Monthly Archives: March 2011

Is it ok to market to a niche group on twitter?

I have recently experienced the joys of talking utter nonsense with a bunch of people I have never met before. If you’ve not done it I highly recommend it!

By using hashtags on Twitter you can connect with thousands of people who share your obsession – which is especially useful when your real friends don’t  want to know!

For me, it was the Danish detective drama The Killing that got me into it – 20 hours of idiosyncratic crime noir with subtitles that I couldn’t stop consuming until it was all gone. The show finished at the weekend and Twitter was alive with fans preparing Danish-themed dinners in the hours running up to the big finale, sharing theories about who done it and discussing the clothing of its  stars.

So many people gathered together around one topic – that is a niche audience to die for! So is it ok to market to a niche group like this on twitter?

Companies trying to exploit twitter hash tags – by which I mean the groups of people who coalesce to tweet around one topic using the # symbol – have had a very bad press recently and rightly so.

There have been a couple of examples where corporate tweeters have hi-jacked disaster or breaking news hashtags to promote their products. This would have been poor judgement if they were trying to sell something relevant like tents for example, but in these instances the products had absolutely nothing to do with the topic being discussed! That strikes me as beyond tasteless and a fundamental misunderstanding of how to market using social media. Read all about those cases here.

So, would it be ok to market to people gathered together around something less controversial – like sport for example?

I think it is a judgement call and each person is going to draw their line in a slightly different place – but I think it is important that a line is drawn.

I, for example, can’t stand being put on a mailing list just because I have exchanged cards with someone at a networking event. You may say that in taking your card I have shown an interest, I may say that I was only being polite.

The key is being relevant and non intrusive. If a product has a perfect fit with the topic – if it something that a number of the group will actually want, then you are providing a benefit and not intruding.

For example, my Danish cop drama has a charismatic central character who wears Nordic woollen jumpers – they are central to the cult of the show. If I was a supplier of these jumpers, then I think it would be perfectly legitimate for me to let fans know how to get hold of one and to post a link to my website.  Equally, if I were going to knit them to order in time for season two, then Saturday night would have been the perfect time to get the word out  while all those fans were preparing to watch the final episode – filled with sadness and a big jumper sized hole in their lives!

I think it helps to be a genuine fan and a natural fit for the group you are talking to – perhaps someone who would be using the hashtag anyway. Nothing smells worse than an interloper coming in with the intent to exploit. People can sense when you are not genuine. If you are going to target sports fans, be one yourself and let people know about useful stuff, in the same way you use Twitter to pass on useful content.

So, my conclusion?

Using hashtags to deliver marketing messages to a receptive audience can work really well with a tight fit but it comes with a risk. Can your brand live with being branded a charlatan if you get it wrong?

Would you risk it?


How to pass on content others will love.

Sharing content and spreading ideas is at the very heart of what we do with social media. We use the web of connections we’ve built up to reach other with our thoughts, ideas, videos and marketing messages.

In return we pass on other people’s stuff, which both helps them out and increases our usefulness to the group.

It’s something most people on Twitter do everyday and yet when you are in a hurry it is very easy to forget that each and every thing you retweet or link to carries your personal endorsement and says something about you. That’s why it has to be something you would be proud to have created yourself.

When I tweet for clients I need to make sure that the material I’m passing on is appropriate for them and reflects their values. Most clients would be unhappy with political content being retweeted in their name and they wouldn’t want me to promote the products of direct competitors. My job is to find content that reflects well on their taste, intelligence and style, which is very satisfying work and why I love doing it so much!

Here are some ideas for passing on content which others will love.

  • When you are tweeting to attract busy people working from home or looking after children go for content which is beautifully illustrated. Someone indulging in guilty browsing is more likely to stop for lovely photographs and crystal clear writing – it makes the experience like flicking through a magazine.
  • Content based on big ideas must be laid out well to get read. Opening a page full of tiny squashed up writing is a major disappointment. Complex ideas should be written in a good-sized clear font and separated into paragraphs or bullet points. If it looks bad don’t re-tweet it or perhaps put a health warning on it that lets people know the content is worth persevering for.
  • Always check you know what you are passing on. It sounds odd but many people set up RSS feeds and Google alerts to help them find content related to their subject area – they then retweet on the basis of a headline alone. There danger lies! Always check that the contents live up to the headline.
  • Think laterally. You could pass on content which may not be directly related to your subject area but which many people in your circle would find interesting. Say for example you sell upmarket baby clothes, then you can tweet links to beautiful toy suppliers or reviews of great baby friendly holidays – checking them out for lovely photos and a good layout first of course!

Retweeting and posting links is like surrounding yourself with books and artefacts that say something about you – so take the time to find the right material and get a reputation for passing on quality content that others will love.

QR codes and why it’s the content that counts.

Have you noticed an outbreak of mystical black patterns on everything from leaflets to packaging?

If you haven’t, you soon will because QR codes are the very latest in communications technology, allowing you to zap via smart phone from a square, three D bar code, into a world of information.

The implications for marketing are huge and I could spend my entire post giving you the QR code ABC, but these guys at have done a great job with this QR code FAQ Do read it if you need to get up to speed.

