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Thursday, 28 April 2011

A Royal Twitter Marketing Failure

Amid the buzz surrounding the royal wedding on 29th April, marketers at one brand - Slim-Fast - saw a huge opportunity. They sponsored the #RoyalWedding hashtag on Twitter, hoping to ride on the wave of interest generated by an event watched by billions around the world.

Twitter was awash with hype. The expected web traffic rush threatened to crash Twitter - perhaps even the whole internet.

No doubt the royal wedding hashtag received many millions of views, from people all over the world. In addition to targeting royal wedding watchers, the hashtag trended worldwide on Twitter and was thus potentially visible to all of Twitter's vast user-base.

At face-value this may seem like marketing genius. It is certainly an ingenious example of marketing opportunism.

But exposure does not equal engagement, or increased brand awareness - let alone increased revenues.

A major objective of sponsoring #RoyalWedding must have been to increase the brand's followers substantially. It failed. By 3rd May, including the whole extended holiday weekend, Slimfast won only 336 new followers - out of all the millions of people who must have been exposed to the campaign. This is an extremely poor result and no doubt represents extremely poor return on investment compared to more effective use of Twitter or other digital channels.

Digital medium. Ancient marketing model

So this bad marketing. But in particular, it represents a good case study in bad digital marketing tactics. social media channels enable precision-targeting. They enable marketers to reach out to customers with totally relevant messages, designed to appeal precisely to them, at exactly the moment when they might be interested in hearing them. Effective digital campaigns target tightly-defined market segments, usually with very measurable ROI. (In the case of Slim-fast, the market would no doubt be people who want to lose weight with minimum effort.)

Mass-marketing: not precision-targeting

Twitter in particular enables marketers to connect with customers in exactly this way - with precision. And engagement. Because, even more powerfully, it is an open channel for customers to reach out to brands. On the customer's terms. Social media marketing should put people back at the heart of marketing.

Slim-fast's ploy ignores all the new human-to-human power at marketers' fingertips. Sponsoring a busy Twitter hashtag is the digital marketing equivalent of placing a billboard at a busy road junction. It's mass-marketing, not digital marketing. It's random, not targeted, and it's not welcomed by the vast majority of recipients.

No doubt, in reaching millions of Twitter users, this brand also chanced to reach many thousands of people who might potentially be interested in their product. But they missed whole point of digital marketing!

More BOOM for your buck

To use a military analogy, Slim-fast's mass-marketing broadcast approach to social media is the digital marketing equivalent of using a nuclear missile to sink just one ship.

Sure, you'll sink the ship. But you'll also waste a lot of energy flattening the rest of the fleet! Why not use all the power, all the potential of social media channels, to do what smart digital marketers are doing: engaging effectively with their target audience.

Just as a nuclear power station harnesses enormous power of the atom to supply millions of homes and businesses with energy, marketers can harness digital marketing to engage with millions of interested customers.

Don't just blast people with broadcast marketing over social media. You can still waste your budget doing that with traditional channels.

Social media is supposed to be friendly. Personal... social. It's not a marketing mouthpiece and traditional marketing activity is not usually welcomed in the social space.

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