Should you use Twitter’s new conversational ads?

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Twitter’s conversational ads bring social back to its roots as a communication medium by encouraging more discussions between brands and consumers. How can marketers use this new feature to their advantage? 

For brands social media has always been about driving customer conversations. So when Twitter introduced a new format this month called conversational ads, we all sat up and took notice.

Currently in beta, the ads are being touted as a way for businesses to “drive more earned media and brand influence” and “extend their presence across Twitter.” The idea is for consumers to participate in brand led discussions by sharing predetermined brand messages and hashtags. Consumers have the option of altering or adding to the tweet, but the conversation is largely shaped by the brand.

According to a survey conducted by Twitter in 2014, about 80 percent of consumers mention brands in their tweets, and 54 percent took action after seeing brand-related messaging. The new conversational ads promise to increase brand engagement by making it easier for Twitter users to take part.

At the center of the concept is interactivity: consumers can answer a question posed by a brand like Samsung Canada with a single tap. Samsung Canada has revealed that its two conversational ad units resulted in 53,000 media engagements and 484 occurrences of its related hashtags in just four days. That’s five times the brand’s average Twitter engagement rate.

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Last year, social media analytics company Simply Measured reported that consumer engagement with big brands on Twitter is on the rise. By tweeting regularly (at least three times per day) and interacting with individual users, brands have managed to boost @replies and per-tweet interaction levels. Couple their social marketing savvy with Twitter’s own efforts to entice users, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Since Twitter rolled out its polling functionality to all users back in October, 1.7 billion votes have been cast.

Conversational ads take the poll model a step further by allowing brands to customize the next phase of the vote – the message they want consumers to send on their behalf.

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What do industry players think of the new format?

ClickZ asked a few experts to weigh in.

Ed Haslam, chief marketing officer at ShareThis, believes the value of conversational ads lies in creative engagement.

“These ad units have the great potential to truly engage people through creative expression. In so doing they can drive viral-like earned media impressions,” he says.

Haslam adds that the unit takes a lot of the effort away from sharing a brand’s Twitter message. “The user can now simply click twice to share their opinion, without even having to craft a message or think too much about it if they don’t want to.”

“If you’re creating great content, these units can significantly amplify your paid efforts, resulting in earned media value above and beyond your spend,” says Ted Murphy, chairman and chief executive of IZEA.

“Twitter’s conversational ads can be targeted just like any other promoted tweet, so brands can target social influencers using Twitter’s Tailored Audiences ad targeting tool,” he explains.

Of course, Murphy notes that though influencers may see the ads, there’s no way to know whether they’ll respond. His advice to brands: target influencers you’ve worked with in the past.

“We found that 83 percent of influencers share posts about their sponsors for free, outside of their contractual agreements,” Murphy says, referencing IZEA’s 2015 State of Sponsored Social report.

“Twitter’s conversational ads are an innovative way of optimizing earned media from a paid campaign,” says Sean O’Neal, president of Adaptly. “While marketers can already see earned media on Twitter, I would expect that this new unit will both increase the additional reach as well as improve the media value of those earned media impressions.”

Will the unit’s prepopulated message and built-in call to action turn consumers away?

“I don’t think so,” says O’Neal. Twitter is simply making things easier and providing elegant functionality for personalization and sharing. It is always at the user’s discretion if and how they engage.”

By experimenting with different types of questions, polls, and other calls to action, brands can determine what’s most likely to resonate with their unique audience.

“For example, you could ask about particular product features or options, or even better you can create conversations about use of the product in different contexts,” Haslam says. “We all love to share our opinions if we encounter content that resonates with us in an authentic way.”

Murphy adds that when using conversational ads, marketers should “tailor each ad to make their content easy for consumers to share,” as this will help increase exposure and reach. “The goal of the ad unit is to spur interaction around a particular hashtag,” he says.

The future?

It’s early still, but brands will surely be eager to explore Twitter’s new ad offering. Adopt a strategy based on authenticity and trust, and your message stands to go far.

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