy: Target Buyer Needs With Helpful Content

The strategy we recommend is to promote your most helpful content – FAQs, videos, blog posts, infographics, spec sheets, whatever – to carefully-targeted prospects during specific moments of need they discuss on Twitter.

If you don’t yet have high-quality, buyer-issue-focused content online, then go out and get some right now.

Presenting your most helpful content to prospects near their ‘moment of need’ can shorten your sales process in three important ways:

  • You will knock-down more sales obstacles, faster.
  • You will build your brand as a helpful provider of solutions and content – not a cold-calling machine.
  • You will respond to your buyer’s needs in real-time, in a non-threatening manner. Being timely can make a huge impact on engagement, CTR and lead conversion rates.

Tactically, you will be placing solution-focused Promoted Tweets in front of buyers discussing issues. Your Promoted Tweets will contain links to helpful content on your website.

To target your potential buyers, you will use conversational keywords that indicate purchase intent.  These keywords are what they actually say on Twitter during their moments of need.

OK, enough of the strategy – here is the process, starting with campaign planning.

Campaign Planning

Preparing for a sales-focused Promoted Tweets campaign is straightforward and consists of four steps:

  1. Compile a list of the questions and issues that your prospective customers and active leads commonly face.
  2. Gather links to helpful content you have already produced that address your prospects’ key issues.
  3. Create a landing page for each issue in 1.
  4. Post at least one tweet from your account with a link to each landing page in 3.

The first step is to compile a short-list of the most important questions and issues that commonly stand between an uninformed prospect and a sale. The best way to find these issues is to ask your sales force or your direct marketing team, if you have one. If you target multiple types of buyers or personas, then you will need a list of issues for each persona.

The second step is to gather together (or create) links to blog posts, videos and other forms of high-quality digital content that addresses each key buyer issue. It is best if the content is yours, but it’s not required: plenty of people will click on your bio and follow you if you share helpful content. The important thing is that the content you share addresses the issue and is helpful.

Next, you will create at least one landing page for each issue or group of similar issues. Place your content behind or on these landing pages and generate a unique web tracking code for each. Each landing page should provide a way to capture lead information like a social login, an email signup form or a full-blown lead capture form.

Finally, you will prepare one or more Promoted Tweets for each issue. This is because on Twitter, your tweet is your native ad.  In your posts, be natural, use a 1-to-1 conversation tone and keep it brief (like you normally do on Twitter).

For promoted tweets, we like to combine a short buyer question with a simple CTA, for example:

Trouble With Malware? Learn 3 ways to eliminate it from your life: http://ntag.it/5vbcxr

Now that you have your marketing assets in place, you are ready to launch your first intent-targeted Promoted Tweets Campaign.

Campaign Execution

Setting up a campaign on Twitter is easy.

You will want to create one Promoted Tweets Campaign per buyer issue addressed. This way, you can see how well you are addressing specific pain points and how good each type of issue is at delivering sales-qualified leads.

Setting up a keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets campaign to address a specific issue in your buyer’s journey is easy to do – if you know what keywords to use. More about that in a second.

You’ll enter your keywords into the campaign panel below. You can choose from Broad Match, Phrase Match or Negative Keyword match for each keyword entered.  There is a practical user interface limit of about 300 keywords, although the system can actually handle more.

twitter keyword targeting

twitter keyword targeting

So… how do you identify the right conversational keywords for an issue-focused campaign?

Selecting the Right Keywords: Not The Same As Search

To come up with the right keywords for your campaign, the first thing you should do is take a few minutes to listen to what your prospective buyers actually say on Twitter.

Use Twitter Advanced Search or a specialized tool like NeedTagger to filter Twitter for people discussing the issues on your list. Take note of the verb phrases (intent markers), topics and hashtags that are commonly mentioned.

For example, this guy has an issue with malware and might need some anti-virus software:

Malware example tweet Snapshot 9:25:13 7:54 AM

Verb (intent) markers include: “ruins your day” and “fml”.

Topics include “malware” and “browsers”.

As you can see from the example above, the words people use to express intent on Twitter (conversational keywords) are often different than the keywords they might enter into Google to find a solution (search keywords).

To illustrate just how different, what sort of solutions do you think Clinton might find on Google if he entered the keyword, “ruins your day malware fml”?

Just for giggles, we tried it – here’s what we got:

ruins your day Snapshot 9:25:13 8:02 AMWhere’s Norton AntiVirus when you need them?

Selecting the right conversational keywords to target is a potential stumbling block for anyone who wants to augment their Google AdWords PPC campaigns with keyword-targeted social media campaigns. Especially if they are performance-marketing oriented, which means they want to target purchase intent (mostly).

To help bridge this gap, we’ve been working on an automated way to identify the right conversational keywords to target, for NeedTagger customers.