Understandably, early adopters are eager to seize the advantage while the idea is still hot and are busy educating people and creating exciting uses for the codes. And this, I feel is the crux of the matter, because like any technology, once the shine of the new wears off, it is really only as good as the content it delivers.

I was with a restaurant owner recently who is very excited by QR codes and has put them on his menus and flyers, but when he showed me how they worked it took so long to download the information he could have talked me through the entire menu and given me a personal tour of the kitchens, so usability is important too!

Here are some of the more creative uses of QR codes I’ve spotted so far.

  • AXA Bank are very keen on QR codes and in one ad build a giant code using paint cans which were then hoisted onto a billboard. See the ad here
  • AXA were at it again – this time with an interactive QR code you had to scan to see the rest of the ad – watch it now
  • 23,000 people liked the QR posted by Lady Gaga to her fans on Facebook, linking to a downloadable ring tone for Born This Way
  • Estate Agents placing a QR code on the For Sale sign outside a house allow anyone casually spotting the property to instantly access a full video walk through, including price details, from their mobile phone.
  • QR codes on flyers and even business cards can give you access to smart promotional videos which let the customer know more about you – like this one Disclosure; the voice over is mine!

Do you think QR codes are here to stay or just a passing fad? And please do share any examples you’ve seen.


The Conversation Gap – Why Twitter Works Best When You Keep it Small

Are you familiar with the Conversation Gap also known as the Conversation Chasm?

Tim Bourne from the creative agency exposure uses the term to describe the gulf between big shouty marketing messages and the ordinary conversations  people are having on Social Media.

We’re obviously no strangers to the idea of ‘social media conversations’ here, but I particularly like the way he approaches the issue – from the perspective of someone who has spent a lot of time creating BIG expensive messages for some of the worlds Superbrands.

As social media sweeps all before it, the big boys like Tim Bourne, now appreciate the need for smaller more human-shaped messages to sit alongside the aspirational ad and billboard slogans. Friends talking on Facebook want to know how well a product works, what it cost and whether it’s easy to set up – not whether it makes you feel like hot stuff with a James Bond lifestyle and a Hedge fund income.

I think this is important because I see some social media newbies confusing big and small media and trying to broadcast BIG messages on Twitter about their brand. Slogans and quotations look odd on a platform designed for conversation and importantly they don’t invite a response.

For example, take a look at the Twitter site for superbrand Rolex @RolexInc – here you will find page after page of links to sales pages for months on end with no engagement whatsoever.

Over at Pret a Manger, which is listed as one of the country’s top Superbrands there is a world of engagement and chat. Check out @Pret_uk to listen in on real interactions between brand and customers about sandwich flavours, special offers, recipes, pics etc

It is really satisfying to see a brand using Twitter well. If you have the time for some Social Media research I would recommend going through the Superbrands list at and then checking out the Twitter pages of your favourites.  It’s a brilliant way to work out what works and what doesn’t.

and keep the conversation going – let me know your favourites!

Can Social Media Really Influence Word of Mouth?

I don’t see a lot of very useful blog posts about word of mouth and believe me I read a lot of blog posts.

I read about ‘the conversations’ people might be having about me online and how I should jump in to influence them, but if you are a smallish business then people don’t actually talk about you all that much – sorry!

I’m not trying to ditch the whole social media proposal – no way – but what I would like to look at is the influence of word of mouth.

When I need to make a new purchase I love to do research. I am perfectly happy to spend time online reading customer, blog and newspaper reviews but when it comes to deciding on something big, I always ask around.

As an experiment I jotted down my last 8 significant purchases(I couldn’t get to 10 – must be the recession!)

Speakers, amplifier, pea shingle, short break, big holiday, dinner for the family, printer and books.

Out of these 8, 6 of the final purchasing decisions were made on the basis of  recommendations from a friend.

When I’m looking for advice on technical things I always go to Steve, he knows a lot about computers and always chooses very good quality stuff – I trust his judgment. I know that Sally likes to eat out and is the best resource for restaurants locally. Lou likes to read and will steer me towards the books her book group enjoyed.

You see I didn’t turn to Yelp or Bizzy or any of the other sites and apps that are frantically trying to corner the market in search and recommendation. I went to the friends I trust and whose taste I know inside out.

And the stats back it up. In a Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey of over 25,000 Internet consumers from 50 countries 90% of consumers surveyed said they trust recommendations from people they know. There are more figures on word of mouth and friend influence here from bazaar .For example;

When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product”  71% claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence. (Harris Interactive, June 2010)

Strangers do exert strong influence too and we have talked about review sites like Trip Advisor before. Hard facts and research should not be overlooked either, for example Which? from the Consumer Association – but increasingly friends are the ones we really trust.

So when friends talk, on Twitter, on Facebook, at the school gate and in the pub, are you really in any position to influence what they might be saying about you? (if you are lucky)

I’m beginning to think that social media wizardry is in danger of getting in the way – it’s actually still old school values that make the difference  – like distinctive customer service, value for money and a quality product.

Social media provides many more opportunities for people to review you, recommend you and talk about you, but you still have to give them something to talk about in the first place.