LocalResponse monitors realtime content and allows marketers to automatically message Twitter users based on that content. Last Wednesday, the company launched the pro version of its realtime advertising platform, but the weeks up to the launch were surrounded by controversy around campaigns that the company powered for some of its beta customers.
Most notorious among these was a Toyota Camry Super Bowl promotion in which a series of verified accounts sent unsolicited @ messages to users who were tweeting with Super Bowl-related hashtags. According to LocalResponse co-founder and VP product Michael Muse, the company will no longer allow clients to run that type of campaign.
I met with Michael last Friday to get his take on the difference between realtime marketing and spam, and to see if he could convince me that there is a way to run a campaign based on sending automated Twitter messages–without users feeling like they were being spammed. Michael believes that, if done correctly, realtime messaging is not only possible, but also enormously beneficial for both the marketer and the user.
You Need a Clear Signal
The key, according to Michael, is that “you don’t want users to get a message for something that user didn’t check into.”
The company is implementing a new set of rules and developing a set of best practices for using its platform. In order to send an @ message to a Twitter user, that user must have specifically “checked in with the brand,” either via a location-based app, with the check-in shared to Twitter, or by mentioning the brand on Twitter in a positive context. (LocalResponse has proprietary natural language processing technology that filters out tweets with negative sentiment. So someone who tweets “Can’t wait to order the Burger Sandwich at Brand X” might get a coupon for a side of fries, but someone who tweets “Brand X food is terrible” would not receive the offer.)
Muse says that their experience with the 50+ campaigns they have run so far is that, when people mention a brand in a positive way, they are delighted to know that the brand is listening, and to get a relevant response.
For marketers who want to reach consumers who do not meet these new criteria, LocalResponse is offering a separate product called Intent Retargeting, which can deliver mobile banner ads based on various realtime signals.
A Share Means I Want You to Care
Not all users are created equal, and Michael cautioned against using your own interpretation of what works for you to judge the expectations of other users. For instance, Walgreens recently ran a campaign using LocalResponse to deliver coupons to customers who checked in at its stores. The campaign drew heavy criticism from some bloggers, who described it as spam.
But under the new LocalResponse guidelines, this Walgreens campaign would still be legal. And, according to Michael, the reason the campaign worked is because it was targeting users who checked in at the pharmacy and then chose to share that information: “If you choose to share a check-in, then you indicate that you want someone to care about that piece of content.” Personally, I may not want to hear from Walgreens–but then I’m also not very likely to check in when I visit one of their locations or to publish that check-in to my Twitter feed.
Do I Know You?
Michael and the LocalResponse team have developed other rules that their clients must follow. The entity that responds to the user must be the verified entity that the user mentions. In other words, no tweets from Burger King to people who check in at McDonalds–only McDonalds can respond to tweets that mention McDonalds. The company also insists that clients be transparent about why they’re responding to users and offer something of value to the recipient in the tweet (“thanks for checking in with us – here’s your coupon!”). The rules provide guidelines about creating content that does not feel “too cheesy”–no hashtags or generic marketing slogans, for example.
A Little Goes a Long Way
LocalResponse sets strict guidelines around the volume of messages a user can receive: no more than one a day from any vendor using the LocalResponse platform, and there are limits on the number or messages a user can receive from any given merchant. The landing page included with the marketer’s tweet always includes an opt-out so that users can chose not to receive any messages powered by LocalResponse, or they can opt out of messages from a given vendor.
Most brands are still learning the right way to engage with Twitter users. “We have to say no every day,” Michael told me.
Keep the People in the Picture
The company strongly encourages brands to have trained social media professionals monitoring campaigns and prepared to engage with users who respond or comment. The PRO Dashboard, released last week, allows marketers to see realtime analytics and to pause a campaign to make adjustments if it is not getting the anticipated response. The LocalResponse team monitors running campaigns, too, and will step in if there is a problem.
Done right, realtime marketing works. Michael says that LocalResponse customers have seen “click-through rates around 50%,” and one of the company’s office is papered with advertising insertion orders.
It’s a Hug Thing
The best thing about Twitter, says Michael, is that “you get feedback.” That means that people who hate what you’re doing are far more visible. But it also means that if you “learn to embrace these customers,” listen to what they are telling you and learn how to respond to the content they’re sharing in the right way, “they will love you.”
So what do you think–are you convinced? Should brands be using what customers tell them on Twitter and other realtime platforms as an invitation to engage using platforms like this? Or do you think brands should stick to more personalized realtime outreach, like in this Pretzel Crisps example?
… and stay tuned: tomorrow I will report on a conversation I had with a technology vendor who has very different views on the question of messaging customers who have not specifically opted in to hear from a vendor. UPDATE: that post, on Teradata’s Social Experience campaign, is now live.