What does the future hold for Twitter?

twitter_character_limit wordpres

The rumours of Twitter increasing its character limit have been discussed around the internet for some time.  Since the IPO in 2013, Twitter has been under increasing pressure from shareholders to drive its number of accounts and the amount of time that people spend on the site.

One of the changes that Twitter has introduced in the last week has been to the 140 character limit: media files, links and @ mentions will no longer count in your 140 character limit.

Why 140 characters in the first place?  The number is now synonymous with Twitter but the original idea came from SMS text messages.  They were limited to 160 characters, so Twitter set the limit to 140 to allow for people to mention a user name in their tweet.  This feature is now what makes Twitter, well, Twitter.

What difference will this make?  It is no secret that this move is designed to encourage two things: interaction and rich media.  Removing the @ mention form the character limit is designed to allow people to say more when they are having a tweet chat with another user.  And the use of rich media is critical to Twitter: most of their competition has been focused on rich media for some time and rich media based networks (Snapchat, Instagram) are still experiencing massive user growth, something Twitter isn’t achieving.

Is this the thin end of the wedge?  Twitter has admitted that they have considered character limit changes for some time – 10,000 characters was apparently on the agenda, but such a change would fundamentally change Twitter.  So, the character limit may change in the future, but it has to be very careful about removing the one feature which is unique to Twitter.

What was the point?  Images, sound and video are key to social media success – and we have known this for some time.  But rich media is not part of the fabric of Twitter in the same way that it is for some of the newer social networks such as Snapchat, Instagram, so Twitter needs to try and subtly force the point.  Twitter’s commitment to rich media shouldn’t be underestimated though: earlier in 2016, they signed a $10m deal with the NFL to stream games.

So, there should be some interesting times ahead for the world’s third largest social network.  What do you think the future holds for Twitter?

The Anatomy of the Perfect Tweet

The Anatomy of the Perfect Tweet

The Anatomy of the Perfect Tweet

With hundreds of millions of tweets being sent per day, achieving stand-out for your tweet is a problem for any social media marketer. This is quite apart from the fact that you only have 140 characters to use to get your message across to an audience with increasingly shorter attention spans.

The structure of your tweet can help with these problems: structuring your tweet correctly will help with stand-out (it is far more likely to be engaged with) as well as making sure that you are making the most of the 140 characters at your disposal.

Here are the 10 elements that a perfect tweet should have…

A good profile: Most obviously, your profile pic should represent what you are all about – a head and shoulders photo for an individual and a simple brand square for a business. Also, your Twitter account name should have some resemblance to content that you are sharing: e.g. a marketing tweet from @1directionno1fan would make for an incongruent combination!

Your thoughts: You may not be able to wax lyrical too strongly, but you should add your opinion to anything that you share – even if it’s just a ‘enjoyed this’, it helps people get a view of what you thought about the tweet

Hashtags: Hashtags are a great tool for getting your message out to a new audience (see my previous post on hashtags), but you should only include one in your tweet. And make sure that your hashtag is one in common use. #becauselonghashtagsaredifficulttoread #hashtagrules #hashtagsrule #runningoutofcharacters #yolo #lol

Limited characters: One of the objectives of your tweets should be for the audience to engage with them. So if someone shares your tweet, you should allow them some space to add their thoughts. Yes, they can quote the tweet, but leaving twenty or so characters will give them the option of copying and pasting your tweet.

A call to action: Yes, I know….in every blog written by a marketer since the dawn of time, call to action is mentioned!  But with good reason – it gives people a reason to take the action that you would like them to take – a simple ‘click here’ or ‘check it out’ is all you need

A picture or video: Not only do they take up more space in someone’s news feed, they are a great excuse to free your creative side! People on Twitter are looking for something to stand-out, so help them see your tweet by using some rich media

A plan: Not only should the perfect tweet be the only one that you post that day (I recommend 5 tweets per day to have a good presence), but it should also be part of a wider content plan. Otherwise, you are just tweeting with no purpose, a waste of everyone’s time

No typos: It happens a lot on Twitter, and I have done it a few times too, but typos and grammar mistakes can distract people from the message of your / you’re / ur tweet *runs spell check for 5th time*

Credit where it is due: if you have shared content from someone, then you should say thanks by mentioning them. Not only is it nice to be nice, it shows that you are part of the community and not operating as a silo on Twitter

A link: Well, not every tweet has to have a link of course. But many do, and if yours does, then make sure that it is a shortened URL and preferably a customised one – for example, instead of:

example.com/blog/longtitleforaprettyshortblog/utm_content=5654684&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter

You should use:

bit.ly/punchytext

What else do you think the perfect tweet should contain? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!

