Why Companies Should Care About the New Twitter Profiles and 15 New Ads

Twitter has never necessarily stood out to me from a PR or content marketing standpoint; however, after the release of new Twitter profiles made headlines this week, a not-as-heavily-covered roll out of 15 new types of Twitter ads was brought to my attention. When you look at these two together, you can appreciate the significance of each of them individually, and realize that Twitter is maybe making some of its biggest moves since its IPO in order to start turning current revenue into actual profit.

New Twitter Profiles

flotusTwitter will begin to roll out new profiles featuring larger profile pictures and customized headers (those of you with profile pics that fit perfectly in the middle of the header will have to rethink that visual strategy) as well as ditching background images. The good news is that the new profiles look similar to Facebook profiles, and from a visual design and consistency standpoint, that can be a good thing.

Where content is concerned, the main Twitter stream on the new profiles will show popular content in a larger font, which should encourage users to create more compelling content but also definitely to advertise in order to boost the popularity of content that should stand out. Moreover, users can pin tweets to the top of their stream, which will have no impact on how often people blast out tweets because Twitter is primarily a mobile platform and the more you tweet about something, the more likelihood someone will actually see it on their phone.

When The New York Times covered the new profiles, they quoted Twitter’s Chief Executive, Dick Costolo saying that the service was too hard to use and vowing to make a better Twitter. The NYTImes went on to assume that “better” meant more visual cues about what’s important on a page, but I think they missed the point by thinking that Costolo was referring solely to the user experience and not Twitter’s business model.

When there are changes to a front-end, what’s always more important is whatever is going on in the back-end.

New Twitter Ads

twitter-money-bagA few days before announcing the new profiles, Twitter announced 15 new types of ads coming to users’ feeds that feature one-click actions to make it easier for users to download apps, purchase items, call a business, sign up for sweepstakes and others types of contests, and interact with ads and brands in simpler, more automated ways. For businesses exploring paid social strategies, this is massive, especially if the delivery of these ads to mobile devices is well executed.

For users, these ads will find their way into the new profiles in the near future – hopefully in a seamless way, for the sake of Twitter and its advertisers because, if this all works out, the cost of acquiring one new customer on Twitter could fall from the current $20 to be more competitive with Facebook’s $4.

Are paid social promotions part of your company’s social business communications program? If not, consider experimenting with ads on Twitter – Also LinkedIn and Facebook, which have a great ROI when it comes to reaching people (see below) – at the very least to become familiar with the platform’s ability to target exactly who you want to reach and, at most, to see how it’s possible to integrate your communications, marketing and sales efforts by levering social media to drive qualified leads into your funnel.



A Lesson in Delivery Vehicles from the Affordable Care Act

1888610_645790608803511_469519588_nAt this point, at least 6 million people are aware of the Affordable Care Act. From a storytelling standpoint, healthcare reform has been covered from many points of view – From the initial website technical difficulties, to the ongoing enrollment numbers, to partisan disagreements and bureaucratic inefficiencies (redundant, I know), to the administration’s three-week PR blitz to encourage the public to enroll, to reports on how healthcare works in other nations, to interviews with individuals and demographic group leaders discussing how they would benefit or not from the new insurance plans… to the final website glitches that made for an ironic way to end open enrollment.

But as I tuned in for updates and new information leading up to the end of open enrollment, one thing in particular stood out in my one-track mind – the places people could find information about enrollment were countless. Promotional vehicles ranged from old-school telephone campaigns; to direct mail; brick-and-mortar locations offering assistance; pop-up retail shops in various states; the now infamously glitchy healthcare.gov website that featured a blog, infographics and personal stories; states’ individual online marketplaces;  TV commercials and other forms of advertisements; social media channels including Twitter (see #getcovered), YouTube and Facebook; news programs and talk shows; official presidential addresses… all the way to the President’s appearance on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis, which on March 11, 2014 became the biggest traffic driver to healthcare.gov.

It was expected that a reform of this nature would call for a public relations campaign of massive proportions. However, something I have enjoyed about this administration – where PR is concerned – is that from the moment of Barack Obama’s election, his team has never been afraid to let their message travel via uncharted delivery vehicles. Or it could be that the administration was under significant pressure to deliver on enrollment numbers that they were willing to try new things. They say necessity is the mother of invention.

Saturday Night Life captured just this in their latest opening sketch.

