Twitter’s New “Buy Now” Button: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Twitter PR Image
Twitter PR Image

Earlier this month, Twitter began rolling out its new “Buy Now” button, which allows users to buy products from selected retailers without having to leave their Twitter feed. It should come as no surprise that Twitter is looking for ways to increase the revenue its platform generates post-IPO – and as far as social media monetization strategies go, this one does a great job providing value for both brands and individuals using the platform. Taking a cut of sales generated through the platform seems like a much better way to make money on social media than Facebook’s post-IPO strategy, which mostly consists of decimating organic reach in the hopes that brands will pay them to reach their own fans. That said, these are still early days for the initiative, and there are a lot of ways it can go right or wrong. Here’s a breakdown of the good, the bad and the ugly ways that brands could end up using this new strategy.

The Good

Brands that live and die off impulse buys and sales have a lot to gain from this new system. In addition to their brand building efforts, companies that produce products that regularly go on sale (such as clothing companies, or even something like Groupon) will now have access to a new sales channel that requires an opt-in from the user. This means that they can offer exclusive deals, increasing the value users get from following them.

Customers love sales because they let them feel like they got the better end of the deal they just made with the company. This is why J.C. Penney’s honest pricing policy was such a bomb: consumers don’t want to feel like they just made a mutually beneficial exchange with a company, they want to feel like they just fleeced that company for all it’s worth (even if that feeling is completely fabricated). Everyone knows that almost all sale prices still make a healthy profit, but remember, it’s the feeling that counts.

The Twitter “Buy Now” button makes it easy for consumers to get that feeling, helps brands develop loyal customers by requiring them to subscribe to a branded channel, and helps Twitter satisfy investors by giving the platform a cut off the top. Everyone wins.

The Bad

Social media works best as a top-of-the-funnel sales tool: it exists to help people learn about and identify with your brand. Of course the ultimate goal is that your fans will eventually transition off the platform into an owned sales channel, but pushing that process too hard can actually do more harm than good. Almost no one likes to feel like they’re being sold to, and that’s especially true when they’re using social media.

For this reason, Twitter’s “Buy Now” button has enormous potential to be used incorrectly. Companies that use the new tool explicitly to drive conversions – especially if they’re not promoting something that lets the user feel like they won, such as a sale or promotion – will likely find that their followers resent being sold to in that channel. Companies that decide to use the “Buy Now” button will need to make sure that it’s done in a way that provides value to the user first and the bottom line second.

The Ugly

Just as drivers can’t help but gawk at a car accident, the internet is fascinated by corporate social media faux pas. The addition of a “Buy Now” button will make it possible for social media managers to take these awkward mistakes to new heights of insensitivity. Take, for example, DiGiorno’s attempt earlier this week to hijack #WhyIStayed (a hashtag meant to be used by survivors of domestic violence) and use it to sell frozen pizzas. When I try to imagine ways that that tweet could have been in even poorer taste, adding a massive “Buy Now” button to it pretty much takes the cake.

Here’s another example: in a CNBC article on the subject published a few days ago, it was suggested that Home Depot (a company involved in the button’s pilot program) could use hurricanes and other natural disasters as an opportunity to tweet “Buy Now” messages for hurricane supplies. While this might help the company sell a few pallets of sandbags, it’s hard to imagine that the profit they gain from those sales would outweigh the value their brand loses by posting such an insensitive message. A better strategy would be to post tweets that direct people to a blog post or landing page with a helpful list of items for protecting their home during the storm. It's still an attempt to make sales, sure, but by going with a softer sell they reduce the chance that potential customers will interpret the campaign as an effort to profit off disaster.

Twitter’s “Buy Now” button is one of the best ideas for generating revenue on a social media platform I’ve ever seen – when done right, it's a win-win-win scenario for brands, followers and the platform itself. However, like most great ideas, it has the potential to go very wrong when used incorrectly. As with most inbound marketing programs, the “Buy Now” button will work best when it’s providing value to the potential customer first and driving sales second.

Zach Pearson is an Account Executive - Content at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson

What Do Social Media Managers and Jazz Musicians Have in Common?

Photo: Adrian Snood, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo: Adrian Snood, Flickr Creative Commons

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to remind you that we don't applaud here at this old place where we're working, so, restrain your applause, and if you must applaud wait till the end of the set – and it won't even matter then. The reason is that we are interrupted by your noise. In fact, don't even take any drinks, or no cash register ringing, et cetera.”-Charles Mingus

Don’t worry – despite the title of the article, this isn’t going to be like that one presentation at the last conference you went to that had all the depth and insight of an inspirational poster. I’m not going to tell you that social media management is like jazz because “you need to make every note count” or because you need to “improvise if you want to innovate.” No, this post isn’t about what social media managers and jazz musicians both do right – it’s about something they do wrong.

