Collecting ideas and thoughts slightly too big for @digital_pharma

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Last night, Clint Eastwood spoke at the GOP convention, mostly by pretending to talk to an invisible President Obama, sitting in an empty chair next to him.

If you got a good night’s sleep last night and missed it, let me assure you that this happened and that every single word I write here is true.

Regardless of your political beliefs or like/dislike of Romney or Obama, this is something that will be remembered for a long time. Why? Well, let’s see what happened next.

Well, like with almost everything these days, things turned online. As the place where anyone can say anything and reach everyone in the blink of an eye for almost no money, this shouldn’t be a surprise.

First, we got “Eastwooding,” a meme where Eastwood pointed at different types of chairs (those of you about to celebrate your 40th birthday might agree that the choice of Pee Wee Herman’s chair Chairy was pretty funny). People added funny captions to pictures of Eastwood and the soon-to-be-famous chair. Maybe you saw the picture of a fake newspaper clipping of Abe Simpson was entitled “Old Man Yells At Chair.”

People made ever increasingly interesting/funny/pathetic attempts at humor inside the meme and it kept shifting, growing, morphing and evolving.

Then that shifted to old people pointing at chairs. And then anyone pointing to almost anything was “Eastwooding.” 

Then, because this isn’t weird enough, you got President Obama, who tweeted a picture of the back of his head in a seat marked President and wrote “This seat’s taken.”

And then, we we introduced to @InvisibleObama, because in this world, you’re nothing until someone makes a fake Twitter account about you or your idea.

This all happened while you were asleep last night.

To recap: An idea to get some press, to change the news cycle from “Paul Ryan seems to know what he’s talking about though even FOX News thinks he’s lying" and "Romney’s list of things he doesn’t want to talk about keeps growing” is now “Hey! Everyone loves Clint! And Clint loves America and the GOP! Yay!”

But that event shifted the course of conversation not one, not twice, but three times overnight. Overnight.

Now, I’d suggest that a meme like Eastwooding won’t much legs and will probably be a “hey, remember this meme” two months from now. But think how these two memes will affect the presidential coverage and thus the election. Memes. Helping us determine who the next American President is.

So if you don’t think the internet is serious business, doesn’t have the power to change minds, start and destroy careers and businesses, you are wrong. If you think your business’s 12-month plan for how to manage social media is adequate, in a world in which the tech changes weekly and the ways to use it changes minute-to-minute, you’re in trouble.

And it’s only going to get worse/better (depending on how you look at it). What happens if your brand, in an effort to generate awareness or change the news cycle ends up in a similar meme-hole? What can you do about it?

Are you ready for the future? Because it’s already here. Just ask the holographic head of Ronald Reagan the GOP was planning on using this year.

So Twitter finally turned on promoted tweets within your feed (It took them long enough). But that hasn’t stopped everyone from freaking out about it. I’ll just spoil the end of this and say that Promoted Tweets are a step forward for marketing in general. Anyone who doesn’t like this isn’t seeing the big picture.

So what is it? If you follow a brand, and that brand paid Twitter some money (okay, it’s probably fair to say that it’s not an inconsequential sum of money), you get a promoted tweet. You know what this is like? It’s not at all like most standard marketing/ad campaigns and that’s excellent for us.

If this was how broadcast TV worked (or newspapers or magazines or websites), I’d only see commercials and ads for things I’ve already decided I like. Man, I’d watch that channel. 

Now, I know how this starts out. Brand X does a cool giveaway (get an iPhone 5! or a wing form a space shuttle!) if you follow them, and then they promote their stuff. But you know how I (and you!) can turn these promoted tweets off? Stop following the brand.

Oh no! You have control! Wait, that’s a good thing.

This is the leverage we need to keep brands from being jerks and spamming us all the time. Since we can walk away any time, its in their best interests to make sure their messages are relevant and useful (Who doesn’t want more stuff that’s relevant and useful? I can’t get enough of relevant and useful, it just seems like it’s in short supply). 

Do you see where where this is leading us? That we only get promotions that we want to get? It gets us to the point where marketing isn’t screaming at us, it’s us opting into the conversation because we think there’s something in it for us (a deal, awareness of a new product, a chance to get access to a special most people don’t normally get, etc). This sounds remarkably like opt-in marketing, doesn’t it? Because it is! The glory of it is that it doesn’t clutter up our inbox, our mailbox, and is where we already are. This leads us to marketing’s Holy Grail: Marketing that’s so useful, we actually want it!

On the marketer’s side, it means no more success defined as “> 0.01% clickthrough rate.” It means we can build relationships with our customers and extend those relationships out through their networks. These relationships for real ties that help us understand our clients and work to position our products to be of more benefit to our clients (I know! Cool, huh?).

