Twitter’s CMO ramps up tweets-as-ads strategy: ‘We’re talking to people who already love us’

'Twitter Is' launched across the US this week

After rating its meme-heavy ‘Me on Twitter’ campaign a success, the social platform is continuing its strategy of publishing irreverent real-life tweets as ads in a bid to prove itself as an authentic, worthy member of its own online community.

The latest incarnation of the creative has been dubbed ‘Twitter Is’, a prodominatly out-of-home initiative currently live in the US.

The work simply takes users’ observations of what the platform metaphorically is (such as ‘Twitter is the world’s best classroom’ from @_YourHighnessJ and ‘Twitter is a watercooler’ from @stevegarfield) and publishes them as posters.

Additionally, the brand’s in-house marketing team has homed in on users describing Twitter as “sweet” or “yum” and opened a pop-up candy store in New York’s Union Square to bring the comparison to life.

These activations are a follow-up ‘Me on Twitter’, which similarly republished user-made memes as ads throughout the summer. Twitter’s global chief marketing officer and head of people, Leslie Berland, described the initiative as “hilarious and silly and funny and real and authentic”, but also as a marketing success.

“We wanted ... to celebrate the fact that we don't control the brand, the people that use Twitter do,” she told The Drum, adding that part of the formula lies in the original tweeters reacting to having their copywriting skills turned into billboards.

The conversational tactic feeds into Twitter’s long-standing brand ambition to be as funny, likeable and useful as its most popular personalities. The strategy began, Berland explains, around three years ago, when the platform repositioned itself from a microblogging site to a real-time go-to source of news and information.

This was later accompanied by the brand shifting the tone of its communications to a “lighter, more conversational nature” last year.

“We’re just becoming more and more Twitter, and the more we do that, the bigger impact we'll have, and the more people on Twitter will appreciate us,” said Berland. “I want us to continue to talk like Twitter, to be Twitter and to activate and create experiences that are very Twitter.”

Campaigns such as ‘Twitter Is’ are not designed to convert non-tweeters to the church of the blue bird per se. Instead, Berland is using them to speak directly to “the people who use Twitter and love Twitter” in the hope they will “talk to their friends and ... tell the story of why Twitter's amazing”.

Indirectly, she also hopes advertisers will notice the authenticity between Twitter and its audience, and look to emulate a similar conversation on the platform, much like brands such as Wendy’s and Burger King have done.

Berland, who took the top marketing job in early 2016, is currently focused on improving metrics such as engagement, sentiment and perception, rather than hard figures such as the number of monthly active users.

“We want to grow, and the product [and marketing] teams are very focused on that, but my main focus is to just be Twitter,” she said. “We always say, ‘We don't advertise Twitter, we just want to be Twitter’. That is our internal mantra and we feel amazing things will happen as a result.”

Berland is now planning more campaigns like ‘Twitter Is’, activations where tweets are at the center of the creative and “conversations come to life”.

It’s “TBD” whether committing to the strategy further will involve an increase in ad spend; the chief marketer notes instead that it’s currently more important to see it as a way to align the company’s entire global marketing staff around a central, creative vision.

The work is currently being produced in-house by teams who “live and breathe” Twitter – a model that is likely to sustain for the foreseeable future.

“We work with agencies on other work but, for us, the people who work here are tied to the people that use the platform and create amazing things,” explained Berland. “So I think if we just continue to listen to the people tweeting, we will be way sharper and smarter strategically.”

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