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Opendoor(Read Time = 2-3 minutes) With Twitter seeping further into the collective B2B outbound mainstream, agencies, clients… consultants and entrepreneurs must grapple over who “owns” it, what policies/practices will be used for governance, and the type metrics which will need to be applied to compare/contrast this channel w/more traditional means for outreach and marketing communications. 

The good news, unlike most previous evolutions of outbound channel alternatives, Twitter doesn’t come with budget requirements.  Resources, to be sure, are needed, but it’s not as cash-driven as traditional media.  Still, content… management… and metrics drive the accountability and Twitter, Facebook and the like can be no different.  How a company and its outside support agencies view their Twitter approach seems more to dictate the management framework than intrinsic values associated with the new medium itself.

If primarily a public relations approach, discussions will center more on headlines/140c, news cycles, measuring coverage, and spokesperson authorization;  if used to drive traffic or support promotional calls to action, the focus will be more akin to direct marketing and conversion;  those that seek actual customer feedback and dialogue would message and measure accordingly.

Would like to other professionals weigh-in on this, focusing here on the B2B consequences rather than consumer or personal use.  Among the usage models we’ve observed five which seem to be capturing most discussion and experimentation:

  • Push messaging platform, either PR, Adv or Marketing-driven
  • Traffic generator
  • Instant message call to action promotions
  • Listening dashboard for brands/branding
  • Customer feedback/dialogue
  • News feed

An August 2009 study was just released which categorized a sample of 2000 tweets as falling into the following categories:  News, Self-Promotion, Spam, Conversational, Pass-Along Value, and Pointless Babble.  This report did not attempt to carve out any vertical segments.

Anecdotal observations suggest that the entry point most B2B companies test first is the addition of Twitter to some larger “listening dashboard” initiative, additive to established brand/messaging monitoring.  This “listening/learning” step avoids the requirement for evolving policies/practices, running the legal gambit normally associated w/an outbound voice, and avoid the need to quickly answer the “who owns it…” question.   We observe that the “listening” comes as a result of interest from marketing brand managers looking to gain a business advantage, or the PR/AR, corporate marketing/marcom teams as an extension of their traditional outreach roles.

A short Twitter history lesson:  created in 2006; tipping point seems to have been the South x Southwest Ffestival  in 2007  20K to 60K ranked as ranked Twitter as the third most used social network (Feb09);  Twitter was used by candidates in the 2008 US presidential campaign; and in March 2009, Doonesbury began to satirize Twitter.

Evolution of approach, seems to be the real watchword especially for companies just beginning to test the waters.  Social media advocates w/in the company and/or agency will cry for speed… be frustrated with the knowledge gaps between those engaged and those who don’t yet understand even basic social media marketing concepts.

Advocates need to patiently link social media to historic/analog counterparts as a way to quicken understanding and lessen concern.  Twitter can be a platfor for both “old media” (ie one-way) push messaging/marketing or  the newer “social media” (two-way) channel which encourages active listening and dialogue.  There’s a solid multi-year track record of exploration and marketing use, particularly among consumer companies. The lesson to learn is that Twitter/social media use seems to be an evolutionary process, from: listening/learning, to PR and push messaging, then to branding/education, followed by customer community feedback, dialogue and finally sales/sales influence.  Noise levels will continue to frustrate marketers and audience communities alike, a constant frustration that only grows worse when you wander the social media landscape.

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