Why Twitter just showered you with balloons

Twitter has captured the attention of its followers by showering their profile interface with balloons on their birthday—provided that they care to tell Twitter their date of birth. The ask isn’t all that big and the return is novel enough to encourage this piece of data disclosure:


Give Twitter your data of birth and not only will your targeted adverts become more relevant, you’ll also get these lovely balloons floating across your profile on your birthday.

Why has Twitter been so elaborate in its request for some of your most basic data? In my opinion, it’s a cute way of easing us into parting with our personal details.

Some will say that this very act ruins the quick and easy sign-up for which Twitter was famous—but I think that the team of little birds has been very clever here, in making this a non-mandatory step, with a clear reward that appeals to online vanity. It’s this vanity, after all, which has seen the likes of Instagram reach epic proportions of user uptake.

Twitter has moved with the times and has launched all manner of intelligent options for advertisers, to transform its platform from a social media hub into a viable e-commerce channel. For example, if you know what you’re doing—or know who to employ—you can install a line of Twitter Cards code on your e-commerce website, which will allow your fans on Twitter to purchase your goods straight from their social feed. Clever stuff.

Advertising, then, is now huge on Twitter, from promoted tweets to full-on promoted accounts, celebrity profiles and buyable tweets. Twitter, however, has to protect the interests of its original end users, i.e. you and me. It does this by attempting to serve us promoted content that is relevant to our demographic profile and our interests, as evidenced via our Twitter activity.

The collection of our date of birth is one small, yet significant data collection exercise, whose aim is to expose us to the right sort of products, services and accounts we “may like”.

Targeted marketing has long been the life-blood of email marketing, for example. The very best eCRM tools (such as Pure360 and Campaign Monitor) will enable you to segment your data lists by all manner of parameters. This means that your messaging to them can be bespoke, as can the frequency at which you send out your messaging.

Google took targeting a step further some years ago now, with remarketing lists for search advertisers (RLSA), serving ads back to users who visited a brand’s website and either didn’t quite complete that transaction, or purchased something that makes them ripe for cross-sell opportunities.

Guess what? Twitter is now part of this sales cycle: another line of Twitter Cards code installed on your website will allow you to “remind” your imminently converting customer to return to your website and complete their purchase. You can sweeten the deal by offering a small incentive and returning them to their pre-filled basket, too.

Ultimately, it would be ideological and delusional to state the brands don’t want to use social media to turn fans into converting traffic. Twitter just asserted this with its cute balloons. The important nuance is that the content put out on social media must, at its core, remain “social”—and a firm eye must be kept on real-time interaction, in the form of genuine customer service, complaints resolution and, crucially, banter.

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