Doing digital - I'm in the #bath - Business Works
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Doing digital - I'm in the #bath

Peter Rees, Principal, City Marketing Academy N othing generates more debate and exemplifies the perceived problems with Digital Marketing and Social Media than the high profile, often highly publicised, crumbs of consciousness emitted by 'A' and even 'Z' list celebrities, in 160 byte-sized bursts.

Welcome to the world of Twitter!

Before I try to explore the business areas where Digital Marketing and Social Media can make a very real contribution to professionally-planned and managed marketing activities, it is worth recognising that vast numbers of people, for whatever reason, are actually interested in the day-to-day minutiae of celebrity lives. Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber have followers numbered in the tens of millions, larger even than the total populations of whole countries.

This has been labelled as 'ambient intimacy' and is an effective approach to build familiarity, favourability and interest for the ones being followed. These are all very recognisable and desirable outcomes for those with a background in or experience of PR.

Though it may be difficult for many to comprehend the underlying rationale for such a following, this reality could actually present a market opportunity, if these followers were to represent a significant target segment for your marketing and communications activities.

Think of Twitter as a subscription based news or information broadcasting service where its readers (Followers) can choose to subscribe and follow the articles (Tweets) of their specifically chosen authors. Each author has a unique name starting with an @ symbol.

Twitter was designed for compatibility with SMS text messaging, giving the well known 140 character limit for the content of a Tweet. What can you say in 140 characters? Not much admittedly, though some people try, with varying degrees of success!

Once you use Twitter, you will soon realise that most Tweets actually contain a link to a web page, typically shortened by one of the many tools available, to reduce a lengthy web address to fit within the 140 character limit. This link very quickly and dramatically increases the utility of a Tweet, directing the follower to a place where they can access extensive and interesting information, videos, music or whatever. Twitter is a wonderful tool for sharing news and commentary.

Recent examples, related to the 'Arab spring', show just what a powerful system Twitter is for broadcasting breaking news, often in advance of the major media agencies. As with the BBC charter, used in this way, Twitter can be a powerful method to inform, educate as well as entertain.

How then can we sort through the tens of millions of Tweets to identify those in which we may be interested? - and how can we make sure that the Tweets we send can be found by those with whom we wish to communicate? Twitter has an excellent and simple indexing technique called the 'hashtag'.

Social media

Putting the # symbol in a Tweet before a chosen keyword or words (eg. #marketing) will add it to the Twitter global index. A subsequent search will find Tweets containing this hashtag. Read these Tweets and 'Follow' authors who interest you. You can quickly learn what people think about your company, your products and possibly you!

The top 10 'hot topics' on Twitter are displayed and updated in real time on your screen, giving you an insight into the things that are being actively discussed. Although by default Tweets are public, it is possible to write directly and privately to other Twitter users. Just think of the possibilities for customer engagement, having identified those with strong positive or (maybe more importantly) negative views about your products and services. Now you can conduct market research in real time and on a global basis.

Consider the opportunity that this presents to marketers. Though it is not widely realised, it is common Twitter etiquette to follow back those that follow you. In this way it can be very quick to build a community or interest group clustered about a specific, product, service or organisation.

Once you have established such contacts, you can conduct brand and business based conversations with your current or potential customers. Satisfaction surveys, consumer input on new product developments and online sales promotions all become possible, much more quickly and at a fraction of the cost incurred using non-digital techniques.

Social media

Twitter therefore provides a platform for indentifying audiences and market segments with specific interests and opinions. It allows us to develop contacts and build intimacy with them and engage in a meaningful two-way conversation, regarding those interests which we both share. We can now achieve all this, much more effectively and efficiently than has ever been possible in the past.

Of much greater value for marketers than the news that ... "I'm in the #bath".

Peter Rees is Principal of the City Digital Marketing Academy. Follow CDMA on Twitter @citydigital or to find out more:

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