I’m almost stubborn when it comes to trying new things. I firmly believe that having never done something is never a reason not to do it – in fact, I may even believe that having never done something is the perfect reason to go for it. This is not a battle between tradition and emerging approaches to PR, but rather the realization that audiences need information delivered to them in a variety of new ways in order to pay attention. The added challenge today is to deliver information at exactly the right time and place, and that is where digital content, social media, mobile and analytics/insights have come in to play.

Freescale Great InventorsMy plea to you, readers, is to dare to do something completely different to reach your audiences and achieve your business communications goals. Perhaps even more importantly – trust that, with careful planning, established objectives, strategic targeting and a strong storytelling framework, your PR and communications teams can execute on something that has never been done before. For example, check out the “Great Inventors” campaign my agency Lois Paul and Partners collaborated on with client Freescale Semiconductor, to get people thinking about technology innovation leading up to the 2014 Global Freescale Technology Forum (FTF).

The Content Marketing Institute, one of my favorite resources, has created an excellent playbook with ideas for content and accompanying delivery vehicles that is great for inspiration. Feel free to bring up any of these ideas during your next brainstorm session and see what ideas spark.

The Obvious Thing to Do in Austin While You’re at SXSW

fbcb1b3aAlthough I am a local, I did not want to write a “Things To Do in Austin While You’re at SXSW” blog post. But I did want to offer valuable insight to the 27,000 people headed this way for the event before it kicks off next week. Here it is: The thing to do in Austin while you’re at SXSW is, in fact, SXSW.

Duh, right?

The reason this hardly-an-epiphany merits a blog post is that the unique nature of SXSW — the fact that it’s expansive in every possible way including geographically, topically, demographically and programmatically — makes it almost impossible to avoid the pitfall of getting distracted, as well as spreading oneself out too thin.

Below is some advice from yours truly and excerpts for the best SXSW Survival Guide I have seen in EVER, mostly because it’s so very short and not really that sweet. Courtesy of TechCrunch.

From Me

  • Attend Sessions.  Do take the time to figure out your schedule and come eager to learn from speakers and share thoughts with peers. Because isn’t that first and foremost the whole point? Don’t kill yourself waiting in line to go to a party or feast at Franklin’s BBQ. You can always come back to Austin another time. Related: TechCrunch’s FOMO tip below.
  • Keep It Real. SXSW is the perfect example of Austin’s wonderful ability to twist and transform into any shape imaginable. Last year, Nokia built a three-domed structure that occupied over 4,000 square feet of floor space and featured “immersive” projections and interactive visualizations. My point? Some brands are going to go over-the-top in a misguided attempt to “keep it weird,” but you’ll be better off sticking with those that keep it real.
  • Put Your Feet Up. The SXSW Interactive Lounges will be great for that because they are strategically dispersed and they are designed to protect you from all the madness without you having to completely remove yourself. You may not get the chance to put your feet up on a chair… but sitting on the floor, with your back against the wall, sharing a charger with a fellow SXSWgoer is what it’s all about.

From TechCrunch

  • Pack for the worst and hope for the best. We’re expecting rain over the weekend. This excerpt updated with latest weather forecast (see below).
  • Take a night off. Pick your night, turn off your phone, and SLEEP.
  • Pace yourself. The thing about Austin is that it’s cheap. Beer? $2.50. Wine isn’t too much more (…) But nights are long and we’re not as young as we once were. (DAMN IT.) Take your time, drink water between your (free) drinks and you’ll thank me later.
  • F*ck FOMO. The only thing you’ll be missing out on by skipping that “hot” party with the gigantic line is serendipity.
  • Grab a friend and go off-grid. Duck out and go hang out somewhere less crowded. This may result in an afternoon full of unexpected, pleasant conversations.
  • Don’t wear your company’s brand on your shirt every day. Makes you look ridiculous.
  • Exercise. Do it. There’s a running trail around Lady Bird Lake and likely an (empty) gym at your hotel. Even if you’re exhausted, a 30-minute workout will rejuvenate you.
  • Say hello to a stranger on the street. Find out their story. Share yours. That’s what SXSW is all about. And I promise you, it’s not that hard.
  • Advil. THE BIG BOTTLE.

If you’re not making it down to Austin for SXSW this year, you have none of this to worry about!

How B2B Companies Can Use Twitter to Make an Impact in 140 Characters

Over the last few months, I have conducted a qualitative assessment of 18 B2B Twitter accounts. This involved the evaluation of activity over a 3-6 months period of time (depending on the number of tweets sent each month). Research was my favorite while I was in graduate school, so I’m ashamed to admit that this was fun for me.

