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Twitter VP Talks Magazines, Advertising at MPA Conference

Think of followers as subscribers, says exec
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With this year’s American Magazine Conference taking place in San Francisco, it’s no surprise that one of the biggest themes of the two-day event is how to leverage social media. At lunch Monday afternoon, MPA members gathered to hear Twitter vp, global brand strategy Joel Lunenfeld and Wired senior editor Bill Wasik discuss how publishers and advertisers can make the most of 140 characters.

Just how magazines should properly use Twitter is representative of a broader challenge for the overall ad industry—i.e., the need for brands to talk with consumers, not at them, said Lunenfeld. The most successful brands, magazines or otherwise, are those that use Twitter to interact with followers, whether it’s retweeting a smart comment or replying to a customer service query.

And the best Twitter ad campaigns also make sure to include the follower. For instance, Marie Claire worked with Yoplait to create a hashtag that encouraged readers to submit their own photos to win a prize.

The possibility of brands literally finding a “voice” through their Twitter accounts has totally changed the way that people view their favorite companies, said Lunenfeld. “Ten years ago, if anyone had said that we were talking to Best Buy, everyone would think you were crazy,” he said. But now, brands are even interacting with each other via the platform—like when Oreo and AMC theaters had a mock fight over the ethics of bringing snacks into a movie theater.

One audience member asked the age-old Twitter question: Will the platform ever expand beyond 140 characters? Not anytime soon, said Lunenfeld, who added that he views those characters as “a caption” to the media (photo, video, link, etc.) that the tweet includes. What Twitter does plan to do is expand what media can be attached to a tweet.

One of the biggest takeaways for magazine publishers was that a Twitter follower should be viewed as a subscriber; Lunenfeld stressed that if consumers follow a magazine brand on Twitter, they want to hear what that periodical is saying. Currently, among the top 50 biggest magazines, their number of Twitter followers amounts to about 14 percent of their circulation base. But some brands have already far surpassed that margin. Wired, for one, boasts 1.6 million followers to its 1 million magazine subscribers.