Before PR, I spent several years working as a professional musician and still do some freelance work a couple times a year. Over the years, I’ve met and worked with a lot of musicians – particularly in jazz – whose attitude towards non-musicians (and audiences) is encapsulated by the Mingus quote that opened this article. They’re more interested in playing for the 5% of the population who will understand the technical cleverness of their composition than the massive audience that’s just looking for something that pleases them aesthetically.

In this analogy, social media managers are those musicians – and the potential customers are the audience. Too often, we design and implement social and content programs that are more about pleasing our peers than our viewers. We build programs with simple metrics – number of blog posts a month, number of Facebook posts a week – that are easy to measure and look great on a PowerPoint slide. We argue about how to court influencers, which management platforms are the best and how to generate conversations. But in the end, it’s the equivalent of a jazz solo that’s gone on too long: a few listeners are enthralled, but everyone else is bored.

The vast majority of music listeners don’t understand the basics of music theory; 60% of active Twitter accounts have less than 100 followers. And yet, just like in the quote above, we treat those people – our potential audience – as if they’re doing it wrong. Take this quote from an article I found on Convince&Convert. In it, a social media strategist said:

“Maybe I just don’t get it, but I don’t really see the point of Twitter if you’re not engaged and interacting. But according to these findings, 53% of Twitter users never post any updates.”

That’s a bit like saying “maybe I just don’t get it, but I don’t really see how you can truly enjoy Coltrane’s Giant Steps without some knowledge of chromatic median relationships.” While it’s the sort of thing that might make your friends (or, in the case of the first quote, your clients/prospects) think you’re smart, it’s absolutely not true. Maybe they enjoy Giant Steps because it helps them concentrate while they’re working; maybe they simply think it’s pretty.

The point is that there’s no right way to listen to music – and, similarly, there’s no right way to use a social media platform. Personally, I like to follow the score when I listen to music; however, I know that most people prefer to dance. Some people like to “engage” on social media; others just want to keep up with their favorite celebrities, or find an interesting article to read. The latter group, in both those examples, is not just equally valid – they’re also the majority and our biggest potential audience. We shouldn’t write them off because they’re not using the platform the way we want them to. On the contrary, we should embrace them.

So the next time you’re building a social media plan with a client or a colleague, don’t start off with jargon-filled questions like “how do we maximize our reach and generate organic conversations while courting targeted influencers?” Instead, step into the shoes of the audience. “What would catch my attention if I were a [demographic] waiting for the bus in the morning?” “What would I think is interesting if I were a [demographic] flipping through my social feeds while watching TV?” “I’m a [demographic]: what’s my sense of humor like?”

Our job, before anything else, is to create content that answers those questions. Sure, we can spend time trying to network with influencers and that sort of thing – but that’s just making music for other musicians. Even the best social media “guru” (or whatever other nonsense term) in the world can’t succeed by playing with their back to the crowd. We have to put the audience first.

Zach Pearson is an account executive at Greenough. Follow him on Twitter: @zach_p_pearson

Four Social Media Tips for Non-profits

Photo: Flickr Creative Commons; thethreesisters
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons; thethreesisters

You’ve likely heard the statistic that using social media increases non-profit fundraising up to 40 percent. However, simply having a Twitter or Facebook account does not guarantee success. At Greenough, we’ve had experience working with and following non-profit organizations’ social media channels. Here are some lessons we’ve picked up along the way: 1. Stay true to your values. Your social media presence should reflect your organization’s values and goals. To that end, it’s important to avoid the urge to friend, follow or connect with every company, brand or group that comes your way, for the sole sake of growing your follower base. Instead, try to associate with organizations that share your values and interests. As your program develops, they will be the network you use to spread word about your organization and gain support.

2. Help your followers help you. To learn how to get involved with the American Cancer Society, all you have to do is take a look at its Twitter account (@AmericanCancer ). There’s a lesson here: a good non-profit social media account helps followers get involved, raise money and support their cause. A common problem for non-profits is that people want to help, but don’t know how; social media is a great way to solve that problem.

3. Communication is key. Too often, organizations view social media as a podium instead of a medium for communicating with followers. While maintaining your social media accounts is a full-time job, it’s important not to forget your supporters. Engaging your followers can be as simple as replying to a tweet, commenting on a status, or sending an individual message. For example, when the non-profit national research registry ResearchMatch launched its food allergy sub-registry in December 2013, it took to its @ResearchMatch Twitter account to send individual messages to followers informing them of the development. In addition to engaging your followers and encouraging their input, personal messages also open up your organization to new ideas and feedback.

4. Show the impact of donations and volunteers. People want to know that their gifts and hard work are paying off. Facebook and Twitter are perfect venues to express appreciation for and show the impact of volunteer efforts. Even simple gestures, like a “thank you” tweet can show volunteers that their help makes a difference. Tally up total donations or spotlight different individuals and creatively showcase their initiatives.

Do you have any tips on how non-profits can better use social media to reach their goals? Please let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear them!

