By: Martin Cahill
Twitter’s constant controversy and advertiser fear of making missteps can be discouraging, but can Twitter’s consumer attention be ignored?
A little more than ten years ago, Twitter launched, and became a hub for community engagement, news, silly stories and memes, and a way of reaching people, and in doing so, bringing them together. For those in advertising and marketing, it heralded a whole new playing field; a fresh landscape to pitch to consumers, garner attention and follows and verification, and from them, gain authenticity, new consumers, and fresh chances each time a person refreshes their feed to advertise to someone brand new.
However, the playing field has changed as Twitter has changed with the times. No longer just a bastion of cute animals, contagious memes, connecting with celebrities, and the latest news in entertainment, Twitter has become something much more. And in that metamorphosis, advertisers need to morph with it.
I couldn’t have predicted that in these times we have a MLA approved way to cite Twitter in an academic paper. I wouldn’t have even begun to fathom the important role it played in the Arab Spring, when social media sites such as Facebook, and Twitter, gave a voice and an organizational power to activists, protestors, and citizens doing their best to work through the social channels that their authoritarian governments did not fully understand.
And if you had told me that a White House Press Secretary would’ve have printed out, shown off, and cited tweets made by a world leader in defense of policy actions, I would’ve said we were living in a time of satire. However, day in and day out, Twitter is turning into a legitimate tool of action, and is a powerful application in the hands of journalists, writers, artists, civil servants, and more. Never has there been a more powerful time than this for Twitter, where communities can be brought together for more than entertainment, but for real information in real-time.
So what’s an advertiser to do? People’s limited attention spans are already hard enough to combat, and for people who are searching for community information, a promoted tweet only gets in the way. You could go the route of audience targeting, but that leaves you susceptible to being tone-deaf; in such a charged landscape as we find ourselves in, the last thing you want to do is alienate yourself through an ill-timed tweet. Twitter is no longer a place where a company can get away with tasteless advertising, or half-thought through actions. The Internet remembers, and hijacking a world event for your gain, whether it’s a celebrity death or something even larger scale, will not find history taking kindly to you.
With these challenges in mind, the way to move forward requires social listening. Advertisers have to acknowledge and recognize the challenges facing brands, and understand that Twitter is no longer the advertising haven it once was. Keep an eye on the news, on the world, keep an eye on your target audience and demographics, and work to post relevant advertising that plays alongside the climate of your audience and what’s happening in the world.
In that vein, learn to reach out to people; garnering follows and likes through shared conversation, social connection, and shared experience, which can go a long way towards establishing a relationship. Social listening, especially in these days of “fake news,” and distrust of media sources, goes a long way toward authority, authenticity, and a rapport with potential consumers.
None of the above means that traditional banners, promotions, or audience targeting are dead and gone. It just means that this is a changing landscape, and the engagement of the consumer to you and your brand are going to change from what it once was.
A willingness to engage with your customer base, to listen to their needs and desires, and to shift on a dime in response to the larger world are what’s going to make your advertising and marketing on Twitter successful, and keep people engaged with you and your brand.