How to Create a Twitter Advert

Twitter Advertising

Twitter Advertising

Two weeks ago I wrote a blog about the dramatic changes at the top of Twitter and 5 reasons why the changes are happening. One of those was that it is struggling to translate its social media success into advertising revenue. However, advertising on Twitter is a big opportunity, particularly for those with a limited budget – maybe that’s why the advert revenue is so low!

Twitter advertising is a powerful tool allowing you to segment your audience very accurately, key for a successful inbound marketing campaign. To help you get started, here is how to set up your first Twitter campaign.

Type of Campaign

You have a choice of campaign at the start, and this will be driven by your marketing objective. Do you want to add followers to your Twitter account? Do you want to improve your Twitter engagement? Do you want to drive visitors to your website? The process is pretty similar for all campaign types, so let’s assume that you want to get people onto your website.

Compose Your Tweet

Next, you need to compose your tweet. You can choose from an existing tweet that you have already sent or write a new one. I think you should always write a new one, specifically tailored to the audience and message that you are communicating. Your tweet should contain some information about you and a reason why someone should click – a big ask in 140 characters!

You should also use the Twitter Card system for your advert. If you choose to do so, you can add an image to your advert, giving it great stand-out, as well as giving a heading to your call to action. It also helps your advert render well on mobile devices (this is where most of your audience will see your advert). There is a wide selection of call to action buttons for you to pick from such as book now, learn more, order online, etc.

Audience Segmentation

This is where you start to see the power of Twitter advertising! You are able to target your audience via the following criteria:

  • Location – You can get specific enough at city level, but not at town level. You are also able to import multiple locations if appropriate
  • Gender
  • Language
  • Devices, platforms, networks – Able to exclude desktop or mobile or particular devices

There are also a series of ‘additional criteria’ which enable you to target your audience by their behaviour:

  • Keywords – Able to set your keywords as broad match, exact match or even negative keywords
  • Followers – Here you can target the followers of a particular Twitter account – for example, if your competitor has a big presence on Twitter, you can directly promote your tweet to their followers!
  • Interests
  • Tailored audiences – You can import email addresses to see if they are on Twitter, or target people who have visited your website (with the addition of a little bit of code)
  • TV targeting – For the right product, this is a fantastic feature. You can add TV shows for the location that you are based in, and your adverts will be available during the airing of that show. Great opportunity for segmented messaging
  • Budget – You can choose between setting a daily amount or a total budget

I have used Twitter advertising with a number of clients and the results have been impressive when compared to the amount of money spent. Hopefully this will blog will give you the information you need to have a go yourself.

Have you had any success with Twitter advertising, or advertising on another social network? If so, leave a comment and share your thoughts!

The Problem with Twitter

The Problem with Twitter

The Problem with Twitter

Last week saw the departure of Dick Costolo from Twitter. Costolo had been the CEO of Twitter since he took over from Ev Williams in October 2010. While not a co-founder of the network, Costolo has grown Twitter from millions to billions in revenue. So what led to such a fundamental part of Twitter leaving his post?
There were rumours of ugly power struggles in the board-room and more recently there were also rumours of secretive meetings and bizarre factors influencing decision making.

But all of this is hiding some bigger problems that Twitter has and needs to address regardless of who is at the helm.

Network Outages:

Twitter has had some high profile outages and security issues that have grabbed headlines in the past. For example, when Ellen DeGeneres posted her famous selfie from the Oscars, Twitter was down for 20 mins. What Twitter does brilliantly is being used to follow and contribute to live events, so when outages happen at these high profile events, this is particularly noticeable.

Ad Revenue:

Twitter currently has a valuation of $3.7bn, but its ad revenue in 2014 was only $45m. This might seem like a reasonable sum, but compared to other online advertising platforms such as Facebook, its ad revenue is tiny. While Facebook does have more users and a larger valuation, you cannot escape the fact that Twitter has not been able to translate its network into a strong commercial proposition.

Avalanche of Content:

Twitter is very proud of the number of Tweets that people send a day, as it should be: 500 million tweets per day is a staggering amount of content. But this has implications. To get a message seen is becoming more and more difficult on Twitter, and that may be a factor for corporate Twitter accounts. Twitter doesn’t seem to have made the link between post visibility and advertising which Facebook has successfully made.

