Broadcasting Works (Even In Social Media)

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It’s the oldest argument in the Marketing and Advertising world: does advertising work?

The answer is, obviously, yes. If it didn’t, advertising agencies would not exist and brands would be spending many countless hours trying to figure out how to get their stories, brands, products and services in front of the masses. Although I’ve used the example before, it’s astonishing to see the millions upon millions of views that some 30-second spots get on YouTube (and we’re talking long-form infomercials too).

Should brands be broadcasting messages in Twitter?

The answer is (and both Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson over at For Immediate Release will love this answer): it depends. Today, Disney and Pixar are using the Twitter advertising platform (titled Promoted tweets). Here’s the rundown of how this works:

  • In the "Trending Topics" on Twitter, you will note one for "Toy Story 3". That link is bolded, highlighted in yellow and has the word "Promoted" in a yellow box right next to it.
  • When you click on that trending topic, you are directed to your own page where a specific tweet from DisneyPixar appears along with other tweets about Toy Story 3 from people on Twitter (some of those tweets have a blue box with the words "Top Tweet" next to them) – clearly, those top tweets are ones that DisneyPixar are filtering and would like to appear next to theirs.
  • If you head over to the DisneyPixar Twitter page, you’ll note that they have nearly 600,000 followers (and they are following 165 people). Most/all of the tweets are self-promotional, broadcasting type of messages. In fact, the main promoted tweet is: “To infinity and beyond”! Toy Story 3 hits theaters Friday, June 18. Did you get your tickets yet? #toystory3"

This type of Marketing does work even if it runs counter to the culture of Twitter and Social Media.

Let’s agree that the sheer volume of PR chatter (from this Blog post, tweets on Twitter to the major mass media news outlets) that comes with being "the first" to implement a Twitter Promoted tweet campaign (or being the first to do anything major for that matter) will pay for itself in terms of visibility. Toy Story 3 is also a playful brand, so those who are critical of brands entering Twitter with the sole purpose of promoting might show some semblance of kindness (it’s hard to dump on Woody and Buzz, they are awfully cute).

The brand sees this as another mass media channel… not a conversation.

You can see this clearly. Not by the fact that they are not engaging in any @ messages from their Twitter feed, but simply because the movie is meant to attract audiences of all ages. So, they’re doing what any Marketer would do: they are going to put that message in areas that have a lot of traffic and people’s attention. They are going to put that message not just in one, particular, channel, but in as many channels as possible. Twitter has millions and millions of people on it. So does Facebook. My guess is that they are being just as aggressive in Facebook, but the Twitter play simply has more PR spin to it. It’s not too far off to say that they are treating what they’re doing on Twitter much in the same way they are treating their billboard buy in Times Square.

Does mass media advertising and broadcasting in Social Media work? I think it can. What do you think?


  1. I think it really depends. That strategy may work for brands with big bucks who also can afford to take out a billboard ad in the middle of Times Square, but for the rest of us it will still be about connecting, engaging and relationship building.

  2. I agree with Sandy, but through using social media to reach a mass audience advertisers like Disney do get the opportunity to gain followers and fans, and distribute additional content to them going forward. This wouldn’t be possible with a classic TV campaign, so it is connecting to a certain extent.

  3. Surely this isn’t social marketing but advertising over social media devices. Nothing really new here.

  4. You make a good point here. The fact they they are advertising a brand that people already trust, Toy Story, makes a big difference too.

  5. I think Sandy has a very valid point. Is there an example of anybody becoming a brand only by posting tweets and that did not put any effort into connecting, engaging and relationship building?
    Or do you think the first Toy Story movie would have garnished similar attention, and without being the “first to test?” I’m thinking not.
    Also Gareth has a point. I think that DisneyPixar 600 000+ followers is a result of the followers feeling connected to the brand and are accepting of a “one-way” conversation (oxymoron I know), however this is likely connected back to Sandy’s point, it’s a conversation from an already trusted brand.

  6. Mass marketing over social media. Well I think the point brought up by Sandy is legit; Toy Story has it’s name in all our hearts. It has a strong brand, it’s one of the first cash heavy campaigns to hit Twitter as a ‘promoted trend’. People are checking it out. People are connecting without receiving anything in return.
    The last podcast with unmarketing; explains how today twitter is filled with a lot of noise. And it’s getting harder and harder to join in on the conversation. Promoted brands/campaigns are going to add to the noise and take away from Twitter what made it so special, what gave it it’s core competency which was the conversation with anyone, anytime in realtime.
    We all know about the sliding scale of the tribe. The larger the tribe the more it turns into a herd the more farther away it gets from personal advice, conversation content.
    I don’t think social can mass market. The closer you get to mass market, the farther away you get from social media.

  7. It absolutely works – particularly for entertainment “brands” fueled almost entirely buy word of mouth. It works better when you go beyond just broadcasting to providing value and engaging with your fans but for Toy Story – even just providing a ticketing link will suffice.

  8. I like this common sense post. Hopefuly people are looking at the channel more realistically and practically. There are plenty of people who broadcast successfully. Seems to work as long as you’re a celebrity : )

  9. Great post and comments so far. I think the promoted tweets is just another way to advertise and to reach out to a different audience/target. Definitely not for every business but we may see soon more brands following Disney Pixar.

