Twitter

Find a person who watches TV without a second screen, and you’ll have found someone who’s behind the times. Recent reports indicate that tablet and smartphone users are significantly likely to use those devices while watching TV at least once a day. And even though many Americans use DVRs to speed through commercial breaks, a good number of them still take to the Internet to air their feelings about various ad campaigns.

There are a variety of tools available to brand marketers interested in capitalizing on social conversations centered on commercials. Many of them involve keyword or hashtag tracking, which are particularly useful following the launch of a major campaign. Consider, for example, that half the commercials in this year’s Superbowl featured hashtags. If an agency has taken the trouble to insert a hashtag into a commercial, it’s sure to follow-up and see how many times it’s mentioned online, and in what context.

But what about the conversations that discuss brand commercials without using hashtags? Surely participating in those chats is valuable to brands as well. According to industry expert John Ramirez, CEO of digital media and marketing firm IOKON Media, these untagged conversations are often worth more to brands due to the brilliant sales opportunities they pose.

Don’t Show Up Empty-Handed

Empty-Handed

If your brand wants to enter Twitter conversations with fans and followers, it would be practically rude to do so without offering a reward. Think of it as showing up to a new friend’s house without a box of chocolates or the like. According to Ramirez, if a person is taking the time to talk about your brand’s commercial — and tag you in the tweet, you should respond with some sort of perk.

Ramirez provides the following example. One night, he was working late at the office and tweeted that he’d love a Domino’s pizza, since “nothing great happens over halibut.” It was a reference, and near-direct quote from the company’s recent campaign that centers around fueling creativity and productivity with Domino’s pizza. In response to the tweet, Ramirez said he received radio silence. Not a reply, not a retweet, and not even a favorite. In his eyes, this is unacceptable from a brand marketing perspective.

“I find that utterly ridiculous,” says Ramirez. “If I was running such a campaign,” he says, “I would prepare every brand to proactively respond.” That means not only replying to such tweets, but offering a reward as well. For example, offering a buy-one, get-one-free coupon code in response to a tweet would help build brand loyalty and encourage customers to return with more orders in the future.

Reconsider Hashtags

Hashtags

As mentioned above, hashtags are becoming increasingly popular in television campaigns. According to Ramirez, though, they serve a completely different purpose than individual interactions with Twitter followers. He says they’re useful for tracking metrics: seeing how many people used the tag, when and where.

“A hashtag is really just descriptive to me, and none of the brands that we manage on social media provide rewards for a hashtag,” Ramirez says. While offering perks to followers is important, simply jumping on the hashtag bandwagon isn’t grounds for getting free stuff. Rather, Ramirez likes to consider how influential particular Twitter users might be, based on their number of followers, but also the nature of their tweets.

If someone is praising your commercial and sharing it with friends, it’s probably a good idea to give them a treat that they’ll tell those same friends about. Even if a user doesn’t have a huge following, he or she may tell his or her friends about the great experience they had tweeting with your brand and, as a result, bring more customers to the table.

Ramirez says brands use Twitter to build loyalty and drive sales. Fans, on the other hand, interact with brands because they want to be a part of the conversation. If the individual is simply using a hashtag, he or she may not deserve a reward, but if she or she is making a concerted effort to publicly talk about the brand, ignoring that conversation (and not rewarding it) would be a mistake.

Refocus Your Investment

Investment

Brands that invest in television ad campaigns often have budgets that run into the millions of dollars. They pay huge amounts of money to get their messages in front of the right people in the right contexts. Traditional commercials, like the Domino’s spot discussed above, focus on brand awareness, but direct response commercials — think “Call in the next 15 minutes and we’ll double your order, free!” — focus on sales and conversions. According to Ramirez, Twitter is another form of direct response, putting brands in the driver’s seat to direct potential customers away from competitors and through their own doors.

When a brand is putting thousands or millions of dollars into television campaigns and not supporting that with prompt social media actions, that’s a missed opportunity. Ramirez says it’s essential to listen to customer queries on Twitter and respond with rewards in order to convert sales. Not doing so is, in a word, “ridiculous.”

“Brands would see their ROI grow up tenfold if they started paying more attention to the earned media value of a Twitter account,” Ramirez says. He is baffled by companies who are willing to pay for costly Google AdWords campaigns but who balk at offering a coupon to social media followers. According to Ramirez, the former tactic leaves a lot to chance, while the latter is much more likely to result in a sale. “There’s a difference between someone talking about something and someone buying. Talking goes so far but buying is what keeps the bottom line going.”

The main takeaway here is that when it comes to connecting with Twitter users who are discussing your brand’s advertising, social media marketers should not shy away from attempting to make direct sales. While some Twitter users may be satisfied with just being recognized by the brand, influencers expect more — they want a perk in exchange for their mentions.

Companies that embrace this strategy, and reward these individuals, may reap the benefits of positive publicity. Those that don’t are more likely to be ignored. Think of it this way: Would you rather take a suggestion from a friend who had a great experience with a brand, or from a commercial on TV?

How do you leverage people talking up your TV ads on social media? Let us know in the comments.

[Image credits: Steve GarfieldShira Gal, Garrett Heath, Damian Gadal]