As public relations continues its amoeba-like shift around social media, one of the things I’m starting to see is the practice of Twitter relations.
Twitter relations is similar to blogger relations, but eliminates the threshold of authority that comes with a blog. Brands, PR companies and marketing teams are beginning to provide limited access to everyday tweeters. Now, these aren’t your ordinary tweeters, these are people with at least 1,000 followers and who are generally quite vocal.
As you’ll see, I apparently fit this profile… But what I’m seeing is PR and marketing toeing the line between sponsored posts and actual brand evangelism.
Will tweet for food
Recently in the Seattle area, I saw Pemco flying across Tweetdeck. A group of local people had been invited to the top of the Space Needle and had a catered affair where Pemco debuted a new part of its “Northwest Profiles” ad campaign.
The people present had tweeted about being there and watching the commercial and hanging out with the Pemco CMO (who had “invited” his followers to attend).
Another example is an event that Alaska Airlines is sponsoring, called the Aviation Geek Night. A scant 12 people won tickets to take a ride in the airline’s flight simulator and have some further access to the company. This is not invite only and there was no expectation of tweeting on behalf of Alaska Airlines. Disclosure: I won a pass and will be attending.
Also, another invite I’ve received is to head to a location of a high-end dining chain called El Gaucho. It is opening a new location locally and is featuring a lunch menu. They hired a company to host a Taste and Tweet and local media and a few “average Joe” twitterers got to attend (again, disclaimer: I was one of them).
Are these sponsored posts? What about the media people in attendance at these events? I think those count as sponsored tweets and the media present must either disclose their receiving of free goods or food in their tweets. As a non-member of the media (anymore), I think that what I voluntarily posted to my Twitter stream also counts. But am I under a moral or legal obligation to disclose?
How to relate to Tweeters
So, is there a right way to engage with prolific tweeters? What is more important, having one person with 100,000 followers at an event or 20 people with 1,000 followers? I think the answer is pretty clear as the 20 people are more likely to be more vocal with their posts and opinions, resulting in additional mentions.
For small brands looking to boost the mentions in the Twitter stream, having a small, semi-exclusive event is a great way to do that. The problem is the discolsure dilemma. If the “average” person on Twitter is going to act as media at an event, then they should discolse the freebies. Would it have been acceptable for me to go to the El Gaucho event and not posted anything about it?
If PR and marketing companies are OK with people coming to the event and not tweeting at all, then they should not take credit for those that do. Mentions on Twitter as part of these events should not count as media mentions.
Measuring the impact
What value do these mentions have then? The word-of-mouth marketing that occurs from these is quite valuable. The mentions the above companies received helped boost their visibility and their reach. Did the events lead to more sales? Did they lead to actual press coverage? Those are some of the key metrics to consider.
What are your thoughts on this? Should PR take credit for bringing in assorted tweeters to an invite-only event? What are your best practices for tweeter relations? How do you see this trend evolving?