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Apology in Order!

I’m Rob, and I’m proud to be the current owner of Sammartini, a business that’s been in my family more than a century. Since 1912, our company has offered the best in fresh produce, seafood, aged prime meats, and gourmet groceries.  We strive to maintain a quality of service second  to none, whether you’re shopping in person at the store, or taking advantage of our extensive delivery service.

Having said that, I admit we’re not perfect, even though we strive for perfection every day. Last week we had a small disaster with one of our deliveries. The customer not only went to our Facebook page and told her story, she also Tweeted about the incident. It went viral.  Before long,  the whole world  knew about it, and it wasn’t pretty.  So for  the few of you who happened to be visiting Mars that day, here’s what happened. A new customer – someone who had never ordered from us before, placed an order to be delivered to her downtown condo. Yes, all the items were there, and the delivery was  made in a timely manner. But included in her box was something she definitely hadn’t ordered –   a large Black Widow spider. No it wasn’t alive, but even a dead spider of that size and variety in a grocery box is something no one wants to find.  At this point, I still have no idea how it got there. My only guess is that it travelled up from South America in one of our shipments of tropical fruit,  and it escaped the notice of our staff. It may already have been in the box we used to pack the groceries and it went undetected by our packers.

We’ve already offered our sincerest apologies to the customer, and I’m doing it here one more time, just so reinforce our desire to make amends.  We have no-one to blame but ourselves –  my great-grandfather Enrico, the original owner of Sammartini, would have been as appalled as we were. The lady has already accepted our offer of a hamper of free groceries, and we’ll do our utmost to make certain this kind of thing never happens again.

100 years is a long time for any business,  and we plan to be around for a long time to come!

Peckenpaugh's Market

Joe Gurrera


Is Anybody Listening Out There?

Building a Company With Social Media

ROI? Social media analytics? Up to recently, these were fairly intimidating words for an “arty” older son born into a family of highly successful bankers. We’re talking major black sheep here. And if they had any inkling at all that I’d be one day involved in the notion of financial gains brought about by social media, there would be looks of amazement. Yet with Boyd’s patient explanations, and through the various readings, I’ve discovered the concepts aren’t  that difficult to grasp after all.

It involves the interaction of three different elements, all of them “A words” and all of them working together to realize an objective. These words are: attention, attitude, and action.  According to Andrew T. Kirk, writing in Social Media Examiner in September of 2012, ( ) there are four social media goals that every organization should be measuring:

1:  Awareness of the brand

2.  Website traffic

3 . Website visitor loyalty

4.  The conversion of website visitors to consumers

Hence, attention is defined as the idea of the number of fans an organization has in the social media stratosphere, and measured through such platforms as Twitter, or Facebook and indicated either through the number of followers (on Twitter) or number of “likes’ (on Facebook) the number of clicks or page views contribute to the general sense of just how many out there are engage with a particular organization.

Attitude is defined as the opinions or sentiment the public may have towards an organization, measured through the dialogue occurring between the two.

Finally, action is what an organization hopes will happen when the public becomes sufficiently engaged in its products, services, or activities. Ideally, consumers will be engaged to the point that they will be persuaded to spend money to purchase whatever it is the company has to offer.

In the book, Social Media 101, Olivier Blanchard states that social media can impact on an organization in two ways – financial and nonfinancial. The latter involves things like number of followers, number of views on a page, or number of “likes.” These are all important to an organization in helping to increase engagement and build relationships, and in the end, it’s hoped that they will influence the financial bottom line. Financial impact, on the other hand, is generally determined by working backwards through the gathering of information from balance sheets, or through social media tactics and strategies. Hence the equation:

ROI = (gain from investment – cost of investment)  (divided by) cost of investment

What it boils down to is how much return an investment has generated, or in this case, how many yields per dollar spent.

The question of how greatly social media impacts on ROI is an ongoing one for marketers and PR practitioners, but in 2010 it saved one company close to $100,000 in advertising budget.

