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?