  10. Agreed. Brands might not be able to control the channel nor roughly how many people their messages get in front of (unlike buying ad space on TV, search pages, etc), but they have brand recognition and power. Many people tend to want to know what brands (or celebrities) are doing simply because they recognize their names and are familiar with what’s happening with them. I tend use the analogy or metaphor of a megaphone or bullhorn. If you have a huge bullhorn in one channel, the sheer volume you create will bleed over into others. And when that happens, there’s really no need to be guerrilla, grassroots, etc…unless you’re trying to win an election of course πŸ˜‰

  11. It’s amazing to me that that people continue to try to amplify the thought that push advertising has no connection to social media, cannot be used in social media and is “dead”. It is, after all, how many many social media and marketing consultants advertise their blog posts – by pushing an advertisement for the blog post or seminar or new project landing page as a link to all of their followers, and anyone who will retweet it. Yes, the conversation is there for those who want to participate that way, and it is the grease that may get people to pay more attention when the advertisement appears, but even those who broadly proclaim “you shouldn’t do advertising using social media” seem to use it reflexively.
    It may be packaged slightly differently and may have a different call to action, such as “read my blog post” or “read this landing/pitch page” but I think it still qualifies as classic broadcast advertising in a new medium. It is a broadcast message, not directed at one person or even a group smaller than “everyone I have a connection to” that presents a call to action for the reader as its primary content.

  12. I had a post a while back called, Life Is Marketing. It’s true. All tweets are, essentially, one individual either saying “look at me” or “look at this” or an attempt to get people to see their perspective. Saying Twitter isn’t a marketing-driven engine is insane, because if it weren’t nobody would post on it πŸ˜‰

  13. Personally, as you said in your post Mitch, it all depends
    Disney has one of the most well known brands on the planet, and have spent many years, and many dollars building it. But more than that, they are who they say they are. We all can guess what Toy Story 3 will be like, as many of us have seen 1 and 2. There constant, genuine, and authentic in there approach. There not trying to hide that their Disney, or that they are trying to promote their new film that will mostly live up to our expectations.
    With this combination, using the “New” (although, as you pointed out, this isn’t really a new idea, just a new way of doing it) tool on Twitter is actually more authentic and real than if they had hired “Joe” to talk day in and day out about how excited he was to see Toy Story.
    But this strategy won’t work for everyone
    Other brands that are similar to Disney – let’s say Apple – could also use this form. But unknown brands, or companies that don’t have that level of rep will be seen more as a grab, trying to fight their way in, and if they drop the ball, it will come back faster and harder.
    Final point: The other thing to consider (and this is going off topic for a second) is Disney can afford this, easily! But for a lot of people trying to build their personal brand, I would advocate that they take the Gary Vaynerchuk approach. Post a little of their own content, and then spend hours reading, watching, and participating in conversations. Grow their rep, and income, and then maybe use Promoted Tweets

  14. In the case of Twitter, it is both a relationship building tool and a broadcast tool. Unlike Facebook in which people guard their privacy very carefully, Twitter is a more open free flowing environment. There are still rules but those rules are more flexible and adaptable depending on the brand, recipient and objective.
    So yes there is a place for broadcasting on Twitter…but that does not translate across all social media platforms.
    Follow me @geoffclen

  15. As with anything else, it’s about finding a balance. Yes, Pixar is using twitter as a broadcast channel, but also @LeeUnkrich (director of toy story 3) is a regular twitter user and very engaging.
    Broadcast is fine, in moderation. If i’m subscribed to your feed as a company, i may want to know what’s going on with new product (best example is a band sending out infomation about a new album), but that shouldn’t be the ONLY thing, EXCEPT if you’re setting expectations that a feed is going to be blast-only.
    The thing i think rubs people the wrong way about the Pixar trending topics issue is its location. “Trending Topics” is by its definition a reflection of the community discussion, so ‘forcing’ a topic that may or may not have organically shown up there is taken as a betrayal of the intent of the section. It goes from “here’s what y’all are talking about” to “here’s what y’all are talking about and this thing that someone paid for”
    I wonder if they’ll continue this experiment?

  16. I think this is a very sensitive area and if a brand wants to use Twitter as just a broadcasting medium they should consult a professional. It is so blatantly obvious when companies don’t get Twitter, especially here in Saskatchewan. A few organizations I was following never responded when I asked questions and it was a sure fire way to get me to un-follow. I am fine with the broadcasting as long as, like you said Mitch, the brand is one we already adore. If I don’t know your brand or you’re not one of my favorite animated movie companies, you probably shouldn’t be “just” broadcasting. But why leave it up to a guess? Call an expert, invest some money in getting the right combination.
    I can see this being a larger topic in the up and coming year. Thanks for shedding some light on it for me!

  17. “Life is marketing”. I even know a guy whose name is Yvan. or Il vend. He sells! And he is quite proud of it !
    Marketing is everywhere. Social media is not different.
    But again, “the message is not in the mouth that speaks but the ear that listens” (can’t remember who said that!). More and more people are shutting themselves off everything just because of the overwhelming amount of info (and marketing) that is coming to them nowadays.
    Marketing everywhere might be OK.
    But not if common sense suffers…..

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