Interviewing marketing celebrities – Adam Sharp, Former Head of News, Government, and Elections, Twitter

One of the main challenges to content creation is finding the subject. Luckily for me, I have the opportunity to work with digital leaders from various industries. So naturally, to promote our products we’ve started to interview them.

First up was Adam Sharp, Former Head of News, Government, and Elections, Twitter, Founder of Sharp Things LLC. Adam spoke at our Digital Marketing Transformation Assembly a few weeks ago, and considering the current US political climate, his insight into how technology intersects with politics and news is extremely poignant.

Marketer in New York interviews Adam Sharp, Twitter

The interview was extremely enlightening. One thing that really resonated me was the short history of the relationship between Twitter and Politics. Just demonstrates how quickly social media has impacted the digital landscape.

Adam Sharp –This theme of “retail politics” was echoed in my remarks at the assembly. That core line, from the potential of it in 2008 to the resolution in 2016, is pretty directly connected. As with anynew technology or industry or product, the biggest shift has been maturity.

If we look at the timeline of the last presidential elections, 2008 was the first where Twitter was an entity, having been founded in 2006. Some reporters used it. The campaigns did a little, the candidates did not. Obama didn’t send his first tweet until election night, to say thank you to voters. Coming out of the 2010 midterms that followed, fewer than one-fifth of members of congress were on Twitter. By the 2012 election two years later, more than 99% of them were, and both presidential campaigns had significant investments in the platform.

We had witnessed a shift from insider baseball, to the mainstream political class of voters, candidates, and journalists alike using Twitter to connect. That said, in most campaigns, it was still an add-on to existing digital infrastructure. The candidates at the presidential level were not tweeting themselves. Occasionally Obama would, and Romney used the account mainly for fundraising, not persuasion and conversation.

The 2016 candidate had his device in his hand, allowing for direct 1-on-1 retail connection.

2008 was the year for early adopter experimentation. 2010 we saw it move into the mainstream but it remained wholesale in its use. Finally, 2016 saw the delivery of “retail politics” direct from candidates to constituents.”

See the full interview here >>

Adam spoke a lot about authenticity both at the event and during the interview. Many have spoken of Trump’s presidential campaign victory as a victory for new media. But, it was really a victory for authenticity. Whether or not you agree with Trump’s ideas, you cannot deny that his Twitter feed certainly appear more authentic than that of the “managed” Hillary Clinton.

A few days ago, I was researching the idea that 2017 will be this year where we herald in a new marketing era – Conversation Marketing. In recent years there has been a drastic increase in the uptake of messaging apps. The usage of these apps and chatbots is actually outpacing that of social media networks. It is predicted that in 2017, the number of messaging app users will be around 2.10 billion. With this sharp move into more private methods of communication, the need for authenticity on social media is heightened.

Chatbots create real-time conversation, that mirrors chatting with a friend. Expectations are, from both consumers and businesses, extremely high. Consumers are favoring the instantaneous nature of these platforms. They can now get information about products, or questions answered immediately. Chris Messina, the Twitter hashtag inventor, wrote in his blog last year,

“2016 will be the year of conversational commerce … you and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it…2016 will be the year of conversational commerce … you and I will be talking to brands and companies over Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Telegram, Slack, and elsewhere before year’s end, and will find it normal….I’m less interested in whether a conversational service is provided by a human, bot, or some combination thereof…”

Now, Chatbots are automated. So of course, they in themselves do not deliver an authentic interaction necessarily. Marketers using Social Media need to understand that this uptake is indicative of consumer behavior changing, towards platforms that offer 1-on-1 engagement.

This is where authenticity on social media comes in. Take this example from Sharp. Social media users will forgive mistakes if they believe it is coming from a person, not a digital marketing agency or in the case of politics, a staffer.

Sharp – “Even the biggest corporation can now be the bartender who always remembers your drink…Some examples of this pattern that I spoke about in my remarks at the assembly were members of U.S. Senate. Chuck Grassley, the 83-year-old Republican Senator from Iowa, tweets himself, makes accidental jokes, misspells, and says odd things about the History Channel. Yet, when aides asked a focus group about the bad spelling and whether it bothered constituents, they were told: “that’s how we know it’s Chuck!” This example also demonstrates that willingness to accept mistakes when voters know they are coming from the politician personally. They would not so easily forgive if the account were managed by a staffer or digital marketing firm.”

Check out the full interview with Adam Sharp here >>

Another key point Adam brought up, which should resonate with all strategic marketers, came about when we asked him about how technology has influenced politics. Essentially, he talked about politics hasn’t yet made the complete shift to mobile. This is largely due to that fact that the primary target, the older, more reliable voter, has not made the shift yet either.

As a marketer, I almost jumped for joy when he said this. The marketing industry talks a lot about the next big trend or the next tool that will revolutionize how you talk to your consumer. It’s easy to lose focus on the core of any marketing communication – finding the platform that suits your target customer. Whether that be direct mail or videos on SnapChat, the key to any successful marketing strategy is understanding the customer.

How to create a consumer profile to help target your marketing?

Start by understanding (quite literally) who your ideal customer is, by defining their characteristics.

  1. Demographics – age, gender, income, location.
  2. Psychographics – personality traits and preferences
  3. Behavior – what do they like? What do they dislike?

B2B marketers should also take note of certain characteristics of the ideal business, in which their ideal customer works.

  1. # of employees
  2. Product or service
  3. Revenue
  4. Geographic scope
  5. Type of business
  6. Leadership structure
  7. Budget

From here, you need to start investigating where you target hangs out. What do they read? What meet-ups do they go to? What are the top industry events? What do they search for?

It is at this stage that you will start to see how these profiles will dictate your marketing strategy and what channels you choose to use.

Next, comes the buyer process. Using the information you’ve gathered, assess how they decide to purchase. For example, what they read will impact whether or not they choose to purchase your product/ service. Use your current customer base as a source of data.

Now, you have buyer personas.

Thanks so much for Adam Sharp for his time. It truly offered a lot of insight to this Marketer in New York.

Working with our Strategic Alliances Director, we have reached out to several of our speakers and have been overwhelmed by the response. Adam Sharp is the first of many interviews that we have lined up over the next few weeks.


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