Founded in 1984, Cisco Systems Inc. is an American multinational corporation headquartered in San Jose California, that designs, manufactures, and sells networking equipment. Not surprisingly, the organization had a social media presence as early as 2008, when it could be found on Facebook Twitter, and YouTube. Yet like most companies, while Cisco knew it was benefitting from social media, it was unable to determine just how much. The launch of a new router in 2010 proved beyond a doubt that social media was the way of the future for marketing new products. Up to that time, launches had been undertaken using more traditional approaches. These included flying executives in from around the US to the company headquarters, issuing press-releases, e-mailing potential customers, and running print ads in newspapers and magazines.

This all changed with the launch of the Aggregated Services Router (ASR) when the marketing department decided to undertake a campaign implementing online leveraging social media exclusively. This was undertaken in a variety of ways.  Executives presented the launch online, and a 3d game allowed players a chance to win $10,000  plus the new router. Using Facebook, a series of blogs, and an online forum were other ways the company engaged potential buyers. The end result? More than 9000 people from 128 countries around the world “attended” the virtual launch, 90 times greater than previous launches. Without having to travel, executives saved an estimated 42,000 gallons of gas which certainly kept the environmentalists happy! Furthermore, they spent only an hour recording the video presentation. More than 1000 blog posts and 40 million online impressions were recorded during the promotional event. To top it off, Cisco earned a Leading Lights award for Best Marketing.

The success of this campaign has led Cisco to the realize that social media is the way to go for future endeavors in the area of marketing and promotions. Since then, funds previously allocated for print advertising have been moved to the social spectrum.  Social media marketer LaSandra Brill commented: “Social media doesn’t replace the need for white papers or sales interaction, but I think it helps accelerate and shorten the sales cycle. There are studies out there that people who are involved in communities and engaged with the brand are likely to spend up to 50 per cent more than those who are not. We want to try to prove that.”

For Cisco, and for many organizations in 2012, it was question of attention, attitude and action that makes social media such an integral part of marketing today. Even a Luddite such as myself understands its enormous impact – and this is only the beginning. Look out, Big Business, here comes Social Media!

Social Media Measurement – A Look at Four Tools

alerts and monitoring tools

Social media has become a lot more than uploading photos from your trip to the Cayman Islands, or reading someone’s thoughts on the proposed TTC streetcars. Over the past five years, it has become an integral tool for business, helping to engage customers, and raise awareness of what a particular company has to offer. But what about social media monitoring? The ability to measure the success of any campaign is equally important for any organization. It allows users to gain insight into a product’s visibility, the degree of success of a campaign, offer opportunities for engagement, and act as an alert for any crises that may be lurking just around the corner. While most measuring tools come with a price – and are happily paid for by an organization to ensure effective results – there exist a myriad of those that are available for free – many more than I would have realized. According to internet marketer Colin Alsheimer writing in Level Ten Design,a major challenge is how to keep up with the enormous amount of social media and content on the web. He rightly points out that companies have to be able to respond quickly when the public is talking about them or their brand. And fortunately for marketers – and for the curious such as myself- there are plenty of free monitoring tools out there to satisfy our inquisitiveness.  Here are four I looked at:


Socialmention is a monitoring tool that searches user-generated content through keywords on social media platforms, such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos and microblogging services. In return, it  provides metrics  for keywords and  sentiment. Socialmention  also provides illustrations and charts showing the number of mentions per day or per week in addition to APIs and coding for an individual keyword monitoring widgets. Unlike other social media monitoring tools which tend  to group the information by network, Socialmention gives the user a streaming timeline, and also  divulges how many mentions and how many different people are involved. Probably the most important feature of Social mention, however, is the ability to track  so-called “negative” sentiment. By clicking on  “negative” under the sentiment area, I was given a list of “negative” posts. An organization also has the option of creating daily e-mail alerts, or with a widget receiving real-time buzz on its site or blog. One drawback – the inability to click on individual authors or retweets. For a marketer, to be able to see a list of who was talking about a particular issue would make connecting and establishing relationships  much easier. Instead, the user has to dig through the timeline, which requires a bit of extra work. Nevertheless, as a comprehensive search tool, Socialmention has much to offer  the user.

