Two news items broke across the ‘tubes in the past few weeks that graphically illustrate the idea of the flash crowdsourced fundraiser: the massive outpouring of donations for bullied bus monitor Karen Klein, and the somewhat smaller announcement that @Smokey_Robinson will be using his Twitter handle to instantly mobilize millions of followers (his and his celebrity friends’) to give in support of timely causes.
The idea – expressed by Smoky – and the reality – demonstrated by the vacation fund for Ms. Klein – are intoxicatingly powerful: Using crowdfunding sites and donation platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, causes, both worthy and merely buzzworthy, can leverage massive scale and momentum through social networks such as Twitter to raise huge sums of money in very short times. Echoing the swell in grassroots political donations that took off in the last US presidential election, these efforts will enable and rely on a very large number of people each making relatively tiny donations – $1 here, $5 there.
Amplified by mainstream news, celebrities with huge follower counts, or just plain old social spread, these “cause swarms” have the potential to be incredibly powerful tools for good. Or evil of course, once the scammers start to perfect the new model.
Kickstarter is already proving that entire companies, with significant capital needs, can get off the ground by going around the traditional funding sources and appealing directly. to future fans and customers (Pebble watch, anyone?). In those cases, people give both for the explicit “get” – the watch, the exclusive offers, etc – and the emotional thrill of supporting a great idea or someone’s amazing passion. In charitable giving you have the added benefit of self-fulfillment, the “it just makes ME feel good” effect.
Combining all those feelings with the now-proven platforms that make crowdsourced giving possible, mixed in with the massive swarm-like effect of Internet memes and rabid celebrity followers, and you have one incredibly powerful model. Whether it’s used for good or evil in the long run – and whether the inevitable examples of evil end up souring people on the overall concept – it’s going to be an interesting trend to watch in the coming months and years.
Last week, Twitter announced something that had long been sought after by brands using Twitter for marketing – Twitter brand pages. With the move, and some of the unique features it enables, Twitter moves one step closer to creating the kind of branded social destination pages that have long been the centerpiece for companies on Facebook. There have been some very good write-ups of the features and implications, so I won’t bore you by rehashing them all here.
As long-overdue as this feature is, and as much hype as it is getting, it’s a follower acquisition tactic and just a step along the way to the real goal of getting people to opt-in to your content stream. Just like with Facebook spotlight tabs, beyond the first-visit experience by a non-fan/follower the Twitter brand page itself has limited utility. The real value, as I stated a few months ago, is in the content stream. That’s where the engagement happens, where the social spread of your ideas and content occurs, and where the ultimate ROI – measured however you prefer – will be realized.
Let’s go back to Facebook for a moment. We know from experience that the majority of traffic to most brand Facebook brand pages tends to cluster in two places – the Wall, where current fans land, and the default landing (or “spotlight”) tab, where non-fans land. One is a home for engagement and interaction, the other serves to quickly grab a visitor’s attention and entice them to become a fan and opt-in to all that wonderful engagement.
As designed, Twitter’s new brand pages are roughly equivalent to a mashup of the Facebook Wall + landing tab, limited to non-followers. For current followers, chances are they will never see the shiny new brand page, just like fans of a brand on Facebook will likely never glimpse the often-amazing landing tabs (or any of a brand’s tabs, really). Follower attention, rightly, will be focused on the content stream and the engagement it inspires, which they will most likely be consuming through 3rd-party apps and sites accessing the Twitter API.
Helping expose that content stream, in ways that add tremendous value to other types of brand content (blog posts, web pages, etc.), is why I’m so excited about Twitter’s other big announcement around Embedded Tweets, but that’s for another post.
— Kevin Briody (@kevinbriody) December 14, 2011
The long-term value of social media is in the engagement centered on the content stream, whether it lives through your Facebook updates, blog posts, videos, or Tweets. The majority of your focus should be around making that stream as rich (in terms of great content) and rewarding (in terms of great interaction and discussion) as possible. To get people to opt-in to that stream is of course critical, and that’s the role Twitter Brand Pages – just like Facebook landing tabs – will play: follower acquisition.
With all the buzz and focus around these new pages, and the many beautiful or innovative designs I’m sure we’ll see in the coming weeks and months, just keep that in mind. Twitter brand pages are follower acquisition tools, and are not destinations for existing followers to find anything of much value. For established brands on Twitter, are focused on engagement with their already large/mature follower bases, the brand page is less of a necessity.
Relax. It’s OK to wait. Seriously.
Every Twitter user has heard it, or experienced it ourselves, the complaint that Twitter has become too noisy, too spamming, too much about just pushing links and not enough about actual people expressing actual thoughts. The problem however isn’t Twitter’s, and Twitter shouldn’t have to become like Google+ to “fix” it.