Dormant and Non-Existent Accounts:

Twitter does attract a lot of Twitter users on a monthly basis, but it has two problems with its accounts. Firstly, there are a large number of dormant accounts which are skewing the numbers, although these should not be included in the 300m monthly active users. More concerning however is the fact that people use Twitter to follow live events but do not have an account and do not log-in: they are using it as a news and opinion source but have not signed up.

Twitter is Public:

Twitter is an entirely public network where, unless you protect your account, everyone sees everything. This is one of its strengths. But when Twitter turns nasty with trolls and other online abuse, this is also very public. Twitter has not always acted quickly enough to address abuse claims and to publicise its reporting policy and this is a big reputational issue.

Let’s not forget that Dick Costolo oversaw Twitter revenue growth from $28m to $1.4bn, and Twitter still attracts over 300m users every month. But without addressing the above issues, Twitter will face more awkward questions and face more changes at the top.

7 Ways to Use Twitter Live Streaming

Twitter Live Video Streaming

Twitter Live Video Streaming

We are only three or so months into live video streaming through Twitter, but it is already starting to build some momentum, generating tens of thousands of tweets per day.  Through Meerkat and Twitter-owned Periscope, anyone with a smartphone can stream their own video content live to their Twitter followers.  Periscope also allows you to save streams so that people can catch up on them in the future.

Even in its infancy, there are some businesses who are adding this tool into their content strategy.  If you are thinking about joining them, here are some ideas of how you could use live video streaming as part of your marketing plan.

1) Interviews – Not everyone can attract Hollywood’s A-list stars to have a chat in front of their smart-phone, but there are probably interesting people who you could persuade to do so.  Interviews are a good means of finding interesting angles on topics, and I have seen some excellent ones with a business’s staff: a nice way to give your business some personality.

2) Replies to Social Media – If you are receiving the same question on social media over and over again, why not answer it with a video?  Especially if you are able to demonstrate it physically or on a computer screen using your smartphone.  If you run the stream on Periscope, you can point subsequent similar questions to the recording to help them out too.

3) Live Events – Live events are taking place everywhere for all sorts of industries: don’t believe me?  Well, you are missing the Plumbing and Heating Exhibition in London while reading this…!  But not everyone can make events in person, for example a lot of relevant events for me take place overseas, so to be able to catch up on the highlights on a live stream would be great.  Of course, this can open up some copyright issues – just ask Floyd Mayweather.

4) Webinars – We have all sat in on webinars with colleagues at work, but what about if you could open this up to a webinar about a more fun topic?  Podcasts are being tentatively used by some (predominantly big) businesses, and while it is true that video podcasts are still less popular than audio podcasts that might change with live broadcasting where the followers can engage and interact in real time.

5) Behind the Scenes – Everyone likes to take a look behind the curtain, so why not let them?  I have seen some really interesting streams looking round people’s offices and chatting to colleagues, and it doesn’t have that polished promotional video feel to it.  With some audience questions (the polite ones, these streams can attract trolls!), this is a nice way of allowing people to find out a bit more about your business.

6) ‘How to’ Guide – Assuming that you have already put in the ground work of entertaining and informing your audience, you are entitled to sell a little bit!  I have had a lot of conversations over the years about new products and how to describe them in words – not easy in some industries.  But to be able to demonstrate your product in a video immediately makes any new features clear: and a more ‘amateur’ feel to the video will take away some of the corporate selling feel.

7) AMA – As live video streaming is all about interaction, this must surely be the ultimate way of using it.  Named after Reddit’s fantastic sub, AMA means Ask Me Anything.  The traditional rules of AMA state that every question should be answered, not just the positive ones.  So, you might need to put your armour on for this one: there are ways to limit who can comment and block those who get out of hand, but this risky tactic can come with great rewards.

Do you have any plans to use live video streaming as part of your marketing plan?  If so, please leave a comment and let me know!

What is Meerkat?

What is Meerkat

What is Meerkat

It doesn’t always take a lot for the online marketing community to get excited – take Ello, recently described as a great idea but the ‘Betamax of social media’?  But we could be onto something with the next big thing, an app called Meerkat.  It was announced at SXSW back in February, but officially launched in March 2015.  SXSW does have a good pedigree of launching what turns out to be big players (Twitter and Foursquare were launched at SXSW in 2007 and 2009 respectively), but will Meerkat follow in the line of greats, or be the next over-hyped and never used app?

What is Meerkat?

Meerkat is a live streaming social video app.  It allows you to stream content directly from your phone onto Twitter.  You can subscribe to a particular Twitter user or simply attend a Meerkat session.  While you are watching, you can interact with other Twitter users who are watching the stream, and retweet when you are watching.  Streams are not saved though (yet?), so if you miss it, it’s gone.

