By Jon Cogan
Earlier this month, Marketing Magazine announced that Twitter is considering pages for brands, much like the kind that Facebook has been offering for years.
The non-committal "considering" by Twitter is an obvious attempt at crowd sourcing the reaction to taking such a measure, and gauging the support, or lack thereof in the Twittersphere. Marketing Magazine reported that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is leading the charge alongside his right hand man, President of Revenue Adam Bain. So if you are looking for a more concrete answer as to whether or not this is going to happen, you are best to ask either of these men. But the better question may be "why?"
Almost a full month after the news was released, there are many mixed reviews about the potential initiative. Many of the orthodox Twitter population are dead set against it, some going as far as calling it Twitter "jumping the shark." Others, especially among the early adopters, are calling it a "sell out" move and see it as their queue to leave the party.
But rest assured, Twitter has valid reasons. While this is not coming from Costolo himself, this initiative is in line with Twitter's long quest to becoming more of a brand destination. Currently, the best a brand can hope for on Twitter is that members of their target demographic and interest segment follow their tweets. A visit to the brand's Twitter page, while nice, does not encompass nearly the same level of brand experience gained by a visit to the brand's Facebook page. Twitter needs to change that if they want to come close to achieving the same level of relevance to consumer brands as Facebook.
Let's take a look at the current Twitter brand experience:
1. Visitor sees a brand's tweet in real-time search, or stumbles upon a brand's twitter page through following a retweet or mention.
2. Visitor decides to follow the brand.
3. Visitor will now be able to view the brand's tweets on his/her Tweet stream.
In a best case scenario for the brand, the visitor is engaged by the brand's Twitter content and retweets them often, expanding the brand's reach in the Twittersphere. Even better, the visitor makes a purchase or orders the brand's service. Alternatively, the visitor may be compelled to click on an embedded link that may lead to the brand's blog or other web property, theoretically continuing the brand experience for the visitor.
Let's contrast this last point to Facebook, where a visitor can gain the entire brand experience on the Facebook brand page. Facebook offers so much more as a one-stop destination for any would be visitor looking to engage with a particular company. Couple this with the fact that Facebook has a wider reach and what you have at the end of the day is a more powerful social network for marketing a brand. Especially once you consider that the typical Facebook social graph is made of a group of individuals with whom the profile owner has real-world ties, compared to Twitter where by and large, most followers are strangers to the Twitter account holder, and you can see why a Facebook Like is a much more powerful.
Twitter seems to have the desire to change this. While it is currently mostly a pull medium, if Twitter starts offering Facebook-style pages, they will be able to offer some of the same push tactics that marketers currently enjoy on Facebook. Twitter would be able to offer both types of experiences while Facebook marketers could only provide the push, continuing to offer incentives to interact.
And for me, therein lies the golden nugget. Twitter's unique value is found in real time search, something Facebook just can not offer right now. The real time search for a keyword would reveal Tweets and their related Twitter accounts. Following a brand Tweeting about the topic (or hash tag) of interest would then be able to lead to the follower into a much more meaningful brand experience by interacting with the brand's Twitter brand page. Compare that to Facebook, where you can only search the brand itself, not keywords associated with the brand's content topics.
So while the Twitter ultra-orthodox sects may be offended by such a notion, Twitter offering Facebook-style brand pages could offer a real-time search pull into a brand experience, attracting audiences whether or not they already have a pre-existing affinity for the brand itself. Seems like a good idea to me.