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Eye on Advertising

Twitter: Marketing Gold Mine or Future Promo Dump?
A year ago, Twitter, the micro-blogging social network, was barely a glimmer in the social media orbit. Now it’s a media sensation and the ubiquitous app du jour of the so-called informed elite. But is it a tool that marketers, particularly those in the b2b media space, can leverage to bolster sagging print ad revenues? And can a communications platform that hinges on the dissemination of short messages, or “tweets,” in 140 characters or fewer be successfully monetized with an ad-based model? So far Twitter users and proto-evangelists are still too much in a honeymoon phase to make ad forecasts. In fact, its popularity continues to soar. According to Compete, Twitter is now ranked as the third-largest social network. And last month, Nielsen Online reported Twitter’s growth at 1,382% in February compared to February 2008, registering a total of more than 7 million unique visitors in the U.S. for the month. Still, is it a case of hype trumping reality? “My fear about Twitter is if it gets overwhelmed by ads, it’ll be like a forum getting overwhelmed by salespeople,” says Alec Dann, general manager, online residential new construction, Hanley Wood Business Media. “People have to feel that it’s worthwhile to participate. One of the interesting things about business media is that people engage in it to learn about new products. But it has to be in the right place so people will know where to go when they’re sifting for that.” Dann says advertisers’ products need to be presented in the right context in Twitter to keep consumers interested. Rachel Globus, editor-in-chief and education director for Event Solutions magazine, which targets event industry professionals, echoes Dann’s sentiment. Although she and her staff primarily use Twitter for editorial purposes, such as posting links to drive traffic to the magazine’s site or providing live feedback during an event, they are scoping out the platform’s advertising potential. Prior to Event Solutions’ recent trade show in Las Vegas, there was a discussion about having Twitter sponsors. Although that idea didn’t pan out, conference participants did actively tweet with a specifically created hashtag for the show. “Everybody is saying Twitter has no business plan,” says Globus. “But it’s a little too soon to dismiss it. It has so much momentum behind it. I would be very surprised if someone didn’t capitalize on [its advertising potential].” Dann, who works on such Hanley Wood brands as Affordable Housing Finance, Builder and Remodeling, says Twitter can be a boon for advertisers seeking a brand’s most engaged readers. “If you can use Twitter to identify who are your most active Iris Dorbian readers, that might be the way to monetize it,” he explains. “You may not be able to monetize ads [yet] on Twitter, but you can monetize it by identifying who are your core readers.” There’s also the very real possibility that Twitter’s importance as a new platform will recede into memory as newer digital toys take center stage. “Is Twitter going to be a victim of its own success? That’s a big question regardless of what brand you are,” says Globus, who adds that last month her magazine’s ad analytics indicated that Twitter was its No. 1 Web site referral. “I hope and think Twitter has something up its sleeve in terms of functionality.” Ultimately, it may come down to the types of content your audience will accept on Twitter. “It’s another tool to create a voice in your market,” says Crystal Olig, marketing and PR director for Event Solutions. “It’s just a matter of testing specific markets in terms of adoption and tolerance.” —Iris Dorbian

b2b Twitter Account Snapshot We did a quick Twitter check on Tuesday, April 21, to see how many b2b magazine Web sites listed in our Digital Boxscores (see chart on pages 2 and 3) are caught up in the Twitter craze. Below are the top 10 URLs ranked by number of Twitter followers, out of the 27 b2b URLs that have Twitter accounts (that we know of).
Title/Publisher 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Fast Company/Mansueto Ventures Ad Age/Crain Inc./Mansueto Ventures Entrepreneur Library Journal/Reed Information Week/UBM Technology Publishers Weekly/Reed PC World/IDG Hollywood Reporter, The/Nielsen URL Twitter Followers 19,824 15,948 7,308 6,191 4,403 3,607 2,767 2,714 2,369 2,158

April 27, 2009

min’s b2b


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