The proliferation of start-ups on the web can make it incredibly tricky for an advertiser to know where and how to allocate a budget. For every Facebook and Twitter, services with millions of users and undoubted critical mass, there is a Joost, or Google Wave - services launched with the maximum of fanfare and the minimum of audience buy-in.
The vituperative and voracious mouth of Twitter is particularly thorny territory for multinationals, where bureaucracy and process work against direct communication with consumers in real time. However, as with most platforms, agencies and marketers eventually realise how to harness all of that chatter for their own ends.
Best Buy’s Twelpforce, which won the Titanium Lion at the Cannes Advertising Festival in June, demonstrated one of Twitter’s strengths: as an incredibly efficient customer service tool. Twelpforce is a team of employees at US electronics retailer Best Buy who voluntarily communicate with customers pre- and post-purchase. Best Buy is currently archiving these tweets to create a database packed full of consumer insight over on www.bbyfeed.com.
In India, Hippo, a popular pizza-flavoured snack brand, showed a similarly ingenious use of Twitter. The company found that supplies ran out in stores across the country, so it invited customers to tweet when the shelves needed replenishing. Hippo was able to establish a much more efficient sales and distribution network, resulting in a 76% sales boost within months of launch. All of this occurred at no financial cost to the brand. Talk about an impressive return on investment!
Twitter is also a relatively untapped seam of insight where smart brands can perform a quick search to find new customers. Mucoangin, a Brazilian sore throat remedy, uses Twitter to direct its marketing at anyone who tweets about suffering from a sore throat, guiding them to a website dispensing advice about how to look after themselves. In the US, Wheat Thins (a Kraft-owned cereal brand) targeted anyone who tweeted about their product and rewarded them with personal deliveries of branded goodies. And in a smart co-ordination of real world and virtual world events, some whisky brands have used it for ‘live’ tastings, merging an event in real life with whisky fans tweeting their opinions from home.
A landmark use of Twitter came with Old Spice. Isaiah Mustafa, the now-famous actor, was introduced to the world as Old Spice Guy during this year’s Super Bowl to promote the brand’s body wash. Mustafa then re-emerged in a haze of real-time messaging across a handful of social media platforms during July. The campaign gained momentum on Twitter as Old Spice Guy sent out tweets to high-profile people with large numbers of followers such as Twitter founder Biz Stone and actor Ashton Kutcher. Old Spice has attracted 110,000 followers on Twitter as well as generating positive PR, helping to revive a brand for a younger generation more used to the overtly sexualised antics of Axe campaigns.
As always, the key to success on this platform lies in first looking at how people are actually using the service - and only then deciding how branded input might be able to contribute to or constructively reinvent those behaviours. Twitter is an amazing way of listening to, gauging and responding to customer conversations in real time, with all the positive sentiment that that can generate. This facility is both free and priceless. Use it wisely.
Richard Pinder is chief operating officer, Publicis Worldwide