Twitter launches “Twitter Offers”, A Way to Drive Social Media Traffic Offline

Twitter seems bullish about its place in the omnichannel retail arena. After hiring Nathan Hubbard, former Ticketmaster president, the company started seriously developing ecommerce features for its users.

It all started with rumors leaked online about Twitter dipping its toes in ecommerce. The news were soon followed by a “buy now” button tested for a while and a few months back the “#AmazonCart” partnership was announced. The Amazon Cart project allowed customers to add Amazon products to their carts by linking their accounts and adding them to their carts via Twitter.

Twitter now launched Twitter Offers, a way for advertisers to drive social media traffic directly to brick and mortar stores. The process is pretty straight forward or Twitter users: they link their credit cards to Twitter, claim rewards from advertisers and then redeem said offers in store.

Twitter offers
Twitter offers

As it seems Twitter sees commerce not just online but offline as well. The vision includes online and offline shopping, social media, Amazon accounts linked to Twitter and … payments.

Long story short: everything Twitter has done so far is outlining a strategy where the company targets more than social media. It’s targeting omnichannel retail as a way to increase its revenue. It has the user base and it’s building the payment infrastructure. Its focus and drive may lead it where Facebook failed – setting foot in commerce land.

 

The perils of Social HR

One might argue that “Social HR” (yes, this term has been recently coined by a Forbes.com contributor) might be just another buzzword but HR has always been about social relationships – inside and outside the company. Keeping talent motivated and attracting new people on board requires a lot of social capital (the network value inside and outside the company).

With people sharing more and more information about themselves, knowingly or not, a quick Google Search has recently become one of the gateways between getting an interview as a potential employee or getting rejected before you even start speaking.

Using Internet and Social media research, HR professionals are now profiling potential candidates but sometimes this can be a little tricky because:

1. The best personal brand is not always the best professional

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” says an old Internet joke. That may be true for Social Media also – people too often mistake personal branding with personal development. A high Klout score does not necessarily mean the user  is a good professional also (well, unless you are looking to hire Justin Bieber on account of his popularity with the teens).

Of course there are profiles where reach and social media influence really do matter but unfortunately not all employees are or should be PR representatives of the company. In such a case an indicator such as Klout score could be irrelevant but one might look into the Twitter feed for any “my company sucks” posts.

2. Privacy is still a thing

Social HR seems to be a very friendly and open expression but once you really look into it there is a little bit of stalking in the whole concept of social media information when recruiting.

Of course – anyone can check LinkedIn information – that’s why people post it there but it starts being a little creepy once you get into personal information or photos for someone applying for a job in accounting.

While it would seem that snooping around Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds is really part of a thorough profile check to make sure you get the best talent available –  it is also a gray area in privacy policy. No one really wants to work for Big Brother.

3. It’s not about “I’m great”, it’s about “He/She’s great”

So far the best way of knowing who was an expert in a certain field, as far as social media followers were concerned, was information available online, information usually posted by the one claiming the “expert” status. If you think about it that looks a lot like bragging, which is usually great when applying for a job, as long as it is really backed up by facts and figures.

LinkedIn has taken some steps to address this issue and introduced an endorsement feature that lets peers say what they think about one another. LinkedIn users can now endorse their connections on professional skills listed on profile. Of course – some of them are less informed but the truth lays in the numbers and HR can actually have a better outlook on prospective recruits.

I’ve listed just three potential perils of Social HR but I am sure there is more to it as there is more to HR than recruiting. I’ll let you add them in the comments.

Can Social Media Influence be used as a factor in HR recruiting?

Recently Salesforce.com posted a job regarding a position as a Community Manager. Among others the company asked for a Klout score of at least 35. For those not in the know Klout is one of the front runners in the social media influence analytics. It features 19 social networks users can choose depending on where they believe their most influential actions come from.

salesforce.com recruits community manager
Salesforce.com’s Community Manager position drew a lot of attention

After the position showed up bloggers started discussing the possibility that in the future such a score might be used on a wider scale in HR recruiting.

Just like education, previous experience and maybe hobbies, should we expect such an influence score to become a widespread requirement in job applications? Probably not.

Although building sustainable social networks (in the real world) can mean a greater influence, a higher life standard and probably a happier life, online social networks are not (usually) real social networks. Social media can go so far and potential employees should not be judged on this type of score.

Think of a bank CEO. He probably does not have a really wide social network. But the small network he is active in, although usually not very popular, can be really influential in the real world and his actions and decisions highly disruptive. This might also be applied to scientists, lawyers, inventors and many other jobs that don’t need thousands of friends to be highly successful in their everyday lives.

Social media influence should be a requirement only with social media jobs. Maybe not even there. 

Behavioral Economics and Social Media

Humans are not usually rational. The neoclassical economists were wrong. We don’t make the best economic choices given more information. We do not plan for the future. We care about what others think of us. We act on impulse. All these things are the basis for Behavioral Economics Theory.

This (rather) new economics theory has caught momentum and is now one of the hottest topics in theoretical economics. Well… as hot as an economics theory can be. It blends psychology and neoclassical economics (the thing we generally call economics) to help explain why we act the way we act and to help policy makers increase the likelihood of better economic decisions.

