12seconds.tv, you get a viable business model for your company, a platform that allows brands to leverage Twitter for communication, and a way for everyday Twitter users to have fun and earn prizes. Does that sound like a win-win-win all around? It very well may be...or it may just be the first example of how Twitter is transforming from a fun, communication tool used among friends to a commercialized platform for mainstream marketing.What do you get when you combine a platform for creating user-generated video content with the micro-blogging sensation that is Twitter? According to
12seconds Introduces the "12omercial," a Tweetable Commercial
12seconds.tv, a video messaging service that lets users record quick videos only 12 seconds in length, has been popular among Twitter users since its launch in summer of 2008. With the service, you can send out a tweet to your Twitter friends once you've posted a video on the site. That's precisely the functionality which appealed to marketers looking for an entry point into Twitter. The only question was how do you get 12seconds users to tweet out videos about the brand?
The solution that 12seconds.tv is introducing today is called the "12omercial." And yes, like it sounds, it's a Twitter commercial made using the 12seconds service. Here's how it's going to work: brands and companies will sponsor 12seconds users to create 12omercials on their behalf. The videos created by the users will be a response to a question asked by the brand. Once recorded, the 12omercials are automatically posted to the Twitter streams of the users involved. Those tweets will include a link back to their video.
The first brand to participate is LG who will begin using the platform to promote their new phone, the Versa. The question they're asking is "what's your Versa vice?" Or, in other words, what's that thing you do with your mobile phone that you know you shouldn't? Is it text-messaging while driving? Checking Facebook while in a meeting? The answers to this question will be varied and perhaps even humorous (or so the company hopes, that is).
Play Along, Win Fabulous Prizes
You may wonder what incentive 12seconds users have for creating these user-generated commercials for these companies. Fortunately, they won't be paid to do this. We say fortunately because once cold, hard cash becomes involved, too many people looking to earn a quick buck would end up creating these "12omericials" and then would clutter up our Twitter streams with their spam.
However, users will be encouraged to participate - they just won't earn actual money by doing so. Instead, the creation of a video will equate to a sweepstakes entry where they have the chance to win some sort of prize, as determined by the brand. What the prize will be will change with each promotion, but with LG, it's a trip to Las Vegas.
Another reason users may participate is because there's also the possibility of having their video seen by a far larger audience than just their Twitter friends. It's up to the brand how the content will be used, but there are a number of possibilities. Some companies will be selecting the best videos for use on their own web sites, others may use them in online ads, and there's even a chance that videos could find their way to a TV commercial. (In LG's case, there will be a dedicated mini-site set up for the promotion.)
But What If People Say Bad Things?
As we recently saw with the Skittles social media campaign, when people realized they could get their tweets on the Skittles homepage just by using a particular keyword in their posts, they started to abuse the system. Some people posted really (and we mean really) offensive messages to Twitter just to see those messages on Skittles.com...and perhaps to prove to Skittles that their campaign was a terrible idea.
But 12seconds co-founder, Sol Lipman, doesn't think the Skittles campaign was a bad idea at all. He thinks it was an ingenious experiment and perhaps even representative of the future of advertising. According to Lipman, we're moving past the point when brands want to communicate with customers through press releases and banner ads. It's user-generated content that is the future. And what better way to learn about a brand than through a trusted friend's tweet?
Of course, when you put the power of brand advertising in the hands of the people, bad things can happen. That was certainly true in the case of Skittles, but even so, Lipman argues that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Sure, some people got out of hand, but at the end of the day, people were talking about Skittles. Just because some people did terrible things, it probably didn't mean you started hating the candy or boycotting it. Instead, you just had it a bit closer to the forefront of your mind the next time your sweet tooth kicked in.
Be Brave, Companies - Engage! (It's Your Only Hope)
This radical repositioning about what it means to advertise may actually be a bit too scary for some companies and some will be hesitant to get involved. User-generated content has been known to backfire before. For example, in 2006, Chevy let YouTube users make commercials for the 2007 Tahoe, but what they got were videos about how bad the truck was for the environment. Still, that's not stopping other companies from attempting nearly the same thing. Case in point: Ford. This month, the company will launch their "Fiesta Experiment," a marketing effort that puts promoting the new car into the hands of 100 twenty-somethings who will blog, record video, and post to social media about the their experiences.
In a similar vein, the 12seconds.tv Twitter commercials will offer brands an opportunity to start conversations while abandoning their control over the exact messaging. They may have to take the good with the bad. But in the end, only genuine conversations will convince the jaded, over-saturated customers of today...and especially those known as "Generation Y." As we noted before, that generation especially tends to rely on a network of friends for product recommendations, not traditional advertising.
Check It Out
In addition to being used for branded campaigns, these 12omercials can be created for any promotional purpose. Users can include a URL in the video that links to anything they want - their blog, something they're selling, a charity event, or whatever. A back-end analytics package will help them track the campaign, too.