Firms should be careful with Twitter

2011-09-27 22:29

Cape Town - Companies should employ a social media strategy that places emphasis on remaining credible, an advertising industry insider said.

"Like anything, it's got to be credible - that's the power of social media - rather than necessarily advertising. Because you could always just run an ad," Sarah Britten, head of digital strategy at Y&R told News24.

Many companies have embraced social media as a marketing channel, but they don't always have policies in place to deal with platforms like Twitter effectively.

Britten said that a firm's credibility was tied to its social media campaign and if it lost credibility through obviously paid tweets, the firm's brand could suffer as a result.

"You've got to be quite careful, because the moment you lose your credibility, it’s just about awareness than actual word of mouth or influence really."

Paid tweets

Internationally, some celebrities are paid to tweet about products and services, and John Bell, global managing director of Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence argues that using paid social media like Twitter weakens the brand.

"I would argue that this type of use of social media will weaken its overall value to us as consumers and as marketers. People will become confused and perhaps resentful at the unqualified recommendations that start filling their social media dashboards," he wrote.

In South Africa, it is unclear how much celebrities are getting paid to tweet, but Britten said that users of social media platforms were aware of commercial relationships.

"I'm not aware of what the going rates are. It's quite hard to tell who is getting paid and who isn't, because it's usually payment in kind.

"We expect celebrities to sell everything. We assume that when they talk about things that they are being paid for them," she said.

Britten has a commercial Twitter relationship with Land Rover (follow her here), and she said it's important that people are transparent about their interests when tweeting.

"What I do for Land Rover is I’m a brand ambassador but I don't get paid to tweet about them. I drive one of their vehicles and the tweeting that I do is what I do in my daily life.

"Where it does get more complicated is where it’s not clear that there is a commercial relationship. I think we have to be upfront."


Marketing firms seem to endorse the power of social media in campaigns.

"The largest mainstream media publications average between 300 - 400 clicks per tweet. A celebrity like a Kardashian or Beiber, will average well over 18 000 clicks per tweet," said Derek Rey, co-founder of

Britten said that South African celebrities were not taken as seriously on social media networks.

Prolific local Twitter celebrity Nonhle Thema was issued with a letter of demand for insulting Minnie Dlamini, and Britten said that Thema was transparent to South Africans.

"People are clever: They pick things up very quickly. You look at somebody like Nonhle Thema - the more outrageous she is, the more followers she picks up.

"And when she tweets about brands, people look at them with a bit of a nudge and a wink. They don't take her that seriously."

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

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