My score:  8/10 Social Mention


Addict-o-matic  is another user-based tool, allowing the user to create  custom pages  featuring the latest buzz on any given topic. On the surface, it’s a virtual  one-stop searching device developed by Dave Pell, a person  described as “the victim of internet overuse,  (with) a short attention span, and dwindling social life.”  Was it he who designed the creepy looking little mascot – a robot who would appear to be on drugs – or is it only meant to represent a “searching addict?” On the home page, we’re  told that we can “inhale the web” and that Addict-o-matic searches the best live sites  for the latest news, blog spots, videos and images, boasting that it’s the perfect tool to  keep up with the hottest topics. After completing the search,  the user can then personalize the results dashboard by simply moving the source boxes.  A list of “hot topics” is even provided on the search page. The day I investigated the site, these included:  Jennifer Lopez, Syria,  iPad, Bruce Springstten,  and Kickstarter.  While at the outset, Addict-o-matic  may seem comprehensive, it doesn’t appear to address major sites like Facebook, and there are no analytics. To my mind, these drawbacks far outweigh the simplicity of use.  Still, as a social media search tool, it has its distinct advantages, especially for novices such as myself.


My score: 6/10



BoardReader is a forum- based monitoring tool, allowing users to search multiple message boards simultaneously, and share information. Its byline is “connection communities through search,” and in this regard, the tool is truly international, in that users can find answers from others who share similar interests. In addition to the general search box,  separate headings are also provided such as videos, movies , news, press releases, instructions and articles – a very handy feature for those who wish to narrow down the search even further. The day I looked at BoardReader, I typed in “Mayor Ford Toronto” and it brought up 395 entries regarding the mayor’s activities over the past month or so. It also provided me with a small trending graph depicting the degree Mr. Ford had been a topic of interest, and this naturally showed a huge spike on Nov.26 with  the news of his removal from office.  As a social media monitor, the chief advantages of BoardReader seems to be the ability to aggregate a large number of varied sources all in one place, and its ease of use. The disadvantages – limited analytics.

My score: 7/10

 Some things in life are free, like the sun, the moon and certain social media monitoring tools. Other things you have to pay for, like groceries, gas for the car, and certain other social media monitoring tools.


Among the paid monitoring tools I examined,  Trackur seemed to come up with as much bang for the buck as any. Created by reputation expert Andy Beal, (co-author of the book Radically Transparent), Trackur serves as both an online reputation management and social media monitoring tool, and has been described by blogger J D Lasica on Socialbrite ( as a kind of “Google Alerts on steroids.” It has the ability to rate the power of your influencers and will then deliver the results to your inbox, RSS feed, or dashboard. At the same time Trackur can monitor your reputation, check trends and analyze mentions for your company, brands, cause or clients.  So do all these features come with a hefty price tag? It depends what you want. There are four plans, ranging from as little as $27 a month up to $447, depending on the number of searches, and the features used. Trackur even offers a free 10-day money-back guarantee – and with more than 50,000 registered users, the company must be doing  something right.


Whether free or paid, social media monitoring tools is an essential component to any organization employing social media today. With so many social networking platforms, there are now search engines to match. They provide feedback, display trends, and demonstrate the success (or failure) of a campaign, and most importantly, allow a company to determine just who is listening beyond the boardroom.  

