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In this age of specialization, it's no surprise that we've seen specialization on the agency side.

And that means it's no surprise that somebody has decided to start an agency for the hottest social media service on the internet right now: Twitter.

Twitter Partners is a London-based agency that says it will provide the tools and consultancy that "can help brands, media companies, and celebrities harness the power of the Twitter ecosystem".

It is founded by Peter Read, a former Nielsen employee and angel investor who has served as an advisor to a number of startups, including Skype. It is managed by Scott Gallacher, who has worked at Accelerated 360, Sky and Ogilvy.

Twitter Partners has recruited an impressive advisory team that consists of internet veterans, including the founders of Lastminute.com, a venture capitalist and a former Yahoo vice president.

Here's the problem that I see: Twitter Partners is far too specialized. Brands, media companies and celebrities that decide to join the conversation on Twitter cannot insulate their Twitter strategy from the rest of their media strategy. Successful use of social media has to be holistic and integrated with a broader media strategy.

Given this I question whether it makes sense hiring an agency that's focused specifically on Twitter, especially since full-service digital agencies are no doubt aware of Twitter and capable of offering what Twitter Partners will be offering (reputation monitoring, collecting feedback, etc.).

But with Twitter Partners, the problem goes beyond that: Twitter Partners appears to lack credibility.

For an agency that is promoting its Twitter prowess, you only need to look at its Twitter account to wonder. As of the writing of this post, @TweetPartners (why didn't they use the company name, TwitterPartners?) has posted two tweets, doesn't have an avatar and is using the standard Twitter background.

The same is true of @scottgallacher, Twitter Partners' managing partner. @petermread has an avatar but no custom background. Read has 155 followers, 21 updates and started tweeting last October. Gallacher has 33 followers, 8 updates and sent his first tweet in February of this year. Clearly neither Gallacher or Read is a Twitter power user.

The Twitter Partners website copies the basic Twitter design and even uses Twitter's logo. Not very creative. And to add insult to injury, the title tag has a misspelling: "Twiiter apps, tools and services". Ironically, it lists a bunch of third party tools that brands, media companies and celebrities can use without Twitter Partners' help.

This is not inspiring stuff from a group that is telling the world that it 'gets' Twitter and can help clients achieve success on the microblogging service. As they say, the proof is in the pudding and I don't see anything edible here. While you could argue that avatars, custom backgrounds and follower counts don't mean much, it's hard to deny the appearance that this creates: that the people behind Twitter Partners are Twitter neophytes who are using their pedigrees to cash in on the hottest online trend.

I'm sure they'll be able to drum up business (they've already signed on clients like Virgin Media and Universal Pictures) because of their pedigrees and connections, but I have to do a double take and ask: is this for real?

While I hope I'm wrong about Twitter Partners, if anything this a good case study for how important it is to make sure you look credible when launching a new business. If you're going to talk the talk, make sure you show people how you're walking the walk.

Photo credit: Mykl Roventine via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 9 April, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2381 more posts from this author

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Scott Gallacher

Patrico,

Thanks for the interest and article, it highlights that we've not been clear about how we're set up and what we are doing, as I think you have some fair points. A clear failing on our part and one I'd be happy to resolve. I'll contact you on twitter and we can discuss.

Scott

over 7 years ago

David Hamill

David Hamill, Usability Specialist at Freelance

Sorry but this is a bit close to the line for me. I'm not saying that you don't have a point, but how many businesses could you rip apart like this, just as they are starting up?

I have to admit I'm getting a little pieved with the soap box pointificating that comes out of e-consutlancy at times.

Shall we write an article about the totally annoying user experience everyone is getting from e-consultancy forums? No I didn't think so.

They're just starting up and you come blundering along with this. You're supposed to be supporting this industry not ripping it apart.

over 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Scott, I look forward to speaking with you.

David,

If you look at the content on this blog, I think you'll find that there's a good balance. Credit is given where it is due and criticism is given where it is due. We discuss digital marketing, ecommerce, best practices and we'd be doing a disservice in my opinion if we only highlighted the good and glossed over the bad.

Instead of telling me that I was too harsh, I'd love for you to explain why.

I read about Twitter Partners in the Financial Times and decided to check them out. As I detailed in this post what I found was a bit surprising: management that was new to Twitter and not using it actively.