How can marketers use Meerkat?

  • Product Demos – These make really nice videos, so they will be great for live streaming.  A simple demonstration of what your product can do, particularly if the concept is new, is a powerful way of engaging viewers and showcasing your product.
  • Events – Now, I know a lot of these are paid for, in which case you might just want to tease some content on Meerkat, but for the thousands of free to attend events, being able to stream it to your Twitter audience is a great opportunity.
  • Product Launches – Everyone can have an Apple style event (well, kind of) by streaming your new product on Twitter.
  • Podcasts – Video podcasting hasn’t really caught on with people preferring to just hear their content, but interviews and other visual content could attract bigger audiences with the addition of viewer interaction.
  • Brand building – Being able to show situations which sum up your brand in video format is very powerful: I am sure that some big pro-digital brands are already working on brand marketing video content to try to gain an audience early.
  • Promotions – For marketers who are looking for more of a direct response, you could broadcast codes which can be redeemed in-store or on your ecommerce website – quite a nice way of tracking engagement and response to a new medium.

What does the future hold for Meerkat?

I think that the concept of such a simple way of live streaming is fantastic, we already know that video is a key medium.  Meerkat combines second-screening to a single screen where you can watch and comment all at once, another positive.  It’s interesting how the challenge for broadcasting is no longer having access to the technology, and instead is creativity and getting your content noticed.

But Meerkat already has some competition – Twitter is launching its own live streaming app called Periscope, and Periscope allows you to save your streams.  Saving the streams does feel like a good idea, and unless Meerkat moves quickly, it might just be enough to put Meerkat in the ‘nice try but no cigar’ category.

10 Signs You’re Getting Twitter Wrong

10 signs you're getting Twitter wrong

10 signs you're getting Twitter wrong

Twitter is a great social network – due to the vast number of accounts (288m monthly active users) and tweets (500m posted per day), there is always something interesting happening there, and is the best network to see people’s reactions to live events, everything from sporting events to breaking news to Big Brother evictions.

While Twitter can be seen as a huge opportunity, this is only the case if you are doing it right!  There are a number of signs that scream out ‘we don’t know what we’re doing here’, and here are ten of the most common:

1) No Profile Pic – This is Twitter’s equivalent of falling at the first hurdle.  Twitter is a social network, so take the chance to share your face or brand.  With so many spam Twitter accounts not having profile pics, you are not keeping good company without one.

2) Incomplete Bio – You have only got 160 characters, but you should use this space to something about yourself, and a reason to follow you.  The viewer is only one click away from following you, so use the bio to encourage them to take the plunge.

3) Retweet Machine – Retweets are a great way of showing appreciation for the content of other Twitter users.  But it is still important to have some of your own content, but of you can’t do that, when you are sharing someone else’s content, select ‘Quote Tweet’ and add your own comments.

4) No Interaction – It is a cliché, but Twitter is a social network, so being social is an important part of it.  There are hundreds of millions of Twitter accounts, and while you wouldn’t want to socialise with all of them, you will definitely find someone to chat with (try Jus_Wilson if you’re struggling!).

5) Tweets Aren’t Varied – Everyone has one main subject which they tweet about (for me its digital marketing), but it is also important to tweet about other things too – you’re not defined by just one thing in your life, right?

6) Hashtag Abuse – The hashtag is a valuable tool to share your conversation and follow a particular subject.  But they are open to abuse.  I saw a tweet earlier today which had 6 hashtagged words in it – quite an achievement in just 140 characters.  And it made the text very difficult to read – so use them smartly and don’t hashtag the life out of your content.

7) Desperation – There is nothing wrong with asking for the odd retweet when you really need one, for example with a charity request.  But permanently asking for retweets or follows is at best unimaginative and at worst a bit irritating!

8) Credit where it is due – There is a lot of content around the internet, so it is likely that you are going to share someone else’s work at some point.  When you do, it is really important to give credit to the person who wrote the article – as someone who writes a lot of content, it is a great feeling seeing that notification which says that someone has shared your content, so share the love!

9) Auto DMs – Receiving an automated DM after you have followed someone is probably the least personal way of saying hello!  Maybe it’s just me, but if you want to reach out to say hello to someone, send them a tweet – you should not keep Twitter conversations private unless you really have to.

10) Random Mentions – While it is nice to receive a ‘@mention’ notification, it is not always good news.  There are a lot of accounts who will contact you with their new product or just a link (NEVER click on it!), but without an introduction, this is simply spamming.

Are there any other Twitter behaviours which grind your gears?  Leave a comment and share it!