Q&A with CEO Josh James: The value of my Twitter followers

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

@TwitterAds: Tells us about your background and your latest venture?

@joshjames: I co-founded the web analytics company, Omniture, which became the second largest SaaS business behind Salesforce.com. We took Omniture public in 2006 and sold it three years later to Adobe for $1.8B.

As CEO of Omniture, I had seen how real-time data could help online marketers make better and more profitable decisions. Yet, I couldn’t get that same access to data about my own business. The data was trapped in multiple systems, databases, spreadsheets and presentations. In order to get to it, I had to ask someone else for it.

Once I got the data, it was either out of date or in so many formats that it was impossible to make sense of it all. This frustration seemed universal to every executive I knew. It made no sense to me. It was the reason I started Domo (@DomoTalk) in October 2010.

@TwitterAds: How do you use Twitter?

@joshjames: I use Twitter to connect with relevant audiences. I tend to tweet about business, startup and technology news. These topics match my experience and personal interests.

I’ll also share Domo news and content that I think is relevant to my following. Being on Twitter has helped Domo generate a steady flow of inbound customer leads, partnership introductions and quality recruits.

When I’m not tweeting about business topics, I tweet about additional passions such as sports, family and religion. These topics tend to drive significant engagement. A couple months ago, I took my six daughters to a Justin Bieber concert and tweeted about it. It’s funny that I’ve received the most offline feedback about that Tweet, but it’s also an important reminder that social media thrives on authenticity.

@TwitterAds: Why is it important for you as Domo’s CEO to be on Twitter?

@joshjames: I am a firm believer that if you are leading a company, you should be where your customers are. Everyone has customers on social networks and Twitter is one of the most interesting and easiest places to listen and engage in real-time.

The world is changing and CEOs must change the way we do business. Those who don’t get out in front, risk getting run over and left behind. CEOs like Richard Branson (@RichardBranson) and Mark Benioff (@Benioff ) are great proof that companies benefit from having a social CEO.

When we launched Domo, I knew that Twitter could help impact operations, recruiting, marketing and sales. I started tweeting about what I knew: start-up tips and advice for running businesses. As I created more content, my audience grew but not quickly enough. Granted, my followers were high quality and shared my interests in business and technology, but I wanted more of them.

@TwitterAds: Is that when you decided to start a Promoted Accounts campaign?

@joshjames: Yes. It wasn’t a popular idea at first around the office. I may have seen a groan or eye roll from people on my team. Their biggest concern was that paid promotion on social media didn’t feel organic. Twitter is about authenticity and they were concerned the haters would point to “buying” followers as a violation of the organic nature of social media.

But I did the math and knew there was huge potential business value. I noticed how my own Tweets were driving thousands of new eyeballs to media websites. Even just ten percent of my followers clicking through to read a story represented more than 1,000 visitors.

At $40 CPM that was probably generating $400 for the publisher. I started imagining the impact if I had even more followers and I was sharing content about Domo. It all reinforced that Twitter has real influence and I believed that the quickest way to build a high-quality following was a Promoted Account.

@TwitterAds: How did you target your Promoted Account campaign?

@joshjames: You can target based on a keyword or only to people in Silicon Valley, for example. Or you can target people in Chicago who follow the Chicago Bears and the Chicago Bulls. There are endless ways to match keywords, locations and interests to increase reach and get in front of people that are most likely to be interested in your Tweets.

Geo-targeting is particularly key. India, Brazil and Australia are tech-savvy nations but they aren’t likely markets for Domo for the next year or so. I made a mistake early on by not targeting my campaigns to North America, our primary audience.

Interest targeting is also important to use strategically as a CEO. I love music, especially Jay-Z and hip-hop, so I experimented with another Promoted Account campaign targeting people with similar interests. But music cast a net that was waaaaay too wide and attracted followers who aren’t likely to grow Domo’s business any time soon.

On the day that I set up my Promoted Account, I created a campaign that targeted interests entrepreneurship and technology. It was focused and measurable and it worked.

@TwitterAds: How was the ROI on your Promoted Account campaign?

@joshjames: I believe the cost for a Promoted Account campaign is a steal when you compare that cost against other channels of marketing. To me, this is similar to the early days of Internet advertising – new and somewhat uncharted territory for reaching a targeted audience. In the early days at Omniture, we told everybody that the cheapest way to get leads was the pay-per-click route because it was a land grab at the time and everything was cheap.

Since being regularly active on Twitter, I have tons of organic followers and my Promoted Account supplements. When you get a base, you get even more organic, so it’s the gift that keeps giving.

@TwitterAds: How has Twitter had an impact on business?

@joshjames: We’ve seen the benefits of being social in multiple ways. Twitter has helped us tremendously in recruiting. I’ve had countless sales reps reach out to me directly, which is helping us reach our aggressive hiring goals. I’ve also had potential partners and prospects connect with me directly through Twitter about doing business together.

Is Twitter driving real business results? I think the answer is absolutely. The network effect of one Tweet has the potential to be astonishing. Huge. Transformative. Different. I love that.