The Elliot Lake Mall Disaster: What Could Have Been Done Using Social Media – but Wasn’t

Aerial View of Elliot Lake

Elliot Lake, Ontario – population 10,000 – is a pleasant town in northern Ontario, near the north shore of Lake Huron, about 150K west of Sudbury. Nestled in amongst some spectacular terrain, the town is neither old nor historic, for it was only established during the mid 1950s with the discovery of uranium in the area. Like all such towns, it’s suffered cycles of boom and bust, and now with the almost non- existent demand for the metal, Elliot Lake has had to look to other ways of survival, recently promoting itself to the tourist trade, and also as a place suitable for retirement. Traditionally, the town never garnered much attention with the Canadian public, but this all changed during the afternoon of Saturday, June 23, 2012, when part of the roof-top parking garage  of the Argo Mall collapsed, crashing down through  two floors. The cave-in happened very quickly and initially resulted in as many as 30 people being unaccounted for. In the end, 20 people received non-threatening life injuries, but two people, Lucie Alwyn and Doloris Perizzolo, were killed.

The mall, owned by a corporation which goes by the name of Eastwood Mall Inc., was built in 1980, and although deemed “structurally sound”, had been experiencing problems with leakage from the roof for years, so much so that merchants had frequently had to close down periodically while makeshift repairs were undertaken. About four years ago, the owners began a $1 million overhaul of the roof to end the leaks, but an architect involved in the project had noted at the time that the previous repair- work had been done “very carelessly”.

Pieces of the facade of building are pulled out by heavy equipment as partial demolition begins during rescue efforts at the Algo Mall in Elliot Lake Ontario late June 26, 2012. Rescue authorities said the chance that anyone remained alive under piles of concrete and metal was "very slim, " noting the last time any signs of life were detected was early Monday morning when audio equipment picked up sounds of breathing. (Kenneth Armstrong /Reuters)

Shortly after the occurrence, Levon Nazarian, son of the owner, made a statement to the press expressing his family’s concern about the tragedy, but explained that he would comment no further until they had consulted their lawyers.

The affair continues to be very much in the news. Earlier this month, CBC reported on a series of detailed documents it had obtained, illustrating the discussion between the premier’s office and those involved in the rescue to address the outcry following the decision to abandon the search on June 25 owing to unsafe conditions. Rescue teams were set to call off the search within 24 hours despite the possibility that there might be survivors still trapped inside. Initially, the Premier’s office agreed with the decision. Nevertheless, a huge outcry on the part of Elliot Lake citizens – many of them using Twitter – forced the rescue efforts to resume two days later, and it was during this second effort that the bodies of the two women were discovered.

So how did Eastwood Mall Inc. handle the tragic situation through the use of social media?  I think the real question is why did this organization choose to ignore social media when it could have used it to such great advantage in this highly emotional story?



For whatever reason, Eastwood Mall Inc. has no Facebook page. To me, this is a major mistake, probably decided long before the mall disaster.  I can’t imagine a company of any size – even a small one – without a Facebook presence in 2012. Yet there was enough interest in the story for others to set up pages focusing on the tragedy. Elliot Lake Mall Collapse (with 777 members) and Elliot Lake Mall Roof Collapse (with 244), are two such groups established in order to allow users to comment on the situation and keep others updated on the latest developments. As it was pointed out to us in class last week, in a crisis, people react to emotions more than facts, and obviously, there was enough interest in the crisis for people to become engaged with the story. How easy it would have been for Eastwood Mall to establish a page to express its concerns and to inform users what steps it planned to take in order to rectify the matter. But instead, it showed an appalling lack of transparency, and in this case, the silence was deafening. Social media is all about dialogue, but there was none whatsoever between the owners of the mall and the public.



Twitter has been a more useful platform in allowing people to become engaged with this crisis. When it was decided that the rescue efforts would be called off, people took to Twitter to express their outrage. Since then, catastrophe has continued to spark enough interest for many people to continue posting. Most recently, the major topic has been that of the owners losing their bid for taxpayers to fund legal bills for a public inquiry. In the ruling, Commissioner Paul Belanger said that neither Bob Nazarian nor his son Levon had properly demonstrated why Ontarians should foot the bill. Needless to say, tweeters are showing little sympathy for the owners. Not only are the Nazarians not replying to tweets to explain their viewpoint, their lack of presence on Twitter speaks volumes. An apology or statement expressing concern from them on a social media platform? Don’t hold our collective breaths! Once again, it would have made so much more sense for their organization to have set up a Twitter account simply in order to let the public know of their supposed efforts at making things better. But why do I get the feeling that Eastwood Mall Inc. has little interest in anything apart from making as much money as possible?