I mean for heaven's sake, with no insult intended, Scott Gallacher (the managing parter) signed up for Twitter on February 16 and tweeted "wondering if there is anything useful on twitter, time to find out". In less than 2 months he's gone from wondering about Twitter's usefulness to starting an agency that charges clients?

How is anyone reasonable supposed to view that? If you were doing due diligence as a prospective client, how would this look?

over 7 years ago

Linus Gregoriadis

Linus Gregoriadis, Research Director at Econsultancy, Centaur Marketing

David, I don't think there is anything wrong with blog posts which give a different perspective or bloggers who are sceptical and do not tow the PR line.

I'm sure you'll find plenty of puff pieces about Twitter Partners in the press and on other websites / blogs.

Of course Econsultancy are behind 'the industry' and I don't think it's at all fair to say that we are always putting the boot in. Far from it. 

If Scott is agreeable we would love to do a Q&A to give Twitter Partners an opportunity to explain what they are up to in more detail.

Regarding our own user experience, we'll take the feedback on the chin and welcome all comments. We are aware we need to work on the forum user experience.

over 7 years ago

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Rob Lewis

It might be worth pointing out that Twitter doesn't allow the word "Twitter" in usernames, probably why their account is TweetPartners.

over 7 years ago

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Tom Rowlands

I think it also needs to be said that David's comment that TP are ' just starting up' was - whilst perhaps technically true - totally irrelevant. These are some of the more respected people in online business, with successful careers and years of experience behind them, so their shoddy and unproffessional approach (not even making the most from their own Twitter pages, and the lack of original design work on the website) smacked of arrogance.

over 7 years ago

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Rob Enslin

Thanks Patricio for posting an interesting article.

I'm not siding with any view here, but we'd be foolish to think that providing services around a now mainstream app (Twitter) wouldn't happen or is already happening. Whether TP's business model is flawed, fluff or successfull remains to be seen?

Patricio's observations do support his apparent scepticism (IMO). The fact that he talks about it in a blog post, by its very nature, gives him the 'right' to share an opinion and elicit response & debate.

EC: Keep up the good work.
TP: Good luck - we'll be watching closely with interest.

--rob

over 7 years ago

David Hamill

David Hamill, Usability Specialist at Freelance

A Twitter agency that hasn't started using their own Twitter accounts is comparable to a web design agency who launch without a website. It happens.

That said, I don't actually disagree with what has been said, just the fact that it was said on here.

I'll wind my neck back in now. If only to stop getting these email notifications I didn't ask for.  :0)

over 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

David,

No, a Twitter agency run by people who were just a couple of months ago wondering whether Twitter had any useful application whatsoever is comparable to a web design shop launched by people who just learned about HTML and haven't gotten around to building their first website.

I'll let the fact that Twitter has been forced to issue a statement about Twitter Partners speak for itself as to whether this post was appropriate and justified or not.

All of this said we'd love to interview Peter or Scott to get their side of the story.

over 7 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

Could I also note, in passing, that it is exactly threads like these that are the lifeblood of “social media” for business use, (IMO). Whenever you come across them, they are just like those rare pearls or needles in haystacks or whatever. Genuine, relevant and meaningful discussions that make the rest pale into the insignificance of so much pub banter. These “serious” issues and discussions are the ones that will engage people, whatever the medium.

I was going to offer you a trip/link over to our Sales Tip of the Week, compiled by our own Editor, Nick de Cent, but let me copy/paste it here instead, to save you the journey-time and effort...

Entitled –

Content is King

Or to put it another way, the old line ‘It’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it’ really no longer applies.

There was a time when a slick line or clever marketing message could drive sales, but those days are over. In the era of Web 2.0 and beyond, consumers and B2B buyers have so many ways of evaluating your product or service – and those of your competitors – that it is vital to offer a genuinely creative and well-thought-through solution to match their needs. Worse, disgruntled customers can spread bad news about your offering instantaneously around the world.

This message applies even more so with the advance of social networking, blogs and crazes like Twitter. It can be difficult to keep up with these new marketing communications channels – a new one seems to spring up every week – and, consequently, it may be tempting to bang out any old message in the hope of attracting attention. Don’t!

The opportunities to put out a message may be multiplying daily, but it pays to stand out from the background noise by only ever offering something of genuine benefit to the customer – really useful advice, genuine offers, real help and interesting content – ie something of true value. Otherwise, customers will tune you out.

