I found this posting this AM from Guy Kawasaki on a new service called Twitterhawk. Basically an app that turns The Tweet into direct marketing on steroids. I for one am not a fan of the Twitter Ad-douche gold-rush, but I must say - there are some compelling points in here. What say you?

from the Twitterhawk site:

TwitterHawk is a real time targeted marketing engine…with true CPC link tracking…that will find people talking on twitter now by your chosen topic and location, allowing you to really hit your target mid conversation with ease. It will periodically search twitter for you and either auto-reply or generate a list of matches for you to respond toor reject from your twitterhawk account.

from Guy’s article:

Twitterhawk is a “real-time, targeted-marketing tool”—or the ultimate spam machine. First, let me tell you why I’m telling you about it: Because it can help you use Twitter as a marketing tool. Second, let me tell you how it works. You create keyword searches like what you can do at Search.Twitter.com.

For example:

Then you compose up to five responses to the tweets that it finds for each search condition and schedule the search intervals. An Audi dealer in Palo Alto, for example, can use this to find sales or maintenance prospects on Twitter. Twitterhawk will then tweet your responses for when it finds the right keywords in the right area.

Essentially this is a way to monitor public conversations for keywords without being the NSA while Dick Cheney was running things. In other words, this is as good as it gets for targeted marketing. The closet analogy I can think of is how Gmail searches your email and inserts ads based on the words it finds in your messages.

This is when the panic ensues: “Holy kaw, if many people started using Twitterhawk, it would mean the death of Twitter as a means of social networking and communication!” Let me tell you why this isn’t true:

1.  Twitterhawk charges $.05 for each tweet that it sends. What spammer can afford to pay $.05/tweet in order to ask you to help get money out of Nigeria or to sell you penis-enlargement products? By the way, Twitterhawk tracks how many times people clicked on the link, so that you can determine your per click cost.

2.  There is a blacklist of terms that Twitterhawk will not respond to. I don’t know what’s on the list, but I suspect words like “the” are probably on it to prevent too many matches.

3.  There is a limit of twelve fully-automatic tweets per day per search. At this rate, it will take a long time to find someone to help get money out of Nigeria or a man who wants to get his aforementioned penis enlarged.

4.  You cannot send the same person more than one tweet based on the same search. This means that the Audi dealer cannot send you a tweet every time you mention the word “Audi.” The dealer gets one shot at you.

5.  You can edit each outgoing tweet when you set Twitterhawk to manual approval. This means that you can use Twittehawk to find tweets to respond to and queue them up for individual answers. (The reason to manually approve each tweet is that you wouldn’t want to send a tweet such as “We’re an Audi dealer located in Palo Alto. We’d love your business,” in response to a tweet like, “I’m so glad I just sold my 1970 Audi. It’s given me nothing but trouble.”

At this price and at this rate, Twitterhawk is hardly a spam tool. It is, however, a very powerful marketing tool if you use it sparingly and precisely. The Audi dealer, for example, might find that it sent out 100 tweets at a total cost of $5 and got one oil change customer out of it. That’s probably worth it—particularly if the customer returns for more expensive work or buys a car.

Looking at it another way: How else can you find people within driving distance of your dealership who are interested in Audis? Radio, TV, and newspaper advertising? Don’t make me laugh. It’s certainly worth trying—although, in truth, you can try Twitter targeted-direct marketing without Twitterhawk by simply using Twitter’s search capability or most Twitter clients anyway.

I close with an interesting story. When I first heard of Twitterhawk, I went nuts and set up searches for mentions of text like “Fashionweek” which resulted in automatic tweets to visit Fashion.alltop. After sending a few thousand tweets like this (perhaps TwitterHawk created the twelve/day limit in my honor!), my @alltop account was suspended, so I’ve cooled it. Clearly, there is some danger in pushing the edge of marketing, and I’m figuring that out too.

See Guy’s original article on OpenForum here.