Twitter is spending considerable time and effort on building relationships with brands in various industries. From food to entertainment, the social media platform is working toward making itself an integral part of the overall online experience for millions of users. And in anticipation of their impending IPO, Twitter is also looking for ways to appease their future shareholders with reliable and creative revenue sources.
Cross-promotion deals with networks like CBS and information organizations like Nielsen give Twitter the opportunity to reach millions of people at once in a host of ways: serving as a second screen, getting fans and brand advocates to communicate with each other online, offering exclusive content to community members and more. But with context and timing becoming major drivers in the digital marketplace, getting up close and personal is more important than ever.
That means brands must be able to speak directly to their customers, and customers must be able to reach brands on a one-on-one level. By removing the follow-back requirement for direct messages, Twitter is creating a new world of interaction for brands and their communities. And its opt-in nature means that Twitter gives users the power to accept direct messages on their own terms, instead of making them wade through pages and pages of instructions to opt-out (like Facebook). Twitter is rolling out this feature and it may not be available to all users yet, so people will most likely have time to prepare for the change.
Digitizing customer service
A Twitter user’s direct messages collection can serve many purposes, but marketing has almost never been one of them. Because DMs were only allowed between users who followed each other, the nature of those messages tended to be personal. And when brands or other users did DM individual users, it was with automatic messages or spam—which sort of kills the implied intimacy of a direct message.
Brands are using Twitter as a customer service tool more and more these days, and for good reason: it’s quick, effective and personal. But for some brands, keeping a conversation off a public timeline might be best. Direct messages can give a brand the room it needs to discuss a customer’s issue in-depth without revealing any potentially embarrassing details, and customers can do the same. And brands get the added bonus to interacting directly with a customer, on a one-on-one basis, which can strengthen the bond between customer and brand.
A matter of trust
Twitter’s own profile stands to receive a boost from brands that benefit from the new DM policy. Google’s latest advertising update, which will use photos of Google+ users to advertise to people in their networks, has users and privacy advocates freaked out. After Facebook’s Sponsored Stories program was launched, Bloomberg Businessweek notes, the result was a class-action lawsuit and a privacy settings update. Google’s flirting with a similar outcome.
But with Twitter—whose sponsored tweets have been met with more ambivalence than strong backlash—offering users at least a semblance of choice and privacy can give the social platform an edge over its competition. And because a growing share of Twitter’s user base is mobile, the network’s push toward privacy can appeal to its audience in new ways. Direct messages are designed to be easy to read and respond to, perfect for mobile users and their communication preferences.
The focus of Twitter’s new DM policy is to expand its user base and encourage more interaction between the people who use its platform. By taking a chance on opening direct message inboxes to everyone, Twitter’s taking a cautious gamble that might pay off in the long run. And by giving their users the power to opt-in, they’re setting themselves apart from the online social media crowd.