B2BTwitterAs of June 2013, Twitter has 232 million active users, so I know my research was not at all exhaustive. In fact, those 18 Twitter accounts are not a big enough sample of B2B accounts on Twitter. However, in light of the fact that 85% of B2B marketers use Twitter, I felt compelled to share some of my observations with you because several things continued to repeat themselves even across this tiny pool of B2B accounts.

The big takeaway is that B2B companies are using Twitter to a limited extent – at best, they are acting mainly as content curators; at worst, they are simply broadcasting content and failing to add any value. These corporate accounts seemed overly cautious and they demonstrate a limited understanding of Twitter’s potential as a platform to relate to and connect with key B2B publics. Still, several of these accounts have anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 followers on Twitter. But my graduate professors always encouraged me to ask… So what? If most of those followers are not strategic for the company (or worse, bots!) then every tweet is a wasted effort and will not bring results that are aligned with the company’s business communications objectives.

Here is a short list of the biggest no-nos I observed throughout these assessments, as well as best practices B2B companies can implement in order to move their social media programs forward, in the direction of their business communications goals.

B2B Twitter No-Nos

  • Publishing way too much content, especially at bad times
  • Sharing content that is mostly by or about the company
  • Sharing content about topics that are all over the place and not timely aligned with the company’s message or strategy
  • Not sharing third-party industry content with added-value commentary
  • Sharing content that doesn’t address customer pain points
  • Using a broadcast approach that doesn’t drive engagement
  • Not sharing compelling visuals or other rich media that tell a story
  • Using hashtags that don’t add context to tweets around industry trends
  • No calls to action, but lots of rhetorical questions instead (Isn’t it annoying when someone asks a question they already know the answer to? Are they really asking for your opinion or just using the question as click-bait?)
  • Using a one-way corporate vs. a unique brand voice
  • Making few mentions of publications or influencers to drive engagement
  • No RTs of other’s content or replies to mentions

Best Practices for B2B Companies on Twitter

Content Inventory. Invest some time to assess what “evergreen” content is currently available on your company blog or website that can be repurposed in light of new context and shared with key groups so as to amplify reach.

Twitter lists. Create Twitter lists for key groups or current and desired followers and spend 30 minutes to one hour at least three days per week to skim through to retweet and reply, even if influencers are not mentioning your company directly.

Industry hashtags. Monitor and leverage key industry hashtags when appropriate in order to remain part of searchable industry conversations and to leverage as social SEO.

Adding value. It is OK to share content by and about your company, as long as it is balanced by industry articles. When doing so, share rich media, photos (directly uploaded in order to display better on the channels), videos and blog content with the aim to add value to industry conversations, rather than solely promote your brand.

Engage Influencers. Share industry articles, mentioning influencers and publication when possible, and adding thoughtful/provocative commentary or follow-up questions to cultivate thought leadership and drive engagement.

Social voice. Share interesting data points, accolades, use cases, customer stories, etc. using a tone that is upbeat, refreshing and doesn’t feel like corporate speak or headlines. This voice should always remain aligned with strategic brand messaging.

Drive conversations. Vary your approaches for sharing content using calls to action, questions, data points, trivia, true/false, quizzes, etc. while still leveraging industry hashtags and sharing original and third-party content that is in line with the corporate communications strategy, themes and messages.

Practice balance. Find a balance between creating new content and sharing with the audiences that will help amplify its reach. Moreover, consider sharing individual content assets multiple times, using different approaches, based on follower personas.

Paid content. As you expand your owned content repository (blogs, infographics, eBooks, white papers, etc.) consider leveraging paid social ads (promoted tweets, sponsored Facebook posts, paid LinkedIn posts, etc.) in order to amplify the reach of your digital assets to highly targeted audiences.

Social monitoring. Consider adding the top 100 influencers participating in relevant industry conversations and those talking about your company to separate Twitter lists in order to monitor those groups more closely to interact with them on a more regular basis.

Empower Ambassadors. Transform corporate executives into Twitter ambassadors by establishing a corporate social media program that enables them to share thoughts around industry trends, breaking news and technology innovation in a refreshing way. RT from the corporate account to showcase your company’s leadership and industry thought leadership.


(Source: MarketingProfsB2B image via Shutterstock.)

