Put Your Money Where Your Tweet Is? Battleships, Horses & Bayonets, Oh My!

With the presidential election only 2 weeks out, both campaigns are fully cognizant of the impact of social media and how one meme can sway opinion within minutes of it being uttered. At no other time in U.S. history has the combination of messaging on TV and Twitter become so intertwined. However instead of paying the hefty fees of a TV ad, the presidential contenders incur less cost by purchasing Promoted Tweets and Trends, and ironically utilize the free medium of a TV debate to drive the traffic.

Television advertising may be doing just fine despite the slumping economy. But within the next five years, it’s going to be eclipsed by online ads, according to a new report from market watcher Forrester Research. By 2016, Forrester says, advertisers will spend almost $77 billion online, comprising 35% of overall ad spending.

Advertising on Twitter comes in at a fraction of the cost of 30-second TV commercial. Promoted Tweets and Trends were initially launched by Twitter to aid small businesses with small marketing budgets to extend their marketing reach across the Twittersphere. But since then, the service has expanded to include essentially any brand or public figure willing to pay to put their messaging on top of Twitter's "viral food chain."

Promoted tweets use cost-per-click pricing and Twitter recommends $.50 to perhaps a max of $5, or so. Like Google's Adword model, Twitter isn't shy about noting that a higher bid will increase the likelihood of ads appearing. Recommended bids are suggested based on averages across all advertisers on Twitter. With continued advertising, bids are adjusted based on the historical performance of the campaigns. So compared to TV adverting that require millions, Romney, for instance can get a lot of mileage out of Twitter Trends, at a documented ad unit cost of only $120,000 per day.

John Koetsier in a Venture Beat report noted that tweets, "especial the paid promoted tweets - are translated into increased donations to political campaigns," according to Twitter. After the microblogging site commissioned a study to be conducted by Compete, it was determined that Twitter users in general are more politically active than average Internet users. But more importantly, 68 percent were more likely to visit Obama's or Romney's campaign donation page guided by Promoted Tweets or Trends.

These results scale exponentially when a Twitter user follows a specific political party. Designated an "Exposed Twitter User," Compete reported that these followers were 97 percent more likely than the average Twitter user to click on the embedded link in the tweet to migrate over to the party's donation page.

This new advertising channel has even altered the candidate's mode of presenting arguments to suit the new reality of instant commentary via Social Media. Of course, this particular change is nowheres near as historical as the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy, which had 70 million viewers and transformed American politics, overnight, from a verbal profession to a visual one. And overall, Twitter is smaller in user numbers to Facebook, with only around 16 percent of Americans currently using the service.

But, where Twitter has a leg up -- it appears to be the social media of choice for members of the mainstream media, and that expands its impact immeasurably. And this did not go unnoticed by both Romney and Obama who clearly were cognizant as to how their bon mots (#Romnesia) and not-so-bon mots (#RomneyBinders) could resonate on the Twittersphere.

For instance during the third debate on October 22, the Obama zingers of "Game of Battleship" and "Horses & Bayonets" aimed at Romney's lack of military strategic expertise. Those words immediately caught fire virally on Twitter, generating 105,767 tweets per minute, the highest of any of the debates.

According to Adweek, the Obama campaign capitalized on this opportunity and bought the Promoted Tweet of "#horsesandbayonets" within fifteen minutes of his TV delivery of that meme.

Even the Twitter parody account established after the second debate switched its handle from @RomneysBinders  to @horsesbayonette, to not only keep current current with the real-time sentiment, but also so as not to lose their 34,000+ following.

So was Obama wise in choosing to purchase Promoted Tweets? Was the immediacy of purchasing this type of advertising successful in sinking Romney's metaphoric battleship! After all, Twitter's advertising differs markedly from traditional advertising in that it connects with its audience in real-time. It carries with it the notion of "riding the trend," -- that is, it can capture the zeitgeist of thousands and even millions of people in a very short time span. Followers are more inclined to buy into a product, or in this case a candidate, if they feel that they are arriving at this conclusion based on a common denominator shared by many, at the same moment in time. 

So it isn't surprising that Twitter's Director of Political Ad Sales, Peter Greenberger even at this late juncture (being only 2 weeks out from Election Day), makes a formal appeal to both parties to consider purchasing more Promoted Tweets to stay competitive --- particularly with the undecided voters!

Continuing with the 'antiquated military strategy' analogy, in World War II, the slogan "Loose Lips, Sink Ships" warned U.S. military that certain Intel needs to be kept secret, less the enemy seize it for their own advantage. With the onset of social media era, this meme was whimsically updated to: "Loose Tweets, Sink Fleets." Perhaps after the Obama's win in the third debate, this slogan needs to be updated yet again? Your thoughts?

