Twitter Ad Platform Could Be Game Changer For Events Marketing

17 Apr

After much speculation, Twitter took its first step toward monetization Tuesday with the announcement of a new advertising platform for a handful of national companies.

The social networking site has become a hit for a group of early-adopters in the venue industry, who use Twitter to announce shows, build buzz and gain feedback from their customers. Twitter’s announcement that advertisers can pay for prioritized tweets and appear at the top of search results leave many wondering whether the new paradigm will fundamentally change Twitter, and whether venues and event promoters will buy in.

“To me, the whole premise is that you build a personal connection on Twitter, which is missing from a lot of the other sites,” said Iain Bluett with regional ticketing firm TicketAlternative, a frequent user of Twitter. His posts for @iainbluett covers everything from Atlanta buzz bands to iPhone replacement parts.

“I think this community will push back on spam and ads more than any other medium,” Bluett said. “Especially the hardcore, dedicated Twitter followers.”

Street cred aside, Bluett admits the advertising possibilities for a promoter, especially a national firm like Live Nation or AEG Live, are endless. Searches for artists like Madonna on Twitter could pull up links to ticketing sites. Trade shows, music festivals, county fairs and other large events have begun to organize group Tweets using hashtags. Search #Coachella2010 and dozens of returns will pull up for each day, as fans discuss the upcoming festival, which launches Friday in Indio, Calif. By the time the show opens, thousands of fans will be using the Coachella hashtag. That could be a popular audience for an advertiser wanting to delve into the music space.

“The conversation is still the most important part of social media,” said Tonya Hall, CEO and Founder of social networking agency Barzhini. “On Twitter, even the ads will need to be informational, or users will ignore the content.”

Twitter’s new advertising platform allows buyers to purchase key search terms, and then return the results with their brand at the top of the list. Search “coffee” on Twitter, and Starbucks will appear as the first search result, with a denotation that the listing is a paid advertisement, or Promoted Tweet as the social network is calling it. Best Buy and Virgin Airlines are also piloting the system.

“I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Imagine the possibilities for a venue if someone typed in ‘Nine Inch Nails’ and we were hosting one of their concerts,” said Matt Johnson, webmaster for Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

Johnson and his Social Media Specialist Paul Hooper said the real test will come when Twitter utilizes location-based analytics for targeting ads.

“It really depends on how detailed they allow you to get,” Hooper said. “Facebook allows you to get into specific details, pick cities and even pick a radius around the city. You can pick how many people you’re hitting, their age groups and what they have on their profile. If we’re allowed to target certain audiences on Twitter, it could be good for us.”

Johnson and Hooper said they’re impressed with the small amount of money they’ve invested into Facebook advertising. Johnson said his campus spent about $500 on a Facebook ad for a recent five-show run of Avenue Q and he’s convinced that the 150 walk-up tickets sold were a result of social network marketing.

“Typically our walkup business for a musical is five to 10 tickets,” per show, Johnson said.

But for the promotion to work on Twitter, Johnson said he would want to target users who either identified themselves as living near Lexington, or the GPS-feature in their smart phone shows they’re near the University of Kentucky campus.

That type of innovation is only weeks, if not days away. Today, Twitter’s Evan William announced that Twitter users will have the option of geo-tagging their posts and see nearby users also posting to Twitter, possibly on a real-time map.

“It’s a shot across the bow for companies like Four Square,” said Alf Lamont of The Comedy Store in West Hollywood, Calif. “For venues in particular, (location-based software) is where it’s at.”

Lamont said his club gives free tickets to anyone who “checks in” to Four Square, a social networking site, when they arrive at the Comedy Store. Four Square uses the GPS in a user’s smart phone to broadcast a user’s location to his followers on Facebook and Twitter.

“So if you’re telling your entire network that you’re at the Comedy Store, that’s the best type of advertising possible and we will reward you with free tickets,” said Lamont.

As for blowback from Twitter users against the new advertising platform, Lamont said most early adopters understand that Twitter needs to make money to continue to exist.

“And regardless how much you pay Twitter for positioning, a retweet by someone with one million followers is worth more than an ad that hits 500 people,” he said.

Interviewed for this article: Iain Bluett, (404) 394-3446; Tonya Hall, (719) 210-9507; Matt Johnson and Paul Hooper, (859) 233-4567; Alf Lamont, (323) 650-0150

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