Twitter puts all its chips on lead generation

Twitter advertisers are dealing out discounts in exchange for your email address. Are Twitter Cards a safe bet? Read this first before you go all in.


Anonymous tracking is already a multi-billion-dollar industry, but it’s peanuts to what’s coming next. The real money on the Internet is in lead generation. Companies will happily cough up large stacks of Ben Franklins to get the actual identities of people who are maybe/kinda/sorta interested in buying their stuff.

Forget anonymity or even pseudonymity. Lead Gen is all about personally identifiable information. They can’t sell sell you something if they don’t know your name. They can’t harangue you with deals and offers too good to pass up if they don’t have your email addresses or phone number. And once they have your names and contact info, savvy marketers will gather as much other data as possible about you – like your household incomes, purchase histories, activities, club memberships – to make smarter choices about whom to target.

You know – the kind of data that companies like Acxiom have by the truckload and that Facebook desperately wants to collect.

Now Twitter has entered the lead generation game. On Wednesday it announced Twitter Cards, which is a way for its marketers to take the next step beyond Promoted Tweets into actually connecting with potential customers.

They look like this:

By clicking the Sign Up and Save! button, I just sent Priceline my name, Twitter handle, and email address with one tap of my finger. (Of course, they already have that stuff – I’ve been using Priceline since the days when Shatner was still wearing that ridiculous perm.) It turns out that clicking that button automatically adds me to Priceline’s email subscriber lists – something that isn’t mentioned anywhere on that card.

Twitter has been running beta tests with other advertisers like Full Sail University and NewRelic for a while now; yesterday it opened up Twitter Cards to anyone else who wants to give it a whirl. I expect several to dip their toes over the next few months. And if they’re successful? A small tsunami of Twitter lead-gen deals within a year. Our tweetstreams could be flooded with them.

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