After Twitter goes public -- which it's expected to do later this week -- the pressure will be on to prove that it can make ad products that appeal to advertisers with a range of objectives, not just big brands looking to juice their TV buys.
One bet by Twitter to diversify its offerings are lead-generation cards, introduced in May, which can be distributed in promoted tweets to non-followers. The idea is that brands can entice prospects to share their email addresses with an offer. Users can directly opt in by clicking within their stream instead of being redirected off Twitter to a landing page.
Early users of the tool include newly-minted New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, who asked his Twitter followers to help his campaign by providing their email addresses in a tweet sent out on the June day he announced his candidacy. And Arby's used lead-generation cards in promoted tweets, peddling coupons and deals to drum up sign-ups for its email newsletter.
In September, analytics firm Webtrends embarked on a four-week test of the tool. John Lee, the company's manager of brand and social marketing, said it fared so well that he's shifting spend away from Facebook and LinkedIn and toward Twitter as a result.
A key difference to help explain the gap in performance is that email opt-ins can happen directly on Twitter with the click of a button within a tweet, while users on other social channels have to be driven to a landing page to provide their email address, according to Mr. Lee. The extra step proves to be too much for many of them.
Webtrends drummed up almost 10 times as many leads on Twitter during the month-long test as it had during the previous quarter. And the cost per lead -- which in this case is someone who signs up for marketing materials about shopping-cart abandonment or email remarketing -- was $10 to $11, a 500% drop from what it had previously cost on Twitter.
Social has historically been a challenging channel for b-to-b marketers, and lead generation has been especially difficult, according to Mr. Lee. "No one's going to buy five to six figures worth of software through a tweet," he said. "B-to-b decision makers go to social to inform decisions, but it's not the main driver."
The notion is that Webtrends can start grooming potential customers once it has their email address, sending them marketing materials on a more frequent basis.
"I can't offer you a discount on marketing software [on Twitter]," Mr. Lee said. "But I can make sure you see content that's valuable to you as a digital marketing resource and from there it's the start of a relationship."