Every year, or so, there's a development in the social marketing world that really matters. Not just another announcement. Not just another company thumping its chest. But a development so important that it makes sense to focus, pay attention and figure out how to take advantage of it.
The first one I remember was in 2007, when Facebook launched its application development platform, allowing marketers to connect with customers in a whole new way. The smartest companies -- Starbucks, Unilever, Coca-Cola and Ford -- dove right in and are now the leaders in all social marketing.
The latest such development landed today with Twitter's announcement that it would finally allow marketers to advertise at scale using powerful third-party buying and optimization systems.
Why does this matter?
Before today, all ads were managed manually on Twitter. Changes were relatively easy to make. But making them in a timely manner across all your campaigns was a labor-intensive endeavor.
With the announcement today, Twitter joins Facebook and LinkedIn as the only other global social networks with advertising APIs that allow marketers to create, manage and optimize ads. I expect others like Google+ and Pinterest to release equally as robust offerings soon.
For the first time, marketers can now manage Twitter ads from the same systems used to manage social listening, social content and social ads for other networks. In the same way that marketers can take an engaging Facebook post and turn it into a Sponsored Story on Facebook, they can now monitor engaging tweets and turn them into Promoted Tweets, further shattering the silos between paid, owned and earned media.
The initial launch is specifically for Twitter's Promoted Products offerings, including Promoted Accounts and Promoted Tweets. Twitter will continue to exclusively sell and manage its Promoted Trend offering.
Twitter's ad APIs are a natural progression for the company. And, quite frankly, I expected it to come a bit sooner. Nonetheless, this is a game changer for brands who need the power to pull off real-time engagement that turns tweets and posts into memorable content.
It's great that Oreo pulled off the "dunk in the dark" post in the Super Bowl. But doing this type of marketing year-round just isn't possible without easy access to actionable data and always-on optimization.
Today's launch reminds me of the early Facebook Preferred Marketing Developer Program. You're going to see an explosion of products that let marketers tap into consumer insights and turn them into content and, ultimately, ads. Indeed this is exactly what Twitter CEO Dick Costolo hinted at back in 2011 when he mentioned an ecosystem of products that do more than just let consumers and businesses post to Twitter.
Facebook proved that social platform monetization and user engagement are not mutually exclusive. I expect Twitter to be just as successful as they provide marketers one of the world's largest real-time canvases to play with.
These powerful APIs creates "win-win" situations for everyone. Facebook and Twitter benefit by outsourcing much of their product development in this area to experts focused exclusively on building these products. Marketers benefit by using the technology to be more efficient and drive more ROI. Most importantly, by promoting content on Twitter and Facebook that your users are actually engaging with the most, the users of these important platforms get less crappy ads than pretty much every other major web destination.
So now what?
The leaders in this next wave of cross-platform social marketing will dive in immediately. There's no better time than today to get serious about what Ron Faris at Virgin Mobile coined, "newsroom marketing."
Yes, you still need the agile talent to create content. But Twitter has now increased the stakes and made it easier for you to play your winning hand.
Just look no further than Facebook to see why methodical, always-on, programmatic buying will outperform, by a long shot, those still managing their content and ad programs manually.
As every brand flocks to Twitter, and the war for quality inventory heats up, expect mobile to be the primary battleground.
Twitter recently released a study on its mobile users, and found that 96% are more likely to follow 11 or more brands, significantly more than the five brands that the average Twitter user follows. Mobile users are also 58% more likely to recall seeing an ad on Twitter than the average user.
This makes sense. Twitter is a mobile-first platform and this is where you should start your ideation. What do you think users will have in their hands Sunday as they watch the Academy Awards? You got it … their phone in one hand and a tablet in the other.
Your friends on Facebook and Twitter are the Joe Buck's of the game that is your life. Their color commentary makes life so much better, which is why social media usage is at an all-time high.
The best way for your brand to be a part of that action is not to try to replace those friends, or the banter between them. It's to create the content that is shared, which is the glue that binds friendships together.