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

It’s the End of Facebook Gating (as We Know It)

stop sign
stop sign

Early last month Facebook announced that, starting November 5, it will ban like-gating – the practice of offering users a reward for liking a business’ page. For businesses that rely on like-gated apps to build follower counts, this sounds like awful news. However, there are actually a lot of good reasons why like-gating should no longer be a best practice. Let’s check out why. Likes May Not Be as Valuable as You Think

Imagine you were offered the choice between 10 highly qualified leads and 100 mostly unqualified ones: which would you choose? The former, obviously – even if you end up getting 11 qualified leads out of the latter group, that slight increase in value wouldn’t make up for the time you lost sorting through the unqualified ones.

Like-gated Facebook contests – especially those with universally desired prizes, like vacations, sports tickets or consumer electronics – often attract such a broad audience that they produce mostly unqualified leads. What’s more, many of these unqualified leads will immediately unlike your page after they pass the gate and enter your contest, leaving you without even a like for your effort.

Compounding this issue is the fact that even likes from potential leads don’t really have much concrete value anymore. Like count may have once served as a rough proxy for message distribution, but today most brands’ organic reach is only about 3% of their total follower count. If posts aren’t reaching a fanbase organically, then increasing the size of the fanbase (especially with unqualified leads) doesn’t really add much value – better to just pay for distribution to your target group.

Better Ways to Gate Content

Alright, time for the good news: there are lots of alternatives to like-gating, and almost all of them produce more meaningful and valuable results than the system they replace. For example, instead of requiring a like to enter a contest, a business could require that a person join their email list or provide contact information. The truly ambitious could confirm that the entrant is really interested by requiring a response to an automated email to confirm their entry. This practice is typically called “action-gating.”

You could also require that potential entrants visit a landing page on your site to complete their entry. By monitoring the time spent by each user on the landing page, you can estimate how many visitors are actually interested in the information it provides. The landing page could even contain an action gate of its own, such as a survey that needs to be filled out.

In both of these examples, you’re getting a lot more than just a Facebook like – you’re getting valuable personal and behavioral information about your potential customers. This information can then be used to improve both inbound and outbound marketing efforts: refining your email list, targeting your blog content, updating your website, even tweaking your social media strategy. Again, its 10 qualified leads versus 100 random ones – 10 detailed customer profiles are a lot more valuable than 100 Facebook likes.

Owning vs. Renting

Finally, getting rid of like-gating allows marketers to focus more on their owned properties. Instead of requiring people to like your company’s Facebook page – which, no matter how dedicated you are to it, will never be truly yours – you can use Facebook contests as a referral tool for your website, newsletter and other owned media platforms.

We put a lot of time and effort into our social media presences, so it can be easy to forget that they’re not fully ours – we only “rent” them from the network owners, who collect our data as payment. This is a mutually beneficial agreement, to be sure, but it’s important to remember that their TOS allows them to “evict” us at any time and for any reason. Because of this, Facebook provides the most value when it’s driving potential customers to owned properties as quickly as possible.

If you rent an apartment, it’s probably not a good idea for you to spend $20,000 to renovate the kitchen – that money would be better used for a down payment on something you’ll own. You don’t own the likes or your Facebook page, but you DO own your email list, your landing pages, and your lead database. Action-gated contests help the former build the latter.

Like-Gating Is Dead: Long Live Action-Gating

The end of like-gating is a good thing because it forces us to take a critical look at how we measure the value of our social media programs. Likes are only one of many different KPIs we can use to judge the effectiveness of our social spend – and, as has been argued here, they may not even be the best one. Through questioning their value, as the end of like-gating has forced us to do, we can discover ways to improve both our programs and our performance metrics.

What are your thoughts on the end of like-gating? Let us know in the comments!

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

Why Twitch Is Worth Watching for Digital Marketers

twitchlogo
twitchlogo

Earlier this week, Amazon made the largest acquisition in the company’s history when it purchased video game streaming website Twitch for $970 million. Because video game streaming has yet to go fully mainstream, the deal has left a lot of people scratching their heads - and, in response, almost every news outlet has decided to offertheirownexplanation.

We wanted to jump in and offer our two cents on what the acquisition means from a digital marketing perspective. For the completely unfamiliar, here’s a crash course on what Twitch is, where the acquisition could take it and how this new form of high-engagement user-generated content will matter for the future of digital marketing.

Twitch 101

At its most basic, Twitch is a platform that allows people to watch other people play video games. It’s enormously popular, averaging 567,000 viewers during prime-time - that’s 7,000 above MTV’s numbers and just below Comedy Central’s.

Twitch streams fall into two broad categories: to draw a parallel with existing media, we’ll call them “Super Bowls” and “hobby shows.” Super Bowls are major gaming tournaments that attract enormous audiences - The International, one of the gaming’s largest tournaments, had a 2014 prize pool of $11 million and brought in 20 million viewers on Twitch. Hobby shows, by contrast, are more like Emeril Live or Car Talk. They attract smaller niche audiences that are both interested in learning about the hobby and also entertained by the specific personality hosting the show. Twitch has thousands of these hobby shows, each focused on a different aspect of gaming culture and hosted by a unique personality.

In addition to live video, Twitch also provides a chat room for everyone watching the game that runs alongside the show. This is what makes it stand out from traditional television - the chat function creates more engaged audiences by encouraging viewers to interact in real time with both the streamer and other viewers. This reduces viewers’ available bandwidth, making it difficult to zone out and thumb through Twitter while watching.