 YouTube has also been a most beneficial platform helping followers of the disaster to become engaged. Apart from the professional videos produced by major networks such as CBC, CTV and Global,  were others created by  inhabitants of Elliot Lake themselves  to great effect.  One published on July 17 by Jessica Pulkowski was billed as “my moment of closure.” The short video, spanning 3 minutes and 54 seconds  comprises a series of still photos of the disaster using the song Calling All Angels by Train. To me, it’s a poignant and moving tribute to all those involved in the tragedy. Another one, by Ryan Davis also uses  photos taken over a period of a few days , is an equally heart-wrenching depiction of how a small community can pull together in the face of adversity. He couldn’t have chosen a better song than Angel by Sarah McLachlan. A third video, only 43 seconds in length by someone called Midgetimeman, shows the eerie scene of the collapse only minutes after it occurred.

But what was Eastwood Mall Inc. doing when these were being created? It would have been easy for them to have posted a video expressing their concern and their plans for the future, but nothing happened.

To me, this is a textbook case of what NOT to do with social media in the case of a disaster. Eastwood Mall obviously had no plan of action before the disaster, and made no attempt to engage with the public apart from a brief statement to the press at the very beginning. The organization obviously didn’t see the need to use  any form of social media, demonstrated no degree of transparency,  and six months later, has no respect from any members of the public –  in my opinion, it truely doesn’t deserve it.

Glenn and Susan Robitaille light candles at a vigil set up outside the Algo Centre in Elliott Lake on June 25, 2012. (Fred Lum /The Globe and Mail)

Organizational Uses of Social Media

The use of social media has long progressed beyond tweeting your views on Rob Ford’s latest gaffe, or posting the most recent photos of your vacation on Facebook. Organizations now realize the huge potential it has as a means of connecting and engaging with users.  Indeed , it’s a rare organization in 2012 that doesn’t involve itself in some sort of social media programme – to not do so is to be left far behind, stuck in the era of Commodore 64s or Tandy 1000s – how quaint – how very 1980s! Today, companies utilize social media to raise awareness, to increase sales, and to engage existing and future customers. They do so through a variety of means, and the approach is as unique as the organization itself.

In researching organizational uses of social media, I came across some really effective examples, some serious, some amusing, but all demonstrating a keen awareness of its worth and value.

One of the more humorous   – and also effective – cases I came across was that undertaken by the Canadian Cancer Society to raise awareness of testicular cancer. The campaign slogan was The Guy at Home in his Underwear and involved a fellow by the name of Mark, a Toronto native and testicular cancer survivor. His challenge was to raise money while sitting at home in his underwear, by having users click “like” on a Facebook page. The goal was to achieve 25,000 likes over a 25 day period. If successful, Stanfield’s Clothing would donate $25,000 towards testicular cancer awareness. The campaign leveraged social media to heighten awareness, to raise funds and to concern itself with corporate goals.  Other social media platforms such as YouTube were also involved, allowing users to interact with the campaign in a variety of ways. The end result?  Mark received over 50,000 likes and Stanfield’s came through with a handsome donation. In this case, the Canadian Cancer Society and Stanfield’s made a connection with users, and they engaged them by asking them to show their approval. Mark influenced users in a humorous way, as did the Facebook pages which depicted him at home minus pants and a shirt.


Moving from a health care to food and beverage,  Starbucks used Foursquare  in 2010 to implement a loyalty campaign. Here, anyone who became a Mayor (i.e. who frequently “checked in” at Starbucks over a period of a month), was offered a dollar discount on Frappucinos. As a result of the campaign, Starbucks saw a 50 per cent increase in “check ins” at numerous locations.