So I, for one, salute our new Twitter overlords and say, “If you want me to keep following your Twitter account, be a good corporate mouthpiece and keep giving me helpful, relevant and useful info. Do onto me, and I shall keep buying from you.” Good deal?

This is where the blog post should have ended, but I kept going…

But let’s take that further. I was having a conversation with one of our writers here (A Stadler to my Waldorff, as it were) and we were talking about how when you shop for certain things, Google knows and Google shows you a lot of ads for it. If you haven’t noticed it, go to Old Navy and “shop” for a shirt. Or Zappos and “shop” for a shoe. Now go to Google Reader or another Google property with display ads and you’ll probably see the shoe or shirt you liked.

A friend of mine (Hi, @derekmabie!) is at #moxcon and someone said that 58% of all searchers want to search and complete the action as part of their search experience. 

Hmm… When I go shirt shopping, if I see a shirt I want, I buy it. Now that I’ve bought the shirt, I am now the last person you shoul be showing a shirt ad to. What would be useful? Understanding that if I searched for (and bought: c’mon, If Amazon and the next top ten online retailers connected to Google, that’s like 80% of all shopping in one place, right?) a shirt is handy, but if it knew that most people who bought that shirt then went on to buy a pair of sunglasses they should be showing me sunglasses ads. I bet with that kind of data, Google could know that most people buy the complementary product within X hours and stop showing that ad after that timespan. Google already knows so much about me, they should start stepping up and being actually helpful with its ad system. Google will be able to tell me with XYZ% certainty what I am looking for next. Couple that with my browsing history and search history, Google will soon be able to be my automated assistant.

Quick vote: is that scary or cool. Right now I lean towards cool.

Twitter me @digital_pharma or just comment.

So, if you’re paying attention, it looks like our friend Sermo is having a bad couple of weeks. Sermo is a “publisher” or purveyor of a web site, somewhat like Facebook, specifically designed around HCPs. The idea is that HCPs can get together, talk about what HCPs are interested in, maybe get a few marketing messages from people like me trying to make them more aware of some medication or treatment option, and generally do what people (maybe I should be more clear and say “adults” to keep Sermo from sounding like some sort of frathouse) on Facebook do.

I will say, in an effort to be upfront and open, that my company has done business with Sermo before, though I have not.

So things are going pretty well for Sermo. That is, until @TomRines at Sermo started a Twitter conversation (Medical Marcon has the whole conversation archived on their site, which you can read here) to kinda introduce themselves to people who hadn’t heard of them yet.

Perfect. Yeah. Well, one of the things Tom said Sermo did was to “listen to the physicians conversations to mine business and competitive intel” which started the first round panic. Twittering HCPs were surprised to discover that Sermo, a service they get for free, might actually be trying to get something out of the relationship.

In fact, a quick read of Sermo’s terms and conditions pretty much spells out that they are listening and going to turn the discussion into information about what HCPs are looking for, how they see a given product, attitudes and beliefs, etc.

I want to reserve judgement on the HCPs and how they could think that Sermo was providing this service for free, especially after they partnered up with Pfizer in 07.

But I also want to introduce everyone to a little company called Facebook, which looks like a fun way to keep in touch with friends and make new ones, but is really the best collector in personal information available today. How else are you going to have a significant number of people (700 million at current count, which is pretty freakin’ significant) tell you what they do, who they like, what they do with their free time, what school they went to, who their family is, what websites they like, what products they use on a regular basis, and really what they are thinking about right now. They collect so much information that there are numerous conspiracy theories that makes Facebook the greatest CIA intel collection operation ever.

Every time Facebook changes privacy settings or posts your information to a news feed without giving anyone a head’s up, or just does whatever Facebook feels like doing, everyone goes nuts for two days, groups form to protest the change and demand it be reversed and nothing happens. Well, that’s not true. One thing happens: Facebook keeps growing.

Oscar nominated movie that makes the CEO/Owner look like the devil? More people sign up. Data mining? More people sign up. Virtually impossible to delete personal data? More people sign up.

I mean, if you’ve ever used the Facebook Ads system, you see exactly how well Facebook knows it’s users. If I wanted to, I could place an ad that would only be seen by men ages 22-23, who live in Peoria, who are not in college, who like motor cycles and knitting, and don’t work for Walmart. No, really. 

This is the internet and the world. Yes, it’s weird putting more info out there, but when everyone does it, maybe we really do get better messaging. (I mean, I have zero interest in buying a hearing aid, so why should I see ads for them?)

What does it all mean? @pharma411 reports that Sermo numbers are up 200 in the last couple of days despite all the chatter.

Not surprising. People (and HCPs) want a place to congregate. It looks like Sermo is it for the time being.

Comments open. Twitter me @digital_pharma

Otherwise, have a great weekend!