by Aayush Soni.
Excerpts from The Caravan’s story on the growth of Twitter in India. Read the entire story here.
Karthik Srinivasan (handle: @beastoftraal), the hyper-engaged “national lead, social” at the advertising company Ogilvy & Mather, called promoted tweets an “inorganic” part of a breast cancer awareness campaign the firm did for the multinational company Philips. “If you pay for promoted trends/tweets, things actually go really viral very, very fast,” he wrote in an email to me. “We also did organic engagement with influencers because there are people who’ve earned their followers on Twitter by being smart, funny, witty and all that stuff. So we ask them to talk about our campaign and retweet stuff.” Many people were “up for sale”, Srinivasan told me, but as with traditional endorsements, they also wanted to make sure they look good doing it. “There are many people on Twitter who actually take the brand’s promotion and do it in their own way.”
So, for example, on 18 April, Bisleri launched “World Shabaash Day” on Twitter and Facebook, a “buzz creation” initiative planned and executed by the digital marketing agency Flying Cursor. Twitter users like Mandira Bedi (who has over 300,000 followers) chimed in with tweets like “Its #WorldShabaashDay today! I say Shabaash for my husband for putting up with me!!! ;P So who are you showing your appreciation for?” The hashtag was a top ten trend and the Twitter traffic was complemented by a Facebook contest, in which people who watched Bisleri’s new television commercials for their 500-millilitre water bottle could win an iPad, gift hampers or watches.
Contracts in the Twitter economy are easy to write up; advertisers can stipulate the duration of a campaign, and number of tweets and retweets per day among the “deliverables” they want. But the artifice of many of these engagements—iPad contests and gift hamper giveaways—represents a peculiar compromise for advertisers, who hanker after real, unfeigned interest. “When it comes to Twitter and someone [the brand] is looking at their result card or return-on-investment, they preferably look for whether or not their brand has trended,” the digital head of an entertainment channel told me. “Unfortunately, it’s very difficult for conversations to start trending, which is why brands resort to contests—follow us, retweet us and win an iPad or something. My point of view is that such contests don’t really help the brand unless you already have a huge follower base and are doing something for them. For FMCG companies, the easiest way to get itself trending is to start one of these contests where the only winner is the iPad.” The other winners, of course, are the influential users who promote contests and are sometimes paid in cash or with gift hampers.
Later in August, news came out that Twitter had entered a partnership with ZipDial, a Bangalore start-up that provides mobile phone-based marketing services. ZipDial would help send tweets by celebrities, including Amitabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan, in the form of text messages to subscribers.
Celebrity tweets have been immensely valuable to Twitter’s business in India. Early in 2010, Matt Sanford, then the lead engineer of Twitter’s international team, noted on the company’s blog that sign-ups from India had increased 100 percent since the beginning of that year, “due in part to politicians like Shashi Tharoor and Bollywood mega-stars Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra and Abhishek Bachchan” joining the conversation. As part of his efforts, Jaitly even met Shashi Tharoor, the minister of state for human resources development—and as Sanford noted, one of the first politicians to use the platform—to talk about the ZipDial link-up with him. “They offered me the same service that they did to Shah Rukh, but I declined to use it because I thought the price was too hefty,” Tharoor told me.
(c) 2013 The Caravan. Crossposted with permission. The Caravan is India’s first and only publication devoted to narrative journalism