Studies have shown that a kind word about a brand from your friend is much more likely to turn you into a new customer than a paid advertisement. It’s a question of trust. Our friends wouldn’t recommend a product or business if they didn’t truly like it. The trick for brands is finding a way to leverage impromptu recommendations and push them out to a wider audience.
Twitter has a couple of ideas on this that could end up as either an advertising goldmine or the latest #PRFail.
Earlier this month, Twitter launched a beta test of their new Conversational Ads. These ads combine an interactive poll with a Twitter recommendation. Each ad contains a question and two hashtag call-to-action buttons. When a Twitter user taps one of the buttons, the Tweet composer opens with a pre-filled brand message including an image and the two original hashtag options. If the user chooses to publish the post, it appears on their timeline. Instant friend-to-friend recommendation. As an added bonus, the advertiser is only charged for the first viewing; the shared media is a free bonus.
At the end of the process, the original clicker also gets a thank you note from the brand. Which is the least the brand can do in return for free advertising.
Certainly, there’s a percentage of Twitter users who will delete the pop-up post but a large number of users will click to share because it’s easier. Technically, that intentional click equals explicit permission but we’re still walking on shaky ground.
Remember those FTC rules that say all online ads have to have a clear and conspicuous disclosure?
Use disclosures in each ad.
If a disclosure is required in a space-constrained ad, such as a tweet, the disclosure should be in each and every ad that would require a disclosure if that ad were viewed in isolation. Do not assume that consumers will see and associate multiple space-constrained advertisements.
Short-form disclosures might or might not adequately inform consumers of the essence of a required disclosure.
For example, “Ad:” at the beginning of a tweet or similar short-form message should inform consumers that the message is an advertisement, and the word “Sponsored” likely informs consumers that the message was sponsored by an advertiser. Other abbreviations or icons may or may not be adequate, depending on whether they are presented clearly and conspicuously, and whether consumers understand their meaning so they are not misled. Misleading a significant minority of reasonable consumers is a violation of the FTC Act.
Looking at the graphics provided by Twitter, the original call-to-action ads have the word “promoted” at the bottom. But the shared Tweet does not. I suppose the shared Tweet isn’t the same as a sponsored ad but it’s still a Tweet generated by the brand. Do the FTC guidelines apply or not?
How about in this case. .
Twitter gave advertisers an early look at related product they’re calling the “brand enthusiast gallery.” The Twitter bots will scour the Twitterverse to find and catalog positive brand mentions from average people like you and me. The bot will then direct message said persons and ask their permission to reuse the Tweet on the brand’s account. If they say yes, the Tweet goes into the gallery and the brand can then reTweet any or all of the Tweets through their own feed.
There’s nothing to stop a brand from doing this right now, so the concept itself isn’t revolutionary. Twitter is simply making it easier by putting the Tweets in one place. Also, since Twitter is asking permission, not forgiveness, that should keep consumers from complaining about any co-opting of their words.
Will the shared testimonials come with an ad disclosure? Probably not, because technically, these Tweets are unsolicited positive comments. The Tweeter doesn’t expect and isn’t going to get any compensation for being a nice person.
Disclosures and permissions aside, both of these advertising products come perilously close to invading customer privacy. We could say that when people post to a public forum, they can’t expect their words to be kept private but they often do. I’m in the business and I’m still surprised when a brand replies to an off-handed Tweet I never thought anyone but my followers would see. It’s like griping about a bad flight and getting an apology Tweet from every major airline.
Both of these ad products have the potential to be good money-makers for Twitter and easy reputation boosts for brands. That is, if the majority of Twitter users play along and don’t object to their words being used as free advertising.