Twitter is a great way for brands to communicate one-to-one with potential customers. But how can they do this at scale, and turn Tweets into customers?
One solution is Social Compass, created by Hiplogiq, which provides a tool for marketers to listen, respond and insert offers into Twitter conversations. The company offers its' platform on a white label basis to media and agency resellers.
Basically, the platform surfaces conversations related to what merchants sell, and allows them to respond "personally" with an offer, collects an email for redemption, and sends the offer, an additional automated email that creates a referral program.
Theoretically merchants could operate the platform on their own, but with the exception of larger brands with their own inhouse agencies, the platform is used by agencies and media companies, according to Adam Root, co-founder and CTO.
The best targets are merchants with multiple locations in a category that has a rich flow of Twitter conversations. Hiplogiq reviewed local Twitter conversations to find commercial categories that have the most Twitter activity. They include:
Restaurants - Fast casual, specialty, quick serve, coffee shops
Travel/hotels - Single location/Boutique, Bed&Breakfast, Corporate/Business
Travel/other - Vacations/resorts, Vacations/cruises, Airlines, Car Rental
Beauty/health/wellness - Spas, Salons, Fitness
Medical - Family/general physician, Specialists, Dentists,
Retail - Home, Clothing, Specialty
Root recommends starting off with one category - such as dining - that has a lot of conversations in the marketplace. After the agency becomes adept at replying to Twitter conversations, he suggests adding three to five more categories to develop expertise in each vertical.
Keep in mind that high ROI categories such as mortgages can also work and may be even more valuable due to the high ROI, although the number of posts is smaller.
To utilize the platform, there is a simple "create campaign link" after deciding on what the offer will be. Currently, agencies need to provide and upload a few pieces of creative:
a. A form that outlines the discount and collects an e-mail
b. An email template with the discount embedded that will send out to the end customer
c. A second email to provide a shareable coupon that is part of the loyalty program
d. A last email that rewards the sharer with credits.
A tool scheduled for release January, 2014 - right around the corner - will provide an html template that allows users to upload images and modify the text. But until then a short-coming of the platform is the need to write code for each of these, then upload an html document.
The next step is inputting search words to surface conversations onto the platform.
Unlike Google's search terms, Root says key words that work best for Twitter are more general and problem-oriented. For example, when delivering restaurant coupons, "I'm hungry" will deliver more results than, say, "Thai food," although the more specific terms can still be included.
Social Compass has developed a proprietary system to surface the most effective key words for these categories. Today, these are available from the account manager, and will soon be incorporated into the software and selected via drop down windows.
After key words have been selected, the platform surfaces related conversations:
Twitter requires manual replies - automating responses on Twitter will get your account flagged and turned off. But it only takes about one minute to respond, "Hey, John, That's a great neighborhood. When you find your house, please use this mortgage discount for $500 towards closing costs."
When John clicks on the link, he is prompted to enter his email to receive the offer. A second email prompts him to share the offer to receive additonal credits.
Reporting is basic and workable. Users "see' the number of and names of customers and lists of conversations, and the numbers (only) of referrals and visitors.
Root says Social Compass currently produces a conversion rate from conversations - that is, email's filled out per reply - of 50%.
There is no way to track the number of coupons that are actually redeemed except at point-of sale.
Retail pricing is left up to agency resellers. The basic service is $199 per month for one account, or $399 for three accounts. Each new account has 30 days free, to "give everyone a chance to try out" strategies before paying.
Agencies can upsell their management services either per reply or charge a flat fee.
As an example of a "per reply" model, Root says the agency reseller, Gemily, based out of Oklahoma, is a husband/wife team who charges $5 to $7 per reply, for campaigns that may run 500 to 700 replies per month.
High volume categories like this include restaurants, such as Dunkin Donuts in Phoenix, who replies to 500 to 700 conversations monthly using the platform.
Retainers can also be priced at a flat fees that run as high as $2500 to $5000 a month, if the advertiser has a high ROI.
For example, a program created for WellsFargo's mortgage division responds to 100 to 150 conversations a month created by people buying or selling a home.
Like "deals" offers can be use to convert customers into larger sales. As examples, Root pointed out use of free anti-aging products to promote spas and health centers, free zoom with an upsell to cosmetic treatments for dentists, and free appetizers or two for one for restaurants. One barber gives away a $40 hair cut and upsells to a "membership" of $75 a month for two hair cuts. Car washes have also sold memberships to people coming in for a free wash.
Social Compass will manage campaigns for an additional fee of $1200 a month, however, most agencies charge for campaign management because the margins are so high, each reply is only one minute, and the skill set is limited. Social Compass provides an account manager to help.
What's least understood about listening and responding to Twitter conversations is that the "key words" to look for do not work like search, so also on the road map is a set of drop down "suggested words" which are already available through the agency's customer service representative, and will be built into the platform.
The key differentiator is a machine-learning algorythm named "Joshua" that supplies both the key words that obtain the best results and Twitter users most likely to respond. Otherwise some searches generate "a firehose" of conversations that are not relevant.
"The search terms are very specific Focus on what the machine tells you. Joshua is going to recommend 'I'm hungry lunch.' I always recommend, trust the machine," Root says.
Key words suggested for the top categories is attached.
For agencies using the system, white label customization is basic - the media or agency can change the logo from "Social Compass" to its own brand and choose between a light and dark theme; additional customization of the color scheme is on the road map.
The author, Alisa Cromer is publisher of a variety of online media, including LocalMediaInsider and MediaExecsTech, developed while on a fellowship with the Reynolds Journalism Institute and which has evolved into a leading marketing company for media technology start-ups. In 2017 she founded Worldstir.com, an online magazine, to showcases perspectives from around the world on new topic each month, translated from and to the top five languages in the world.