Currently in private beta, NeedTagger can now automatically generate a list of the top-performing conversational keywords for your intent-filtered stream.  (ask us about the beta if you’re interested).

Here’s how that works:

needtagger converts keywords Snapshot 9:25:13 8:45 AM

 

 

An alternative way to generate conversational keywords is to use a keyword combination tool (Google AdWords has a free one) and combine verb phrases and topics together, as follows:

SEO keyword combination tool Snapshot 9:25:13 8:29 AM

Measuring Results

Twitter provides a great set of analytics that help you understand how effective your ad campaigns are and in how people are engaging with your Promoted Tweets.

Analytics compared Twitter vs NeedTagger Snapshot 9:25:13 12:39 PM

Twitter does not, however, provide a way for you to A/B test your landing pages and messages against a target audience prior to launching a paid campaign. Using a tool like NeedTagger is a great way to test your messaging in real-time with real prospects to see how well they work – before you start paying to promote them.

In our Insights tab, NeedTagger also provides the actual number of needs we find each day for your intent-filtered stream of conversations. We cannot guarantee 100% alignment with what Twitter targets for your keywords (we use different algorithms), but Insights can give you a pretty good indication of how much opportunity there is inside of Twitter for your campaign, before you start paying.

We also generate daily email alerts that will keep you on top of your market.

Optimizing Your Campaign

Twitter offers several cool features and media types that can help you maximize results. We won’t go into depth on them here.

One does deserve a mention for lead generators, however:

Twitter has been testing a new Lead Generation Card that simplifies content sharing and lead capture from prospects who like your helpful content. The way it works is really simple (see screenshot below).

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Twitter Lead Generation Card

Lead Gen Cards are great for building email lists!

Just understand that this is all you will get – an email address. To mine those leads, you will need a decent marketing automation platform.

In summary, Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets product is a powerful new tool in a performance marketer’s kit. But you’ll need high quality helpful content and know how to identify the right conversational keywords to make it work for you.

To learn about more ways to leverage social media for lead generation, check out this excellent presentation prepared by Marketo:

 

Have you tried Twitter’s new keyword-targeted Promoted Tweets?

Tell us about your experience, by leaving a comment below.

Does Online Influencer Marketing Really Impact Sales?
Did you know? There are 32 species of marine dolphins, four types of river dolphins, and six types of porpoises.

This evening on Google+, I came across the following video of Sam Fiorella, courtesy of his business partner, Danny Brown.

Source: http://www.senseimarketing.com/customer-decision-making-processes-and-influence-marketing/

If you don’t know who they are, Sam and Danny are experts in the science of “influencer marketing”.

Their just-released book is a challenging view of how influence actually works in today’s age of multi-channel, socially-connected marketing.

I deeply respect Sam and Danny for the work they are doing to unravel this complex subject.

So far, however, I am unconvinced that online influencer marketing makes much of a meaningful impact on sales.

At least, not at an ROI that compares favorably with other marketing options available today.

To be clear, I’m not saying you can’t sell on Twitter – our customers have proven that you can, a thousand times over.

What I’m saying here is that it’s not clear you can recruit other people to sell for you. At least, not at any sort of affordable scale.

Offline Relationships Still Matter

A big open issue regarding the influencer marketing trend concerns the relative importance of offline and online relationships between the same two people.

The issue is best explained by asking this question:

If an offline relationship existed between a buyer and seller prior to an online interaction, should the online interaction be counted as the only driver of the sale?

Of course not!

Yet, this is exactly what metrics like Klout and PeerIndex are being used to claim. To be fair, the metrics companies themselves are quite clear their numbers shouldn’t be taken out of context. Nevertheless, this is exactly what a lot of marketing teams are doing – this morning!

Until someone does a decent job analyzing both types of influence in the same study, I think every marketing team should pause and ask the same question.

My personal hunch is that offline relationships are where most sales influence actually lies. If you ask any sales person about this – including social selling pros – they will tell you ALL about the importance of building offline relationships.

Online Purchase Intent: Search vs. Social

Even if we restrict our view to purely online channels, it appears to us that personal intent signals like Google search queries are at least one order of magnitude better predictors of purchase intent than social signals such as: Twitter & Facebook search queries; influencer scores like Klout & PeerIndex; and relationship vectors derived from social and interest graphs, et al.

For the record, please note that I am the CEO/founder of a social customer prospecting platform.  We don’t take this stuff lightly 😉

And, again, the world of marketing cannot be boiled into a single number. I’m sure there are exceptions. I just haven’t seen any that we well-documented, yet.

For both personal and professional reasons, I’d love to see a rigorous study (or three) that proves online influencer marketing drives incremental sales with a positive ROI (at scale) – this would be an incredibly important insight.

But as a trained engineer, I am forced to ask myself: where’s the proof?