There are many variables and a lot of information on the subject but for a better understanding we can look at some principles outlined by The New Economics Foundation:

  1. Other people’s opinion matters: we take great interest in what others think or do. We don’t usually get informed on economic topics. We usually copy behavior and decisions. Why? First of all we are a social species. We want to be socially acceptable and we can do that easiest by mimicking. It’s also easier.
  2. We are creatures of habit: even if what we do is economically wrong we will continue doing it out of convenience or because we have a habit that forces us to do what we do.
  3. We want to do the right thing: we have an innate sense of justice that leads our behavior. Most of us pay our fines not because we might go to jail but because “it’s the right thing to do”. We help others because it makes us feel good, not because there is any financial incentive in it. Actually such incentives may actually be counter-productive as they take out the primarily motivation – doing the right thing.
  4. We act according to our self image: we care about our commitments and we like to stand up for what we believe in. We see ourselves in a certain way – that leads us to certain kind of behavior in order to avoid cognitive dissonance.
  5. We are more loss averse than gain interested: we hang on to what we believe is ours. We treasure our possessions more than we value what we could potentially gain.
  6. We are not very good with data: we don’t really understand numbers, we’re bad at calculating probabilities and we take decisions based on how information is presented to us.
  7. We need to feel empowered to take action: too much information can lead to the inability to act. Too many options make us feel helpless. People need to have a clear understanding on how their actions affect the world around them to fully commit to any activity.

Behavioral economics in social media

Feelings, sharing, likes, friends, fans are not words we usually hear in business economics. We do hear them pretty often these days in social media. Business are starting to understand the importance of customers behaving socially. Social behavior is what drives companies to success or into the ground. There are no formulas in financial economics that can describe the feelings people have toward one company or another.

Classic economic behavior can be described in numbers on a spreadsheet but is not the way real people act. It is a flawed economic model in an economy that results in debt and frustration. The first result can be seen in the financial models we’re currently looking at. The second one cannot.

There is a growing media that helps express and amplify the principles of behavioral economics. That is the Social Media. With the growth of such social networking companies such as Facebook or Twitter, people started acting more and more connected. We now have an way of observing behavior with the help of social media. As it turns out all the principles of behavioral economics can be seen in social media. Let’s have a look at them:

Behavioral economics principles at work in Social Media

  1. Other people’s opinion matters: we care what our (Facebook) friends think of us. That’s why we share interesting quotes, we “like” only certain brands and we are very careful before posting something online.
  2. We are creatures of habit: first of all have a look at your behavior today. You have probably checked your Facebook timeline or Twitter profile at least once today. Why? Because you are accustomed to Facebook. You can’t give up checking the news, the photos your friends posted or the new products your favorite brand advertised on Facebook. Increase in mobile internet popularity is only enhancing this behavior.
  3. We want to do the right thing: people are sharing more and more social causes through social media. With over almost 1 bn users, Facebook acts as a catalyst for social causes. Social causes spread fast and users are very likely to share social messages. But that’s not all. Individuals as well as organizations now know that anything wrong-doing can have a long term negative impact on their life. Here is a video of a police officer pepper spraying demonstrators that quickly lead to a large negative social media response. If you were to search Google for the phrase “Sgt. Pepper Spray” you will find no less than 213 000 pages that frown upon his behavior. Eventually his email address and home address leaked to the internet. You can imagine the outcome.
  4. We act according to our self image: People have a certain self image that translates into social media behavior. For example: Barack Obama’s “Hope” presidential campaign was not really about the soon to be president. It was about the people that he represented. People found in the campaign a positive message for change. They’ve seen that the presidential candidate expressed a need for better people to run the country. People such as themselves. A lot of Obama’s success story happened on the internet where people expressed their views on “Change”. The messages they’ve spread were positive expressions of self image. People were not “like”-ing Barack Obama. They were “like”-ing themselves and the way they wanted their friends to see them.
  5. We are more loss averse than gain interested: Think about how often you see messages like “don’t lose the opportunity”. Why? Because they work. Groupon cashed in on the feeling people have regarding limited time discounts. So did Woot. Using loss-aversion works really well in online retail.
  6. We are not very good with data: If neoclassic economics theory would be true and if we really were rational beings, Groupon would never had caught on. Buying a discounted sky dive or a night lamp when we have ten already does not make sense economically. However, people did buy those things. Why? Because social media goes hand in hand with presentation bias. Suppose we see a 70% discounted offer on blue handkerchiefs that were already bought by 300 people. We think – “oh my, I must buy that handkerchief now or they will go out of stock. Look – 300 people already bought it”. The information has been framed (70%) and enhanced by other people’s behavior. We do not think whether we need the handkerchief or not, whether it is an economically safe behavior. We see the deep discounted price, we see that other have already bought this (see point number 1.) and we “need” to buy the handkerchief. Now.
  7. We need to feel empowered to take action: there are millions of products on Amazon. Billions of web pages indexed by Google. If we were to browse rather than search we would probably get frustrated and quit. However – we still use Amazon and we still use Google. Why? Because of targeting. Both companies dig through millions of terabytes regarding other people’s behavior to serve us the products and results we are most likely to buy or open. That makes our choices easier and we feel empowered to act.

I believe behavioral economics are here to stay. The kind of human behavior they explain has always been here. Social media is just acting as a catalyst to this kind of behavior. If we are to look deeper into behavior economics we need to use social media data to better understand the way we act and how can we get to economic results. The internet economy is growing at a faster rate than any other sector because successful online entrepreneurs already know the seven principles outlined here even if they’ve never heard of behavioral economics.