Twitter campaigns from brands: thoughts on the new ‘trend’

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Of late, several Indian brands have created campaigns specifically on Twitter. An interesting aspect about it is such campaigns are finding favour from big, mainstream brands who traditionally rely largely on mass media for advertising. Social Media platforms like Twitter continue to find favour among media and retail brands for whom there is a natural fit. Also, Twitter campaigns have become the centrepiece of a marketing campaign and not just an add on.  The ‘Tweets for Treats’ campaign from ITC Hotels to promote the launch of ITC Grand Chola, Chennai comes to mind. Twitter was an integral part of a campaign from Birla Sun Life, featuring the return of Yuvraj Singh.

A couple of excellent resources to read about such Social Media campaigns and case studies are: Lighthouse Insights and Social Samosa.

I am a big fan of Twitter and access it pretty often to follow interesting people, get updates on current affairs, read opinions on various topics from tech to films, find interesting links, have a laugh, rant, share links and follow brand related activity. So brands are just one among the many ‘interests’ on Twitter. In that context, any overt sell or perceived ‘act of desperation’ from brands will be an irritant. Also, I am not a power user of Twitter when it comes to list and timeline management. Since I follow nearly 3000 users on Twitter (time to prune it down) including several brands, it becomes impossible to monitor all tweets. So I rely on trending topics and mentions from friends & influencers to figure out interesting activities done by brands. In that context, it is tough to rise ‘above the din’, as it were for brands.

From an end user point of view, what makes an interesting (and therefore successful) Twitter campaign? Herewith some thoughts:

Don’t be desperate to trend

Just as movies are never started with an intent to have a 100-day run, Twitter campaigns should not begin with an objective to trend. If done so, it could lead to thinking ‘sensational’ (nothing wrong with it per se) instead of ‘relevant’. It could also lead to spamming users with your uninvited tweets or hashtags and desperate requests to RT.

Focus helps and provides direction

Assuming that a brand is clear about the objective of the hashtag (to support a mainline campaign, to create awareness about a launch, to generate excitement etc.),  I think it helps to focus on a single minded proposition that provides a ‘direction’ for tweets with that hashtag. For example, #anything4Jetta for Volkswagen,  #18ThingsIWant and #S3FromHomeShop18 for HomeShop18 are specific and present a clear picture on what to tweet with those hashtags. In contrast, #TweetsForTreats for ITC Grand Chola is relatively ambiguous. It doesn’t immediately convey what kind of tweets to create with that hashtag. Is it about the experience at Grand Chola? Which means one has to visit the property and tweet about it. Or is it about expressing a desire to visit Grand Chola and experience it? It is not clear immediately. Tweeting  involves just a few seconds of thinking – so it helps if the hashtag is telegraphic in nature.

Allow for creativity

I think one of the highs of being active on Twitter is the scope to be ‘creative’ with your tweets – it could be word play (@rameshsrivats being the undisputed king in India), funny unexpected takes on current affairs or quaint observations. That’s what generates RTs and accolades. Hashtags which have trended in the past (the non-brand related ones) allow for such creativity (for e.g tweets about ‘movie sequels that never got made’ or ‘Hindi proverbs translated in English’). Why should brand-promoted tweets be any different? Hashtags like #anything4Jetta or #thingsIWishwereQuikr have that quality about them. The hashtag #mindshift created by MindShift Interactive on their anniversary also had that quality. Many brand-related hashtags do not have that leeway (#replacemovietitlewith*** being the most hackneyed one).

Integrate the brand, uniquely

There has been a debate about ‘generic’ and ‘unique’ hashtags. #ThingsIWishWereQuikr was used by brands other than Quikr; brands other than the one initiating a hashtag have jumped into the fray in certain other cases like #YouAreaBikerIf from Castrol. It’s the nature of the beast. Who is to decide if a hashtag is generic or unique? It’s the user. If the hashtag tickles ones fancy, interest and imagination users will tweet. And it holds true for brands in the same or related category.  It is a thin line between being hardwired to a brand and being open enough for lots of people to participate. I feel brands can capitalise on trending hashtags created by other brands as long as it is not detrimental to them.  For example, #YoursForTheMaking, a hashtag related to a recent Smirnoff campaign could be used to tweet by say, a holiday resort promoting weekend trips, but not by another alcohol brand.  On the other hand, #Cointreauversial is so hardwired to the brand that it is unlikely to be capitalised on by say, fashion brands (somewhat related to cocktails & night outs). The ideal situation is to have a multimedia campaign where the central idea is taken forward across media & platforms, even to the extent of creating a hashtag linked to the TV campaign. The Cravendale #catswiththumbs campaign comes to mind.

Between choosing a ‘generic’ hashtag that allows for wider participation, creative tweets and a hardwired-to-brand unique hashtag that is relatively ‘restrictive’, as a user, I would plonk for the former.

What are your views on brands and hashtags on Twitter? Do comment in. 

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