Tapping into brand conversations on Twitter and Facebook
Glam Media - whose first product, glam.com, positioned the company as a go-to online fashion information provider - has grown its focus to include health and wellness, shopping, luxury items, a new male-focused site (brash.com) and, most recently, a web-consolidation business in the form of Tinker.com.
This, Glam Media's latest venture, is a service that follows what Joe Lagani, vp/brand sales, calls "event streams" in real-time as they develop on various social-networking sites (most notably, Twitter and Facebook.)
So, when Oprah makes some odd kind of digital history by posting her first tweet, Tinker.com consolidates not just the original comment but a variety of feedback in one consolidated package:
With a less ground-breaking but far more functional purpose, Tinkerers are able to tap into an amalgamation of social-networking sources with one click. Witness Tinker.com's swine-flu presence:
In the course of a presentation before the American Association of National Advertisers' "Brand Building in Tough Times & Beyond" event earlier this month, Lagani explained, "Tinker aggregates and creates real-time conversations around events. It's the place where people can go to see what people are twittering about."
Following the original glam.com model ("We have 900 links from others' sites and 80 per cent of our content comes from other partner sites," Lagani said), Tinker's business proposition is designed to appeal to"new influencers - niche publishers and independent voices that want to become engaged in pivotal viral markets."
By aggregating content, he added, Tinker is cost-efficient in that it recognizes "the idea that 'If you build it, they will come' does not work in online [media] either."
"Consumers are moving from big sites to niche sites," observed Lagani, the former publisher of both Meredith Corp's Country Home and Condé Nast's House and Garden magazines.
"If you love Manolo Blahnik shoes, you want to get to your passion-point web site. It's part of the process of de-portalization, the rise of widgets, and the introduction of thousands of new media titles."
The "real-time" appeal of Tinker.com, he continued, is a reflection of a number of immediate observational engagements, ranging from reality television to online blogs, to social networks and the rise of what he called"micro-blogging networks".
Explained Lagani: "How do we deal with these issues? How can we leverage existing content to engage consumers where they spend time? How can we provide scale with niche targeting? We need to provide solutions that put content and advertising in niche sites where consumers go. Scale is important. But targeted scale is even more important."
The downside for marketers, he acknowledged, is not a new discovery. "How can you control what is being said?' And how can you control the environment? [These] are challenges fraught with danger."
Tinker.com, he continued, refines that process by offering filters that enable marketers to focus on precise digital discussions.
"There are all kinds of filtering elements - profanity filters, filters for discussions about competitive brands - that lead to good, solid, real-time conversations about brands. To find out what people are chattering about right now. To examine the top events that people are tweeting about. To check the population of an event [or brand] discussion."
From the Tinker.com home page comes a directory of on-going conversations:
For instance, for consumers who want to be part of an on-going conversation about Chanel - across Twitter and a variety of other social media - clicking on the company logo opens onto a consolidated conversation:
And, for marketers seeking to track daily discussions, a detailed discussion page features information about participants and daily conversation levels:
"The brand challenge on Twitter" Lagani insisted, "is how can you join these real-time web, people-to-people conversations? Better yet, how can you join a real-time conversation already happening about your brand?"
For Dunkin Donuts, Tinker.com created a prototypical site that demonstrated the potential of content in a marketing-directed environment.
"The conversations were terrific," Lagani said. "Some of the people were wondering how much they spent on coffee. Others were talking about how much they loved the copy - and that was nothing but free promotion.
"For a company like Dunkin Donuts, if they're able to assemble the conversation about the brand, they'll find out how they can manage to get in front of their customers."
Once a brand has a Tinker.com presence, "You can develop all kinds of streams. You can post them on Facebook pages, or anywhere it suits your product. It's a live feed, an on-going conversation about your brand. It offers you the ability to take a specific unit and put it out on the internet where people can experience it."