At the time, Tristan Walker, head of business development at Foursquare, stated that while the special at Starbucks was a one-time deal, he was confident that the company would continue to experiment with mayor rewards in the future. “Starbucks is particularly innovative as it relates loyalty and social media,” he noted, “so we continue to be super excited to explore this intersection with them.”

It was the first time that the two organizations had teamed up, and it brought attention to the great number of possibilities for the location-sharing trend. To be honest, the campaign was not without its problems. For example, there were complaints from certain consumers that some locations who were supposed to be participating were unaware of the campaign. Yet, it was a step in the right direction with a clear case of not one, but two companies joining forces to connect with the public, to engage them in taking part in the campaign, to influence them by providing an incentive, and by taking action.

Less than a year later, the two companies joined forces once again to celebrate Starbuck’s 40th anniversary on March 10, 2011. Between 12:01am on that day and 11:59 on March 12, random Starbucks customers who checked in on Foursquare were given $40 gift cards. Customers could also enter the drawing via e-mail by sending a note with the subject line “Starbucks Foursquare Entry Submission.”

Medium Roast

Finally, how about a “do-it-yourself” social media campaign? Well maybe not entirely “do-it-yourself” but certainly close enough to it. Last year, Edward Wong, who co-founded the web-design company Base-22, became involved with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, as he had recently lost both his mother and brother-in-law to heart disease. He decided at the outset that he would apply what he’d learned about social media to construct a campaign to raise funds for the organization. The Ride for Heart campaign officially began June 5, 2011, and on May 18 – exactly 18 days beforehand, Edward put together a personal campaign leveraging Twitter and LinkedIn. The results were nothing less than astounding. In a span of seven days with 43 donors from across the world, he managed to raise more than $5000 for heart and stroke research. How did he accomplish it? He sent out 664 e-mails to LinkeIn contacts, and communicated through Twitter with 350 tweets. These tactics generated more than 2600 visits to his donation fundraising page at the Heart and Stroke Foundation. Through  Twitter, he had a market reach of 98,000 people and more than 241,000 impressions! Indeed many of the donations that came about from  Twitter were from those he’d never met in person. By applying the basic formula of reach x frequency = market exposure, Wong was considerably more successful than he would have been had he only practised  traditional networking – and he hopes to do even better next year.

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare are all less than 10 years old –but look at the changes in approach to marketing and public relations they’ve brought about in that short time. It’s all about connection, engagement, influence and dialogue and action. Never before have consumers had such a big role to play in a company’s marketing or public relations.  But as the people at Telus maintain, “The Future is Friendly.”

Infographics and Content Strategy – More Than Pretty Pictures

What? So the written word is no longer paramount? In terms of PR or marketing, it’s now taking a back seat to visuals? Say it isn’t so! What would Shakespeare or Molière have said to such an idea? Surely thou doth jest! Zut alors!

As a “sort of” writer myself, even I am forced to admit the power and usefulness of an infographic, those attractive depictions found on websites to help explain or enforce a concept. Indeed they comprise an important part of content strategy. Ideally, they’re  easy on the eye, provide the user with a lot of information in a single glance and should be as informative and entertaining as possible. However, not everyone feels as I do. Upon doing a google search  for “infographics” I came across this definition from Urban Dictionary:

A large non-standardized web image designed by those who have little to no knowledge or concern for web design and/or accessibility standards. A form of web pollution; infographics are simply flat images which by nature contain no searchable text, links or content than can be indexed by search engines and thus found by people. Since these flat images are devoid of any relevant text, they are also inaccessible by word readers for the visually impaired.


Whoa! Was this written by a frustrated writer? A failed graphic designer whose ideas never met with the success he or she thought they should? Surely it must be tongue in cheek.