Causation is Not Correlation (or something like that)

A lot of what I am saying here is based on our experience running a social customer prospecting platform and my own analysis of studies to date.

For example, we’ve run dozens of tests comparing Twitter organic and paid marketing campaigns vs. equivalent search engine organic and paid campaigns to understand how the two channels compare in their ability to drive sales.

Every influencer marketing study I’ve read so far has basically been a statistical correlation of online data – not a scientific analysis of human behavior.

Before I read yet another blog post about “the power of influencer marketing”… I’d love to read just one that lays out a little scientific method, so we can find out what’s really going on!

For example, I’d like to know:

  • how do online and offline communications actually influence purchases?
  • what is the hypothesis we just tested?
  • what is the design of our experiment?
  • how did we control our experiment for independent variables?
  • what were our expected results – before running the experiment?
  • how did our actual results differ from expected results – with a thoughtful analysis of the probable reasons why?
  • please provide a detailed description of the mechanisms, systems and processes involved in converting our dependent variables into independently verifiable results.
  • what are the possible sources of error and their magnitudes?
  • please provide a thoughtful comparison of prior study results vs. ours?

I don’t think I am asking too much.

For years, the best search marketers have been using this type of scientific rigor to optimize online sales.

Yes, search geeks lean on statistics – a LOT. But they also base their experiments and hypotheses on detailed observations of human behavior using heat maps, eye tracking, et al.

So why aren’t we doing this type of primary research in social media / influencer marketing?

After speaking with Danny Brown on Google+ a few months ago, I know that he and Sam Fiorella understand the differences I’m talking about here.  In fact, they are working on a more rigorous way to measure the types of influence that really matter to business.  I applaud their efforts.  It’s a huge challenge, and it’s where we need to go.

But for now, I can’t help but be skeptical about what we call “influencer marketing” today – which is mostly just a new type of PR outreach.

I hope my skepticism is off-base. Because proving that influencer marketing drives sales (profitably) would be an incredibly important thing to learn.

The bottom line is: if we are going to claim that influencer marketing is a meaningful way to drive sales at a positive ROI – then the onus is on us to prove that it actually does.

I look forward to seeing more evidence as the story unfolds.

For now, consider me a “hopeful skeptic”.

With Growth Slowing, Does Twitter Need a Better User Experience?
Did you know? Killing a dolphin in ancient Greece was punishable by death.

Twitter’s growth is slowing

Just in time for their IPO.

A recent post by Om Malik  claims Twitter will not come close to CEO Dick Costello’s targeted 400 million users by year’s end.

It’ll be more like 240 million, according to AllThingsD.

Twitter is adding about 4.5 million new users a month – a growth rate of 20-30% per year.

That’s not exactly “hot IPO” territory. Only 15% of the US internet population uses the service, after all.

Is this as far as we go?

More importantly: why the slowdown?

Twitter employees recently told AllThingsD that

Twitter has a basic problem with churn — lots of people sample the service, and then stop using it.

That mirrors what many of my friends say when I ask them why they stopped using Twitter.

My friends are older than the average user, however.

Is Twitter for Conversation – or Content?

Twitter recently added a new conversations view to make the service more useful as a conversational tool. It provides visual threading of discussions, which helps you stay on top of a discussion over time.

twitter_conversations-100051919-origThat’s great – except most people don’t actually use Twitter for engaging in conversations. The number of “lurkers” far outweighs the number of people who use Twitter for daily conversation.

Instead, most people use Twitter for its real-time news and media sharing awesome-ness. The vast majority of active users spend their time watching, reading, clicking and sharing stuff they find.

In other words, most people go to Twitter for content.

A Question of Noise

noise-canceling-headphone-6

With so many people following each other today (the average number of people connected to each  user continues to rise), it has become hard for people to find unique and relevant content on Twitter (emphasis on relevant).

The first challenge is that there’s simply too much content to sift through. If you follow over a hundred or so people who post frequently, you cannot possibly see it all.

As we’ve pointed out in previous posts, the primary method of filtering Twitter for signal – searching for keywords and hashtags – doesn’t slow the feeds down enough. A lot of junk remains.

A second, growing problem is the rise of redundant posts.

Little by little, as the number of connections per user grows, we are seeing the same links tweeted by more and more people. Redundant posts is another form of noise.

The result: “searching for signal” is wasting an ever-increasing amount of time for each user.

And as long as more people connect with each other, the math says this is going to get worse – unless Twitter starts filtering for us without our input, a la Facebook’s EdgeRank.

The looming threat to Twitter is clear: as each person hits their own point of “diminishing signal strength”, s/he may stop using Twitter and look for another way to find good content.

We may be seeing this occur right now, but only Twitter knows for sure.

