I love Twitter Search. I can see everything everybody is saying, what it is they’re doing, what they are thinking, what they are buying, what they love and what they hate. I like to call it a GodScope (okay I just made that up, but I’m using it from now on). Twitter’s GodScope lets me see everything that the world is saying in real time. Everything. Who’s buying dog food, who’s working out, who’s hating doing their expense reports, who’s going to a party, where the party’s at, who’s talking about my company’s product, what people are saying about competitors, you name it!
Sure, a little curiosity and TwitterSearch can easily make you wonder what happened to the last 3 hours. But the real power of TwitterSearch lays in its potential. I see straight forward ways for Twitter to unleash that potential, and for Twitter to gain a business model while they’re at it. The whole journey is a bit complicated, so let’s take a couple baby steps first.
Manual Lead-Gen: I suggested to a company I’m involved with – Expensify – to try experimenting with Twitter as a lead-gen tool. Expensify has a great product that makes expense report pain GO AWAY. David Barrett, Expensify’s CEO searches the tweet stream for “expenses”, “expense reports”, “receipts”, etc. and @reply’s to those users with information on how to get started with Expensify. Here’s what he does:
- search for expense report related terms,
- personally @reply’s to people who seem to be complaining about doing their expense reports
- in @reply, make a call to action—in this case Expensify is inviting user to sign up for private beta
- follow @reply’d users and follow-up on further @reply conversations that ensue.
- track conversions to beta program by linking invites to twitter usernames on signup.
We’ve only done a very small experiment but here are the results so far:
- 75 search leads that Expensify @reply’d
- 68 of 75 leads clicked on Beta invite link in @reply – 90% click conversion!!
- 12 of those leads @reply’d back—16% @reply back to Expensify
- The response to these efforts from the Twitter community has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, we have not gotten a single negative response back from our targeted messages.
Though the experiment is small, these numbers are breakthrough!! It speaks to the trust that the users have for the Twitter medium. Is there another place on the Internet you can send a targeted blind message and get a 90% click through??
Expensify will definitely expand their efforts with lead-gen on Twitter in the near term. They’ll streamline their Twitter lead-gen efforts as much as possible (but not too much) and turn it into a near-zero-cost lead-gen platform. But I expect there will be serious issues with using @replies for marketing in the mid-to-long-term.
Twitter’s SPAM-HOLE – Spam-infested @replies:
Expensify’s numbers are too good not to be copy-catted by direct marketers and spammers. It’s really only a matter of time before thousands of companies and marketers start using blind @replies to reach the Twitter audience at large. And the bottom line is that the initial use of Twitter as a lead-gen platform will turn @replies into a very nasty spam-infested medium.
The outcome of this of course, will be that Twitter cracks down on what I’m calling the “@reply spam hole.” I would suggest they ultimately will use one or more of the following techniques:
- restricting the number of @reply’s by any account
- restricting the number of initiated @reply’s by any account
- creating an @reply filter w/ spam folder for each person’s account.
- Utilizing community flagging/filtering measures.
Yes, once implemented, companies will still be able to market to users with @reply’s but only those companies/individuals with tweets viewed as valuable that don’t get flagged as spam by users/filter/other restrictions.
It will surely be interesting to watch the @reply spam-hole get filled and then closed over the next 6-12 months. Of course, Twitter will close the @reply spam hole, but the imposed restrictions will actually open up a huge revenue opportunity for Twitter. Stay tuned for Part II on this topic which proposes a Lead-Gen business model for Twitter once Twitter closes the @reply spam hole.