In my opinion, infographics are a useful companion to the text itself – the two go hand in hand, with one ideally reinforcing the other.  Above all they should serve the content, and so doing, should help to persuade, inform, validate, instruct, and entertain. In my search for some intriguing examples, I came across these two which I felt were good, and one which I felt was a little less than successful, all of them drawn from a website known as

The one below is a depiction of best-selling movies as opposed to those which are the most frequently pirated. A single glance at the two columns shows us that there is indeed a big difference and that the two don’t necessarily coincide. The graphic also shows us the amount of money lost as a result of pirated movies,  music, and software in addition to the various sources of pirating. It both instructs and validates.  A nice touch is the clapperboard at the very top  – creative and whimsical.

Best selling movies are not the most pirated ones

I found the next one, depicting the breakdown of an average student budget – a little less successful, simply owing to the amount of information contained within a  limited space. This is a “busy” infographic, with a lot going on. There are horizontal- , vertical- and pie- charts, as well as lot of small text. To fully comprehend everything being conveyed requires a lot of time and effort on the user’s part. Yes, it informs and instructs, but to fully digest all the information being given, it would take the user considerable time – and doesn’t that defeat the whole purpose?

Breakdown of Average Student Budget

The third infographic contains an interesting topic – the history of beer taken from, a website billed as  A Men’s Lifestyle website covering everything from hot chicks, weird news and entertainment to sexy technology, sports and humor.” Okay – whatever. Needless to say, I find the layout of this infographic a little too cute and more than a little confusing. The information being conveyed is done so in both a horizontal and vertical manner, requiring the user to tilt the head from time to time in order to take everything in. I suppose the various categories themselves are  intriguing e.g. “Facts,” “Literature,” ” Religion” and “Science,” but only one example is provided for each category, so it makes me wonder just how credible this history lesson is? Yes, it’s colourful and amusing, with slightly zany cartoon-like drawings, but as far as informing the user regarding hard-core facts about beer’s history, it doesn’t really cut it. Yet as a source of entertainment, I would say it rates higher than any of the others.

History Lesson: The Story of Beer 

In retrospect, it would seem that infographics vary in quality and effectiveness to a large degree. While most aim a presenting information in as efficient manner as possible, many contain too much text, resulting in “information overload.” Others rely too heavily on visuals. Nevertheless, infographics remain an important part of content strategy,  and at this point, I  think even Shakespeare and  Molière would be forced to agree.

Promoted Tweets, Trends, and Accounts – the Pros and Cons


I admit, when I first heard a friend of mine refer to Twitter six years ago, I had no idea what he was talking about. Twitter? Isn’t that what birds did in tree-tops? Or is it “tweet-tops?!”

At any rate, since its creation by Jack Dorsey in 2006, Twitter has become one of the most popular of all the social networking sites around, with more than 500 million active users generating 340 million tweets per day. Where else can you connect with a famous person or an organization to express your feelings – just keep your thoughts to fewer than 140 characters, and the world is (hopefully) paying attention. Many people devote a lot of time to this site, a fact well known to advertisers, so it seems  a logical step to incorporate  product promotion into the text , a concept known as “promoted tweets” ”promoted trends” and “promoted accounts.” But just how effective are they in conveying the desired messages to those millions of Twitter users on a daily basis?

Promoted tweets, trends and accounts aren’t free, but instead, are paid for by advertisers who wish to reach as wide a group of potential consumers as possible. For tweets, the price is based on a cost-per-engagement (CPE) roughly 75 cents to $2.50, and for trends and accounts, a cost-per-follower CPF), running about $2.50 to $4.00.

Promoted tweets can be found at the top of search pages, and are always labeled as such – neither trickery nor subliminal messaging going on here – everything is above board. They can also be found in Search Results for a Promoted Trend, on Home Timelines, Enhanced Profile pages, or through Twitter’s official clients. Promoted tweets are discriminating, in that they will appear only if it’s felt the information will be of use to the user – not unlike the “suggestions” we’re constantly greeted with on Amazon or E-Bay. What appears is entirely dependent upon who the user has chosen to follow, or which tweets they are likely to pass on to someone else.