Where It’s Going

Amazon now owns the main distribution network for gaming Super Bowls - not bad in and of itself. But the real synergy between the two companies lies in Amazon’s ability to extend Twitch’s hobby show format across all its products. Tom Standish, the Economist’s Digital Editor, gave an example of how that might work on the newspaper’s Babbage blog this week:

“From my perspective, I go over to Twitch because there’s a new game out and I want to see what it’s like… I’m probably quite interested in buying this game… (and now) Amazon can just put a ‘buy’ button, right there, underneath the video. So one way you can think about this is that Amazon has just bought access to millions of user-generated adverts for games.”

Mr. Standish uses Twitch hobby shows - or, as he calls, them, “user-generated adverts” - as a way to vet products he’s considering purchasing. In that way, they function very much like Amazon’s user reviews, but with added benefit of offering entertainment value.

The capabilities provided by Twitch allow Amazon to bridge the divide between their core retail business and their nascent online video services, allowing both sides to direct users closer to purchases. Instead of watching cooking shows on network television, Amazon hopes that potential customers will instead visit its new streaming video service (let’s call it something like “Kindle Live”) and watch a cooking show there instead.

If the hypothetical Kindle Live can incorporate ‘buy’ buttons for the items being used on its new user-generated hobby shows, that will surely create a lot of sales - especially if users perceive the buttons not as ads but as helpful shortcuts that make it easier to emulate their favorite streamers. Imagine a customer watching their favorite home improvement Kindle Live stream, asking the host a few questions about the tool they’re using in the chat room, and then adding the tool to their Amazon cart by simply clicking on it in the stream. It’s not possible yet, but that sort of potential is the real value Twitch adds for Amazon.

Getting Ready for Live Stream Marketing

If you’re a digital marketer and had never heard of Twitch before this week, don't worry - right now, it’s really only relevant for gaming demographics. But now that Amazon owns the company, that will likely change soon. Expect Amazon to make a big push over the next few years to expand Twitch’s trademark high-engagement user-generated content into other industries. A solid plan for this new medium will include “streamer relations” similar to existing social media influencer relations strategies, smart ideas for pre-roll stream advertisements, tactics for participating in stream chat and an understanding of the informal categories of Twitch-type streams (which, as we’ve seen, really aren’t all that different from traditional broadcast media).

Twitch is more than just a platform for game streaming - it’s a new digital media format that’s about to get a huge boost and a new monetization strategy from one of the largest companies in the world. If you haven’t studied it yet, it’s worth doing some research so you’re prepared for the arrival of Twitch-type content in your industry - even if that arrival is a few years off.

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

Three Tips for Effective Consumer-facing Social Media

From 2008 to 2012, the number of Americans using social sites daily grew from 12 million to 58 million.  As the use of social media continues to expand, companies are increasingly looking to these mobile and web-based technologies as a way to connect with new and existing customers. While many of today’s brands have a presence on popular social sites, simply sharing information about a product or service does not necessarily lead to sales or customer loyalty. Here are a few tips for taking social media engagement to the next level:

1. Create engaging content to drive your social media. In 2012, Google’s Zero Moment of Truth research found that the average number of information sources used by customers doubled from 2010 to 2011. Not only are modern consumers using more information to drive their purchasing decisions, but they are also being exposed to more content than ever before. With the growth of social media, companies are now able to easily produce large amounts of content explaining why their product or service is the best, shifting the focus from which companies are the most engaged on social media, to those that have the most engaging social presences.

In 2013, as part of its “Look Up” campaign, British Airways set up digital billboards in London that respond to planes flying overhead. When a British Airways flight passes overhead, the billboards depict a child running and pointing up to the sky, chasing the airplane as the billboard reflects the flight details, like “flight BA475 from Barcelona.” Combining the childhood fascination of flying with the technological wizardry of the billboards, “Look Up” was shared widely across social media platforms and set British Airways apart from other airlines.

Engaging content not only separates you from the crowded social media arena, but it communicates the message of your brand. While customers may visit social pages to learn about the newest deals or to be entertained, they are also soaking up your company’s message and learning what it stands for. By creating content (articles, videos, podcasts, blog posts, etc.) that not only commands attention, but creates a personal connection with your customers, you can build loyalty for not just your products and services, but also for your brand.

2. Be social with your followers. Too often, companies forget the “social” aspect of social media. While social media is a great platform to feature new products and services, it is important to remember that social media is a forum for interacting with existing and potential customers, not just an online advertising space. If you go to the Twitter accounts of companies like J. Crew (@jcrew) or Nike (@Nike), you will see that they frequently reply to tweets by customers about their products or related topics. While this does not mean that you should reply to every Facebook post or tweet – choosing what to interact with is a science all its own - interacting with your viewers, whether it is through direct responses, sharing posts by your audience or by posting content that engages your audience, shows your followers that you value their feedback and are interested in what they have to say.

3. Promote sharing. Last year, insight community technologies provider Vision Critical conducted a survey, From Social to Sale, on the relationship between social media and sales. They found that about 40% of social media users have purchased an item after sharing it on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. When managing your social media accounts, the goal should not only be to share information about your company and its products and services, but to encourage your customers to share information about your business as well.

Babolat, a French sports company best known for its tennis equipment, promotes the hashtag #TennisRunsInOurBlood on its Twitter and other social media accounts. This hashtag is used to share Babolat’s products, highlight the results of the players it sponsors, and, most importantly, promote customer sharing of Babolat products. Throughout the Babolat Twitter (@Babolat) page you will see tweets by customers about how much they enjoy playing with Babolat equipment, all featuring the #TennisRunsInOurBlood hashtag. Users can also search the hashtag to find tennis-related posts from other people, interspersed with messages from the Babolat corporate account. While corporate and professional social sharing are important, customers themselves are often the best promoters of your brand.

Do you have any tips on effective consumer social media engagement? Please let us know in the comments – we’d love to hear them!

Contributed by Account Executive Michael Glen. Send him an email: mglen@greenoughcom.com 

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