Friday, October 17, 2008

Day 2 at Conversational Marketing Summit

I spent another beautiful day in San Francisco’s Presidio for Federated Media’s Conversational Marketing Summit.

The morning was off to a great start with newly-named Twitter CEO, Evan Williams. The discussion started with their growing user base and quickly moved on to the question of monetization. According to Williams, about 50% of updates occur on, while the rest occurs on mobile and 3rd-party desktop clients like Twirl. This creates an interesting challenge for trying to apply a typical advertising model on because its unique site visitor counts does not accurately capture its true audience base.

So John Battelle, who moderated the conversation, threw out the idea of “AdSense on Twitter,” given the ability to search tweets. But unlike Google, people aren’t interested in clicking through to their ultimate destination. Once search results are shown, that’s the actual content the user is looking for. So, there isn’t the “click-through model.”

Williams actually said they were focused on growth of the network and not on revenue right now. He talked about trying to make it easier for a new user to learn how to use Twitter and “get it” more quickly. I can relate. When I started using Twitter, I didn’t get it until I started following others and trying it for a few weeks.

Another thing he’s working on — integrating Summize technology (aka into the twitter platform. Currently, the search tool isn’t really integrated on You don’t even see a search box!

There was also talk of Twitter serving a “breaking news” role. You can see this already. People twittering live when a fire or disaster breaks…before any news crew gets there or even before a blogger hops on his/her PC. For example, on Sunday, I was twittering about the Angel Island fire because I saw the orange glow and smoke coming off the island. Lots of others did too. I bet some people learned about it on Twitter before they saw it on the TV news. Williams said that’s something they’ve considered. In some ways, the current Election 2008 “channel” they’ve created is a pilot test for this.

Speaking of testing, brand marketers are testing Twitter. Brands really can’t think about selling ads on Twitter, but how can they build a more engaging relationship with their customers? For example, re-direct those media dollars to a monitoring program to listen to what your customers are saying about you and respond accordingly. The now famous @Comcastcares case is a great example. This is also similar to the work we are doing for the client case study I presented a few months ago at SES. Brands also need to move away from a short-term “campaign flight” mentality to a long-term relationship. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be in a customer service capacity. It just has to be authentic and useful or add value to their customers’ lives.

Reflecting back on the past two days, I’ve noticed Digg, Meetup, and Twitter (all three CEOs spoke here) seemed to have a lot in common. All three are leaders in their respective categories with a growing audience and no clear road to monetization. They are focused on building out the network first. Although Digg is further down the road than the other two companies, it will be interesting to see how they all ultimately monetize user engagement, and all they’ve done to democratize the Web.

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