So how do  avid Twitter users feel about these  unobtrusive marketing messages appearing on their screens every time  they’re about to convey their words of wisdom? So far, reactions have been mixed. Blogger Tony Bradley, writing in PC World in 2010 ( ) shortly after promoted tweets first appeared, wondered if they were indeed an effective marketing tool or merely an inexpensive way for a company to do a bit of self-promotion. He drew a justifiable parallel between promoted tweets and Google’s Adwords, saying that he had never once clicked on an Adwords link, and it’s unlikely he would take advantage of a promotional tweet either.

Writing in Social Media Today ( in October, 2011, John Zenith explained how promoted tweets can be inserted right into the timelines viewed by users following you on the network. Apparently many major brands had already started doing this, organizations such as Dell, Best Western, Red Bull and television network TNT.  Indeed, it’s an easy way of getting the message out to a huge number of people. On the down side, the  tweets will only be seen by people in your network, and while the cost to the company is not as great as that for promoted trends, the final price-tag isn’t inexpensive.


You've got the right touch.

Certain organizations in the U.S. have had considerable success with promoted tweets, such as the New York -based marketing company Econsultancy.  According to their social media manager, Matt Owen, the company spent just under $20,000  over an eight-month period. For this amount, they gained 39,000 new followers (about 66 cents per follower) and roughly $70,000 dollars in profits.

Cost-wise, promoted trends lie at the other end of the spectrum. While they began as an extension of promoted tweets, they’re now a regular element unto themselves, one in which users see time-, context-, and event-related trends promoted by advertisers. Similar to promoted tweets, they are marked as such. Users can interact with them in the same way as they do trending topics, the only difference being that promoted trends are paid for by those wishing to promote their product. So how much money are we talking about? According to our recent guest-speaker, Zack Sandor-Kerr, the price to a company in the US is roughly $100,000 a day. In Canada, it’s a much more reasonable $45,000 (!) Whenever a user clicks on a promoted trend, he or she will see Twitter search results for that topic with a related promoted tweet conveniently placed at the top. In her article Promoted Trends: Taking Political Advertising to the Next Level,,  Ericka Andersen – digital communications associate at the Heritage Foundation – writes that while the cost to buy a promoted trend may seem astronomical,  in light of the huger number of Twitter’s daily users – roughly 500 million worldwide –  it’s undoubtedly  money well spent.

The third means by which advertisers seek out potential customers through Twitter is promoted accounts. These are found in the Who to Follow section on the left-hand side of the Twitter home-page, and are based on the users’ public list on who they happen to be currently following. When an account is promoted by an advertiser, Twitter’s algorithm looks at who is following it, and seeks out other accounts the user is also following. If a user is not following the advertiser’s account, Twitter may recommend it to the user, hoping to convert him or her to becoming a new follower.  Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, writing in his article Twitter is Obscenely Profitable in June, 2011 (, claimed that Twitter Accounts bring in the most money of all. The minimum buy for an advertiser to promote an account is $15,000 dollars over three months, but many spend millions. Given that Twitter has a minimum of 600 advertisers, each spending an average of $50,000 dollars – that adds up to $50 million annually. Nevertheless, not all users are happy with the prospect of increased commercialism on the Twitter website – recent comments have included things like:  “Let me guess, an avalanche of Doritos and Tummy Tuck ads” and “Going to lead to wall-to-wall ads. Titanic, meet your iceberg.”

So can promoted tweets, trend and accounts be regarded as effective marketing and public relations tools? In my opinion, yes and no. Twitter readily acknowledges that there is still work to be done on them, and at this point, there are decided pros and cons. Yes, they’re an effective way of marketing products, but because they only seek out select users, there are bound to be built-in limitations. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds for Twitter’s commercial involvement – it’s come such a long way so far,  and at this point, the possibilities seem almost limitless.

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