Remember, the content of what you say and offer is what makes the customer content….

over 7 years ago

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N Baxter

The logic of Neil's comment is that you don't need marketing at all. Marketing is done by your audience (which I agree it is). So there is no point in spending on product shots, advertising, marketing of any kind because that is money you could have invested making a better product and the only marketing that matters is done by your customers. The more you spend on product shots, packaging, advertising, the less you spend on making your product the best and the more you create a gap between how you market your product and how your customers know it to be by swapping reviews, uploading videos, snaps etc.

over 7 years ago

Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles, Tech Reporter at Econsultancy

Interesting side discussion, Neil and 'N'.

Don't forget, however, that not every business is a B2C business. The type of grassroots consumer-driven marketing that we love to talk about and study is not applicable to most of the businesses out there.

Most of us don't run companies that are 'brands' and most of us don't sell products that people get excited enough about to promote wildly on their own. Even for brands and trendy products, most people don't spend 14 hours a day promoting every brand or product they use. Thus relying 100% on consumers to market for you is kind of like believing 'if you build it they will come'. 99.9% of the companies that believe that fail.

If you run a company that manufactures valves or sells deadman controls, for instance, it's unlikely that your customers are going to be uploading YouTube videos, posting tweets, etc. And it's unlikely that there are going to be a whole lot of 'reviews' of your products online.

Customers are going to evaluate your product differently - they may need to inspect it, analyze it, test it before they put it in an industrial setting that could cost millions of dollars a day if something goes wrong and a process has to be shut down.

As a business, this means you're still going to have to look at tradeshows, direct sales, advertising in niche publications, etc. to drive business and you may have a sales cycle that only you can complete.

Marketing is not a black and white, either-or proposition. It's a holistic exercise that is highly individual to each company. In my opinion saying that you don't need marketing at all makes about as much sense as stodgy old agencies that can't think beyond television or print.

over 7 years ago

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N Baxter

I'm thinking Flip Video Drudge Report ...

Pure product, no marketing.

A valve that's better than any valve you've bought before you want to talk about may be more than sexy stuff everyone has. I bet there's a trade magazine somewhere called Valve Expert.

over 7 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

For the record, I’m absolutely with you Patricio. I think your original point in the article that “Twitter Partners is far too specialized” is the salient one, let alone do they even know how to maximize the benefits of using it as a selling/marketing tool (does anyone, come to that)!?

 

It strikes me as being akin to launching “Really Eye-Catching Shelf Stackers Inc”, or “The Elite Valve Packaging Partnership”. And anyway, potent as Twitter might be or may become, as a selling tool it does look as though it’ll require individual sales staff involvement. If your “product” is Stephen Fry (Celebrity & Entertainer) then fair enough, a one-to-many relationship is possible. But for most, as you point out, these big B2C “brand” possibilities don’t exist.

 

So most “selling” activity (and therefore business users, by numbers) is going to be research, competition monitoring, and lead/contact generation, by individual sales or customer service staff. And the vast majority will, in my guestimation, end up with followers numbered in tens and hundreds, rather than thousands or tens of thousands. “The Media”, like thee and me, might be a different thing, but then we’re back to Nick’s Content is King issue.

 

Furthermore, I reckon only something like 3-5% of sales people are even active online yet, let alone Twitter specialists. So if, in fact, Twitter Partners are going to have a big sales training role then great, I’ll talk to them about how to reach sales team leaders. And actually, I might even get my lead/contact in here, rather than on Twitter – so we might need to start with a modest “product re-positioning proposition”, perhaps into “Social-Media-4-Smarter-Sales Partners” – just so that we can honestly say that they practice what they preach.

over 7 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

P.S. - An "edit" facility might be nice, in here, just so that any muppets that didn't preview their post and end up with the whole thing in bold, rather than just the quote, can get back in and correct it?

over 7 years ago

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Helen Klein Ross

Interesting article. Especially interesting to us at SupportingCharacters.com a new twitter agency that AdAge spotlighted this week. (http://snurl.com/fr1v7) Welcome to the arena (such as it is), TwitterPartners ;)

One point I think is important to make: neither we nor, I'm assuming, TwitterPartners would advise marketers to implement a twitter strategy totally insulated from the rest of their marketing efforts. As you point out, Patricio, use of social media is most successful when integrated with a broader media effort. Even a brand famous for exploiting twitter like @Zappos coordinates its campaign with other outreach. (You may have seen their brilliant OOH buy at airports: the bottom of those unwieldy bins at airport security gates. "Place shoes here. Buy shoes here. Zappos.")

