Twitter can help brands, say co-founders

28 May 2009

CARLSBAD, California: Twitter, the microblogging website, offers marketers the opportunity to establish relationships and spread information, as well as to respond to the "buzz" among consumers about their brands, according to its co-founders, Biz Stone and Evan Williams.

Social media is becoming increasingly popular among advertisers, and while the growth of Twitter has been at the heart of this trend, a "best practice" approach to using the medium has not yet been established.

Speaking at the D7 Conference in Carlsbad, Williams argued that, put simply, the website "disseminates information and it builds relationships. You can do one or both of those things."

One easy way for marketers to demonstrate the power of the portal to their clients, Stone added, was to "start by typing their name in Twitter search and showing them how many people are talking about their product."

When brand owners discover the online conversation about their assets, most will "immediately want to respond," he predicted.

However, he also asserted that, from a commercial and practical perspective, the social media service will be "more compelling when you're not just following a set list of people."

Possible innovations on this line could take the form of users opting-in to receive targeted messages about their favourite brands, such as "You go to Whole Foods a lot. Maybe you'd like to know that this is on sale today."

Another area where Twitter can help marketers is through providing what Williams called "low-latency," or real-time, search data, especially as, increasingly, "speed is important in information dissemination."

Indeed, he foresees the site as having "a huge opportunity with search, and we hadn't foreseen that," particularly in the form of moving beyond a "box and a button" and looking more to "discovery".

A number of applications have also been developed to help companies and consumers use Twitter, both on mobile phones and the web, and its founders said they may be interested in launching an App Store, as used by Apple, in the future.

Even though he considered running banner ads as the "least interesting thing we can do," Williams also admitted the company has not ruled it out.

Other revenue-raising tools could include selling "power accounts" to commercial users, allowing them to verify to consumers that the "tweets" they are following come from an official source.

Data from Nielsen has shown that 60% of US web users signing up to the site don't visit it over the following month, meaning its audience retention rate stands at just 40%.

Williams argued that these sorts of statistics were resulted from the fact that the site is "in its infancy," but he asserted that there are "lots of ways to fix the adoption curve."

Data sourced from AllThingsD; additional content by WARC staff