Apr 2010 26

A recent tweet by Jacob Cass put the importance of social media into perspective quite simply when it said, “You know the times are-a-changing when you’re asked to put a Twitter address on a letterhead.” But as much as everyone loves talking about Twitter and the newly coined “bird of mouth” advertising, it’s really worth venturing into how far this widespread, unpaid for medium actually yields results.

For instance, a BBC news report threw up some stats which might want to make you rethink the reach Twitter’s got, and traditionalists will agree with the story that says even though Twitter’s the fastest growing social networking site today (with well over 10 million users), just “10% of Twitters users generate more than 90% of the content”. Add the following stats to this and it really makes you doubt Twitter’s status of being a “broadcast medium”. The Harvard conducted study also found that:
• Over 50% of Twitter users tweet only once in 74 hours
• Most people tweet just once – they try the service out of curiosity but rarely return
• And while very few tweet regularly, few also listen consistently – this rules out the chances of Twitter being effective for brands even if they were to survive solely on the silent spectator’s basis

Having said that, one also has to accept that Twitter couldn’t have become the phenomenon that it is if weren’t for the fact that it’s got people hooked. And brands are increasingly resorting to Twitter to resolve everything from customer care issues to just giving their brand a facelift. But given the drawbacks of Twitter, which are huge as they are, it becomes that much more important to tweet right if you do decide to tweet for your brand or tweet on behalf of a brand. Some sacred laws to follow on Twitter:

• Don’t Treat it like a Glorified RSS Feed – If you’re using Twitter just to tell people you’ve posted a new story on your company’s blog/website, you’ve already got a huge chunk of your followers hitting the “Unfollow” button, and with good reason. The reason Twitter’s called “conversational” is because you can make it personal. Follow people with similar interests, get them to follow you and actually talk to them. Sure, Twitter is not chat but it is about spreading information people really want to know. It takes a fair amount of time and insight to get it right, though. Which would explain why even some of the biggest brands, including Amazon and Hewlett Packard, have lost out here.

• Invest Time – Social media is called social “media” for a reason. If you’re just going to start a Twitter account and use a couple of swanky widgets that link to your website and whatnot, you’re better off not being on Twitter (or any other social networking site, for that matter) at all. But if you do decide to advertise using the social media, treat it as seriously as you would any other media. Set aside time for it and tweet often enough to make your presence felt. An average of 6-8 tweets per day is said to be just about right for a brand. Engage, but don’t overdo it.

• Invest People – Before you start Tweeting, decide who should speak for you. Do you have a person on the team almost as large as the brand? Or are people more likely to relate with the brand itself? Figure out who people are more likely to talk to. It’s all part of making people connected with profiles they couldn’t have known otherwise – whether of celebrities, gurus or whoever. If you do decide to get one of your people to tweet for you, make sure it is that person who’s tweeting. Ghost tweeting is quite apparent even if you think you’ve got your tracks covered and, when discovered, they won’t do any good for your brand.

• Invest Money – If you can’t exploit someone’s persona for the brand, don’t. And if you can’t invest time yourself, get someone to do it for you. Just because social media is easily accessible, doesn’t mean you can’t get it done by professionals. Again, it is a medium. Just like you wouldn’t draw squiggly lines yourself and send out an ad for print or pick up a handycam and shoot your own TVC, don’t tweet for your brand yourself if you’re clueless about it or don’t have someone to write interesting, results-oriented, 140- characters-or-less lines. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure your Twitter page looks “you”. Think of it as a mini-website. Extend your brand’s linguistic and visual identity elements here. Get help if you can’t do this yourself. You can also get your Twitter database organised and tracked by a third-party. Simply put, do whatever it takes to make sure you get the results you need through Twitter and don’t let it get lost amongst a million other Twitter pages.

• Research – If you are the agency tweeting for the company, research. Look for brands in the same playing field as your client’s, see what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, what they’re not doing that you could do and then make sure you do it. Find people who would follow you religiously and retweet loyally.

• Give Incentives – It’s great if you’re giving your brand’s/client’s brand’s followers information they wouldn’t normally get but sometimes it helps if you could give them something more as well. Give them a reason to follow you. Use Twitter to tie-in with your other promotional and advertising activities. Quizzes and polls on Twitter are not just a great way to engage, but also a way to get feedback. And incentives don’t necessarily have to be prizes or discounts. Sometimes, simply recommending one of your followers to others helps them stick on to and spread the word about your profile.

• Know Your Technology – Manage your Twitter account effectively by picking tools that make it more efficient to track what’s being said about you. At Bushtail, we’re partial to TweetDeck and its simple functionality that helps you mange multiple accounts. But you can find your own mix of applications, once you’ve figured out your style of tweeting. Read more about essential Twitter tools for company accounts.

Once you’re all set, go back and check and how you’re doing. Everything that you could possibly need to use Twitter well is already there somewhere. All you have to do is put it all together to get Twitterverse talking.

Apr 2010 26

For any advertising to be great advertising, it needs to follow one simple rule – it can’t be advertising. Because, let’s face it… nobody really wants any advertising. It’s just something people put up with because it makes television free.

So if you are thrusting your brand’s ads onto people, the least you can do is give them something they actually want to hear. Few brands manage to get this right but when they do, they almost always have the following in place:

• A Story: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is think short-term. Whether your brand has been around for years on end or whether you’ve just hit the markets, know who you are or want to be. If you are new, partner with an agency whom you trust to help you write your story. But if you already have something great going on, don’t let your agency skirt around it and don’t ask them to… ever. Every little piece of communication should eventually add up. Basically, an ad is to your brand what a chapter is to a novel or an act is to a play. Think of commercials for Cadbury’s Dairy Milk – it’s always about moments to celebrate, but not so much about the chocolate itself. And Tata Tea found its winning story in recent years when it asked people to wake up to reality, while also waking up with tea.

• A Plot: Once you know what you want to say, know how you’re going to say it as well… the exact sequence of events in your communication plan. This is another place where your agency should be helping you out. It helps if your agency has an eye for opportunity and knows where your brand should be found, when. Take for instance the recent the ambient communication for Aircel. Anticipating floods around Milan Subway in Mumbai during these monsoons, the brand had a raft mounted on a billboard that people could use to commute. Of course Mumbai flooded as always, of course people used the raft and of course everyone got talking about it. A great plot will only make sure that everyone who hears your story wants to share it with someone else.

• The Characters: Marlboro had the Marlboro man, Complan had the Complan boy and girl, and Dove has real women. The story of these brands just wouldn’t be the same if they didn’t have these characters in it. Deciding on characters should be easy if you can decide on who’s listening. Being able to relate to your brand is all about your audience’s arriving at the “That’s me” moment, without a lot of effort. It’s what differentiates a brand that people love associating with, from one they just stumbled upon at the supermarket.

• The Dialogue: When Marmite went out there and told people “You either love it or you hate it”, it started a dialogue that was very tongue-in-cheek but also, kind of, a matter of fact. But that’s the language Marmite speaks. The dialogue in advertising has clearly moved beyond the realms of just hard-sell and soft-sell. You now also have a lot of in-betweens what with brands offering anything from tough love to refreshingly inane stuff just so to make sure they’re heard amidst all the brouhaha. When your brand has a character it also has a voice. It’s what gives people a reason to believe, the impetus to vote or, sometimes, the desire to purchase well beyond their means.

Making advertising worthwhile is all about being honest about these few aspects. It’s also about giving advertising a face, soul and personality, far removed from the banal consumerist communication. Because, as Marshall McLuhan said, “Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century.” – they’re just familiar stories of people we know, shortened to 30-second snippets and shot in Technicolor.

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