How B2B Companies Can Use Instagram To Make an Impact in 15 Seconds

When Instagram first came out, and as soon as it introduced video, B2C brands hopped right on it. But B2B brands should also be using new platforms and features. In fact, some like Intel, Maersk Line, VMware, Cisco and General Electric are already experimenting with Instagram video and taking on the challenge of delivering their message more concisely and embracing the move toward brevity across all content formats. Check it out:

Screen shot 2014-01-26 at 4.27.19 PM

Several of my agency’s clients have asked questions about integrating Instagram into their overall social media strategies. I would like to address those, and then some. If you have additional feedback or follow-up questions, I’d love to hear them!

What are the benefits of video for B2B companies?

Rich multimedia in the form of images, video and audio are great ways to give your content strategy and overall social media program a boost. Video presents some unique storytelling opportunities for companies that struggle to tell their story, or that have been telling their story in the same old way. Video is your opportunity to:  

  • Take tech out of the weeds: One of the main reasons reporters, bloggers, influencers and customers turn down some B2B stories is that they are deep in the weeds. If you can explain (better yet, show) how a new technology or product works in 15 seconds, you’ve got their attention.
  • Show some personality: B2B companies and products have personalities too. Some of them make things smarter, some make things faster, and others are cleaning up the mess fuels have made. Wow them by showing how your products can make a difference.
  • Be helpful: B2B buyers and end-users live by user manuals, technical guides, handbooks, etc. Think about sharing 15-second how-tos with your audience or, better yet, build your Instagram community by challenging users to produce 15-second videos to help fellow users troubleshoot common problems. You can feature them in the first-ever user-generated manual on your company’s website.  
  • Be relatable: Give the people behind the technology their 15-seconds of fame, literally. Consider shooting videos with your engineers, developers, and IT teams to let reporters, analysts, bloggers and influencers in on what happens backstage.
  • Focus on your customers: Consider asking your customers to record 15-second testimonials. Embed these in your case studies or your next blog. A Q&A with a client can give an extra boost that will drive more engagement.
  • Geek out without boring everyone to death: B2B companies exist in unique verticals and industry niches – think storage, clean tech, embedded technology. There are enough data sheets and solution manuals to wrap the Earth 17.3 times (not an actual fact). Show me a microprocessor in action and make my day. 

Bonus Note: The beauty of Instagram video is that you can shoot it with your phone, use Instagram editing function to make cuts, and use Instagram filters to make it look awesome. Production cost here is literally ZERO DOLLARS and the level of difficulty is RIDICULOUSLY EASY.

Instagram or Vine? Is That the Right Question to Ask?

My stance is always to try to minimize the number of platforms/tools. Choose the ones that will best reach your target audience, and focus on creating consistent content on a consistent basis. Having said that, I’m on #TeamInstagram for a few reasons including the fact that it surpassed Vine quite drastically shortly after it introduced video capabilities:

  • Its relationship with Facebook gives Instagram the benefit of Facebook’s already massive community. Vine is available only as a mobile app and via Twitter, limiting its user base and reach from the get-go.
  • Sharing via Instagram is not limited to Facebook, hence photos and videos benefit from significant social amplification.
  • The Instagram team has the flexibility to update the platform and add new features such as sharing and embedding, which enable the Holy Grail of social media and content marketing.
  • Its hashtag capabilities transcend the Instagram ecosystem.

What are some specific things my company can do with Instagram?

  • Encourage content creation: Use campaign or event hashtags on Instagram and encourage users to share their photos or videos that can increase the campaign or event’s visibility. They can also be leveraged in future social media and marketing collateral.
  • Host a contest: GE asked Instagram users to take photos of GE products to win a trip to be behind the scenes at their next Instagram shoot. Put a video twist on this sort of campaign and ask users to share videos of them using your product for a chance to win.
  • Build buzz: Hosting an event? Unveil your speaker lineup one-at-a-time in 15-second interviews where you share a bit of their bio and a link to see more.
  • Backstage access: Give your Instagram community a sneak peek into the manufacturing of your next microprocessor, or a 15-second tour of your data center with an option to learn more about your infrastructure by downloading an eBook online.
  • Product launch: Why not put together a 15-second video where you feature your new line of MCUs, the smallest in the world, next to common objects so that viewers can appreciate just how small it is?
  • New announcements: Making an announcement soon? Build momentum by sharing a 15-second preview of what’s in store.