It’s sort of like what might happen if cable TV channels jammed too many crappy infomercials into their lineup and…

… heyyy, wait a second…

10-worst-infomercials-ever-1-9838-1365536955-23_big

If Twitter wants to reduce churn, then they need to make the content shared on their network more relevant, more find-able and more engaging for ordinary people.

Doing this will require implementing better ways of organizing, prioritizing, surfacing and rendering shared links for each person.

It may, in other words, require a better user experience.

Twitter’s Not Sitting Still

Twitter clearly understands they need to improve their user experience.

To be fair, they have been rolling out lots of new features to address these issues.

For example, in the past few years they have:

  • Added media cards. This speeds content consumption and improves the user experience, but it’s not enough. Media cards are still in streams and surrounded by junk.
  • Vastly improved their UI.  Really nice job optimizing their original design.
  • Dramatically reduced spam.  They have dozens of people who spend all day swatting those flies for us.
  • Reduced Bots and Robo-Spammers.
  • Acquired Tweetdeck. We love Tweetdeck, but it’s not the answer. Neither is HootSuite, another tool we love.

I wouldn’t look to Twitter’s current ecosystem of apps for an answer.

The problem with Twitter apps today – including ours – is that our designs replicate Twitter’s noisy “fire hose in a stream” design.  This is because  Twitter requires us to do that.

By locking their app developers into their user experience, Twitter may have become their own worst enemy on solving this particular issue.

Media Curation Apps: The Long-Term Fix?

Of course, there are platforms out there that do a great job of media curation and rendering for ordinary people.

These are the things that Pinterest, Feedly and Flipboard do especially well.

When you study the growth rates of these apps, it appears that tens of millions of people are, indeed, looking for better ways of finding quality media than social networks can provide.

For example: did you know that in terms of new users, Flipboard is growing faster than Twitter?  That’s right.

Flipboard CEO Mike McCue recently confirmed they crossed 85 million users. They are now adding more than 5 million new users a month! Twitter is adding 4.5 million.

Ruh-roh.

The new gang of media curation apps seems to be attracting a not-inconsequential amount of attention away from the networks they pull their content from.

My own media consumption behavior has changed like this, too.

My Daily Media Ritual

Keep in mind that I am the CEO of a Twitter conversation mining startup…

In the morning, I open Flipboard first to get at all the “good stuff” on Twitter and other sources before I jump into HootSuite for engagement. Flipboard is my morning newspaper.

Here’s my Flipboard setup:

my flipboar setup

I also curate a few Flipboard magazines, which I tend to update right before breakfast (usually).

During the day, I will jump onto Twitter a few times for mentions, replies, follows and DMs.  I also use NeedTagger and HootSuite for my business posting and engagement.

At night, I use Flipboard exclusively for reading my Twitter (and other networks) content, because it is a such a great experience.

This is my daily media ritual. Your mileage will vary.

In related news, I quit buying newspapers and magazines more than a year ago.  And I read far fewer newsletters these days.

Your Move, Twitter

I can’t prove everything I just stated about Twitter. It’s mostly opinion (except for the growth numbers).

But I believe Twitter’s inability to separate signal from noise in their interface is the single biggest reason their growth is stalling out.

To fix this, I’d love to see Twitter build its own Flipboard-style media experience on top of their user streams and add some of the “personal interest graph magic” that Flipboard has mastered so well.

Keep the raw feeds, but offer an alternative and more immersive content navigation and consumption experience.

I believe doing this would go far to re-ignite Twitter’s growth as “the CNN of the social age”.

Just my opinion.

In full disclosure, I am an investor in Flipboard. I don’t have any inside information or ongoing relationship with the team. Not the reason for this post.

I wrote this post because I use both products. A LOT.

 

What do you think about Twitter’s slowing growth? What should they do to fix it?

 

Ref: Seeking Alpha

AllThingsD: Twitter falling well short of user growth target • 1:55 PM

  • Though Twitter CEO Dick Costolo proclaimed earlier this year he expected the microblogging giant to have 400M monthly active users (MAUs) by the end of 2013 after hitting 200M in Dec. ’12, sources tell AllThingsD Twitter currently has ~240M MAUs.
  • That implies a 2013 growth rate of less than 4.5M MAUs/month, and suggests Twitter will end the year with ~260M, far below Costolo’s target. For reference, Facebook (FB -0.9%) closed Q2 with 1.15B total MAUs (+3.6% Q/Q and +21% Y/Y) and 819M mobile MAUs. Om Malik previously reported Twitter is falling short of Costolo’s target, but didn’t give a specific number.
  • Twitter employees tell AllThingsD their company “has a basic problem with churn — lots of people sample the service, and then stop using it.” Twitter is trying to address the problem in part by adding Facebook-like features (such as a conversations view) it hopes will make the service less intimidating to new users. Ironically, this is happening while Facebook tries tobecome more like Twitter.
  • More on Twitter’s IPO: IIIIII