Oct 23, 2012
by Anonymous

Obama wins

President Obama's debate win was truly impressive and now makes three out of four debate wins for Obama/Biden. People seem to finally be realizing that Mitt Romney and the GOP have based an enormous amount of their election strategy on lies, hatred and deceit. From the 72 million Americans that will be left without any health insurance, whatsoever, by year 2020, under Romney's plan (determined by two independent, non-partisan research studies available to the public), to women and minorities being drastically stripped of their equal rights because of his refusal to support initiatives like the Lily Ledbetter Act which enables women to be paid the same as men provided they do the same work (the first act passed by President Obama) or Hospital Visitation Rights which allow gay people the same visitation rights as straight people when a loved one is in hospital, Americans are seeing Mitt Romney for who he really is. From the West Coast to the East Coast and all of our our great country in between, we Americans are seeing from these debates that a Romney/Ryan plan will leave the middle class being burdened with much higher taxes while the wealthiest Americans pay less in tax because "it will help inspire job hiring" which evidence showed us in the Bush years, does not happen. Out of four debates neither Romney or Ryan could specify their "tax plan" despite being given numerous opportunities. That is not honest. That is not American. That is not integrity and that is certainly not Christian. Mitt Romney also has the highest disapproval rating, of all time, of any Presidential candidate, ever. Higher than Bush. We must understand this. The entire world hates the guy. We must be proud to be Americans. We must have a President who represents all of America and who we can be proud of. We are coming out of one of the most difficult economic times in our history in large part because of two wars we are finally ending. We are bringing our brothers and sisters home. But we cannot go backward. We must go forward. We are Americans. And we will prevail.

Oct 23, 2012
by Anonymous

Politics & Social Media

It's been interesting to see how social media has played a role in recent political campaigns, and I appreciate the statistics for this most recent debate and Twitter usage. Thank you!

Oct 23, 2012
by Anonymous

A Step Backward for America

The Romney team should be more knowledgeable of foreign policy since they know every corner of the world to hide Mitt's money! He's already has international financial ties which run all the way from Switzerland to the Cayman Islands. Never mind that he’s never been involved with politics outside of the US- only his millions of dollars have. Read about the role of Mitt’s money and his Magic Mormon Underwear are playing in the polls at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/05/mitt-romneys-magic-mormon-und... where you can see for yourself the true power of both on display in full color!

Oct 23, 2012
by Anonymous

Really intriguing to see how

Really intriguing to see how this plays out. If Obama can win despite the economy, the Republican side is going to have to do some serious soul searching,,,or move to the middle.

Oct 23, 2012
by Anonymous

The affect of tweets on TV presentations and their aftermath

As you've stated, "At no other time in U.S. history has the combination of messaging on TV and Twitter become so intertwined".

We do have some political commentary shows here in Australia that make heavy use of Twitter feeds running live (though presumably moderated and selected) across the bottom of the screen as on stage participants comment, agree, and disagree with each other. Naturally the number of tweets would not be anywhere near what has taken place in the US presidential and vice-presidential debates.

It strikes me that it is not so much how the cleverness of tweets affects the aftermath of conventional presentations, but that they actually affect the effectiveness of the conventional presentation and how others perceive them in real time.

The power roles have become fairly reversed, or at least somewhat more balanced out. The conventional media no longer drives the thinking of the consumer. Social media drives the direction of the conventional media.

I'm not quite sure I understood which way round you meant your transition from "Loose Lips Sink Ships" to "Loose Tweets Sink Ships". The former refers to the need for carefulness in secrecy. The latter, I assume, is the opposite - that meaningful, witty, parodying, trending tweets - such 'small' things - can sink such large campaigns.

I think that for the most part Twitter users are not only politically engaged, but are probably also politically entrenched - that is, unlikely to change their political leaning. On the other hand, such tweeters have enormous influence on strengthening the opinions of others with the same political leanings, and of demolishing some of the statements made by political candidates - especially obviously in the case of trending and viral tweets. In the past such 'gaffes' or mistruths would have gone unnoticed or only handled by media commentators.

While probably sensible in some instances, I am not so sure however about the assured success of "promoted tweets" through the purchase of successful twitter handles. What becomes viral is determined partly by wit, partly by fluke. Unpromoted spontaneous tweets sometimes have more influence than purchased promoted tweets. Besides, people, and tweeters in particular, appreciate and respond positively to witty unpromoted tweets, and smell attempts to purchase this kind of influence and are more likely to respond negatively to it.

That may mean that the jury is still out on whether the future lies in a change from "Loose Tweets Sink Fleets" to "Promoted Tweets Sink Fleets"

Oct 25, 2012
by Anonymous

Social media and viral campaigns

Social media is a living ecosystem and any "virus" can give an "assault" with a well defined purpose. Depends on the system immunity to let it penetrate or reject it. Digital landscape is the same with the natural model that is why politicians understood that and their strategy is to be as active as necessary to win.