So, Twitter have released a beta for Conversational Ads.

But what is a Conversational Ad? And will it create conversation between a brand and its followers?

Let’s start with, “what is it?”

To quote Twitter: “These formats, exclusive to Twitter, make it even easier for consumers to engage with and then spread a brand’s campaign message. It’s a powerful way for advertisers to extend their presence across Twitter.”

In simple terms, Conversational Ads allow you to create customisable calls-to-action that include a defined (but editable) message containing an image, some text and hashtags.

samsung-conversation-ads

When the user tweets the ad’s message, they receive a thank you message from the advertiser.

Sounds like a case of so far, so good for the advertiser – it can enjoy better creative options and a better reach for their content.

But am I missing something?

Where’s the conversation?

A conversation, according to my favourite dictionary, is “a talk, especially an informal one, between two or more people, in which news and ideas are exchanged.”

So while I like the capabilities the new ad formats bring, I’m not convinced it will create conversation.

What Makes for a Good Twitter Conversation?

Unsurprisingly, the ingredients for a good Twitter conversation are the same for the offline, real-world, down-the-pub conversation:

  • Authenticity
  • Humour
  • Personal
  • An interest in what the other person has to say

Here’s an example of a brand having a conversation (source: Hootsuite) with a user on Twitter. It’s a personal one-on-one with Lisa – it’s funny and it’s focused on Lisa, not selling cookies.

oreo-conversation

The tools required to make this happen are:

  • A monitoring tool to allow you to spot mentions of your brand or products
  • A human with the training and permission to represent the brand

Notice that I didn’t mention “Ads” on that list. I can’t see how you would deliver authentic, personal messages focused on a particular user at the scale that advertising would enable.

Now don’t get me wrong – I strongly believe that advertising is just as important as conversation and advocacy for a brand. I just don’t think you can have a successful hybrid of the two.

Where Should We Be Using Conversational Ads?

But I’m not totally down on Conversational Ads – I’m all for making advertising more engaging, more interesting and more relevant. If the new format makes it easier for users to enter competitions, provide product feedback and distribute promotional offers to their friends, I say we should all use them now.

For example, a brand could use the ad format to drive advocacy by providing discounted “refer a friend” offers in the calls-to-action. The user could then choose the offer they like best and share a predefined message with their networks.

Another example might be that a brand could promote an upcoming event and allow a user to promote their attendance and choice of speaker track with a predefined message.

In summary, I think the new ad format could be very successful, it just might need to drop ‘conversational’ from the name.

What do you think? Will you be having a conversation with a brand’s advertising? Let us know @rocketmill