Contributed by Account Executive Michael Glen. Send him an email: 

Three Tips for Creating Socially Shareable Content

Social media has become a vital component to brand marketing strategy, but in order to truly unlock its potential value, brands must pay as much attention to marketing their content as they do creating it.  So what is it exactly that leads people to share content socially?  It’s all about creating a connection.  You will increase the chances of your content getting shared if what you put out there gives people the opportunity to feel connected to others.  Here are three tips for creating shareable content, including examples of how brands are successfully implementing these tips: 1) Trigger Positive Emotions: By adding positive emotions to your content, such as humor, intelligence, inspiration, etc., you give your brand a personality that an audience can easily connect with.  When a user enjoys your content, a connection is made. In turn, users will pass it along faster within their own network with the hopes that others will enjoy it as much as they did.

Dollar Shave Club: Video: The Dollar Shave Club’s promo video is extremely funny. Not only has it been shared socially across multiple social media channels but it does a great job convincing viewers to actually sign up.

2) Create Simple Content: The faster your audience can make a connection with your content, the greater the chances your content will get shared.  Simple content, including images, quotes and tweets, is the best way to get your message across.  Strive to create content that is to the point, easy to understand and, therefore, easy to share!

Twecipes: Tweet Recipes:  A “twecipe” is a recipe in 140-characters or less posted on Twitter, including everything from starters to main meals to drinks and desserts.  They became so popular that all of the twecipe’s were crowdsourced from Twitter and turned into a book, called Tweet Pie.

3) Tell a story: Here at Greenough, we’ve proven that brand storytelling allows companies to engage with customers and prospects on a deeper, more personal level.  Good stories fuel conversation and foster engagement.  By developing strategic storylines and then weaving them through your social media content, your audience will easily make a connection and go on to share that story.

Mercedes Benz: Choose Your Own Adventure: Mercedes Benz created a story to reel its audience in and then went as far as allowing the audience to choose the ending. They ran a three-part commercial and gave Twitter users the chance to control the outcome of the third commercial.  The story followed the main character, musician Kane Robinson, as he makes his way to a secret music gig that’s causing pandemonium on the streets. He’s chased the entire way in a silver Mercedes by police and screaming fans.  The exciting story created an immediate connection with its viewers.

Photo: Mercedes Benz: Flickr Creative Commons 2013
Photo: Mercedes Benz: Flickr Creative Commons 2013

Creating a connection with your audience is essential if you want your content to be shared socially.   A stronger connection also builds loyalty to your brand among consumers, which, in turn, grows your audience and your company.

Emma Kieckhafer is an Account Executive at Greenough. Send her an email:   

What Better Place to Talk about Facebook than…Twitter?

Anne blog chart_9.13
Anne blog chart_9.13

In addition to Greenough’s social media listening platform, I love playing with tools, widgets and apps out there to test out hypotheses and satisfy my pangs of curiosity. One tool I’m a fan of is a free Twitter analytics service called Topsy. Yesterday, I was playing with keywords and testing different “rivalries” to see how they played out on Twitter. Purely to satisfy my own whim, I compared the number of times Twitter users mentioned the words “Twitter,” “Facebook” and “LinkedIn” during the past month.

A couple of noteworthy observations and patterns that piqued my interest:

  • At only one point during the entire month does Facebook fall out of first place as the more-frequently-mentioned social network among Twitter users (on August 18).
  •  Unlike a lot of closely-related topics (e.g. Democrats and Republicans), Facebook and Twitter generally don’t follow the same patterns of ups and downs.
  • Mentions of Twitter declined sharply on Fridays, while mentions of Facebook tended to trend downward on Saturdays.
  • LinkedIn is mentioned significantly less than Facebook or Twitter.

One might think that Twitter (the topic) would be discussed more among Twitter users than Facebook (the topic), but that’s not the case. How come? I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I did some digging and musing to try to identify some possible contributing factors.

Potential reasons why Facebook may have edged out Twitter in mentions:

  • When someone talks about Twitter, often they’ll just talk about tweets without saying where they were tweeted (for humans, Twitter’s the only place you can tweet); With Facebook, you use regular verbs that still require you to include the word “Facebook.” E.g. We liked the page on Facebook; He posted the photo on Facebook; I updated my status on Facebook.
  • There are more aspects of Facebook to master, meaning that there are more tips, tricks, questions, etc. floating around out there.
  • Facebook has more users than Twitter, so it stands to reason that it’d have more mentions, even within the Twitter channel. Facebook is not as open as Twitter and information doesn’t flow as freely, so Twitter is an easier channel through which to seek information or search for like-minded users.
  • Facebook is just in the news more than Twitter – IPO, privacy issues.
  • Promoting Facebook contests/giveaways

LinkedIn is no small potatoes in the social realm, so why is it barely a blip on the radar when tracking mentions on Twitter? I have a few guesses, but what do YOU think? Share your thoughts in the comment section on this or on any of the other observations that beg for further explanation.

-- Anne Norris is a senior consultant, digital and social media. Follow Anne on Twitter: @anne_norris