While it's true that general digital agencies are surely aware of twitter, they're not necessarily fully conversant with it and its potential. I was amused to see in my twitter stream this week how many execs attending the Ad Age digital conference had set up twitter accounts only the day before. It would seem there may be call for those of us exploring the untapped power of the medium to help others engender support for their brands.


over 7 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

Thanks Patricio for your informative article pointing out that the emperor has no clothes.

David Hamill you sound like you are just on a drive-by to intimidate folks on behalf of friends.

Launching a marketing agency with such poor preparation deserves a round kick in the shins.

It's to the point coverage like this which is putting econsultancy.com into the first tier.

Keep up the good work!

over 7 years ago

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JustinSMV

Well this is interesting indeed.  Seems like they got some big boys on the team but having a niche focused strategy team based soley on Twitter?  I think they might need to expand to Social Media instead of just Twitter.

over 7 years ago

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Jack

Great post.  Can't figure why so many normally discerning blogs puffed this company up so much.  Probably because it has Twitter in the title...

Can't see them going for more than 6 months as a business, and they'll probably stop tweeting within 3.

over 7 years ago

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Andy Bright

launch like this way and thee shall be judged to suck until proven otherwise

over 7 years ago

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Paul Harrison

I am changing the name of our consultancy to Google Partners. Maybe NMA will write a front page story about us, too. What that's you say? Google won't let us do that? And would sue us within an inch of our lives?

Patricio was correct to write this article (and he was pretty tame IMO). Question begs why did New Media Age swallow this story and make it front page news?

And you have to ask, what the hell are Virgin Media and Universal Pictures doing retaining these guys on the basis of the above? Or perhaps Twitter Partners aren't actually working with these firms,  they've just, like, you know, had a chat.  

Or perhaps we are all the unwilling participants in giant buzz campaign? If nothing else I'd like to know who Twitter Partners' PR agency is ....

over 7 years ago

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Gregor Spowart

Clearly it's up to TweetPartners ho they present themselves but the image that I get from looking at this is that they're doing their best to get a fast buck out of jumping on the bandwagon.

They have the contacts and they're getting some excellent blue-chip clients on board so well done to them, but they would do well to get their twitter accounts sorted out sharpish!

Peopel judge web design companies on the quality of their websites - Twitter might not be the same but they could have avoided the (completely fair) coverage above if they'd done something with their Twitter accounts. 

Right now, they don't really have much credibility.

over 7 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Great article Patricio and good to see a calm and reasoned response to David's challenge, which I don't agree with at all.

What I like about the Econsultancy blogs is that it isn't always painting a rosy picture and saying how wonderful everyone is in the online world. 

For social media to raise its credibility amongst senior level execs and the more traditional business audience, the companies flying the flag need to be credible & practise what they preach. We've been holding back at e-inbusiness on promoting social media services to Clients until we have our own social network plans firmly established. We've started with Twitter & LinkedIn and working on the blogging side of things. Perhaps you can argue time is of the essence but for me living/breathing what you expect others to buy into is more important. I have limited info on Twitter Partners but claiming expertise when you don't even use it yourself just smacks of "me too".

Nevertheless, good luck to them if they are genuinely helping their customers to engage with people via Twitter.

james

over 7 years ago

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Jenni Lloyd, Strategy Director at Nixon Mcinnes

Twitter is just another tool - an enormously useful, fun and engaging one that happens to be flavour of the month. It would be foolhardy for any brand to focus solely on a tool-based solution without having first determined who they want to engage and with what message. Seems to me that any agency worth their salt would first sort out a valid strategy and then identify the appropriate tool - and limiting yourself to a single tool would be to shoot yourself in the foot.

over 7 years ago

Alec Kinnear

Alec Kinnear, Creative Director at Foliovision

I agree with the flavour of the month analysis.

Twitter doesn't make any money now. So what it will turn into and who will stay interested is a mystery.

Twitter is being quickly overwhelmed with spam and dullards.

The linkerati or whatever these digital swollen heads call themselves may move onto something else tomorrow.

It's no fun cavorting with the hoi poloi.

MySpace --> Facebook --> Twitter --> Who Knows?

over 7 years ago

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