Last year, skincare brand Kiehl’s decided to launch its first store in Mumbai after a successful run in Delhi in 2010. The beauty giant wanted to publicise its advent in the metro, but there was just one hitch — how would it promote itself? After all, the 150 year-old company has never had a brand ambassador and works solely on word-of-mouth publicity. That’s when the brand’s think tank decided to tap the social media, albeit in a different way. It organised a tweet up wherein ‘influencers’ namely bloggers or tweeps (people active on Twitter) — spoke about the store launch online.
Spreading the word online
Zafar Rais, founder and CEO, Mindshift Interactive (social media research and marketing firm) and the brain behind Kiehl’s tweet up, explains how the idea works. “The objective of a tweet up is to create a buzz about a particular product or a brand by getting influencers to talk about their offline event online. Usually about 15 to 20 influencers are invited for an event. For the Kiehl’s store launch at Malad, we introduced influencers to the brand and explained to them why it was unique,” he says. Over 350 mentions on Twitter and 270 tweets using their hashtag followed.
The brand was so enthused by the response that it decided to have another tweet up at Mehboob Studio, Bandra in March to launch a new product. Anurag Tyagi, brand manager, Kiehl’s says, “We put up a screen which was broadcasting the live Twitter feed from the hashtag we’d created — #KiehlsMumbai. The Twitter influencers were constantly tweeting, even while they were at the event.” It was the number of tweets, not their content that counted. The hashtag trended for a couple of days and the beauty giant got its 48 hours of fame in the digital world.
Social media agencies soon realised the impact of tweet ups and started organising such events. Jack in the Box Worldwide organised their first tweet up to launch Puma’s FAAS range of shoes in April this year. They invited 20 tweeps to a fun event that involved singing, drinking and a contest that tested their speed on the track with the FAAS shoes on. And between all the offline activities, the tweeps found time to tell their followers just what they were doing. “The guests responded very enthusiastically. As they started tweeting and creating buzz, the hashtag (#FaasTweetup) trended in Mumbai, and we had a lot of people who were keen to gatecrash the party,” says Samit Malkani, creative head, Jack in the Box Worldwide.
Buzz about the booze
This marketing strategy will work for most brands, Rais admits. “About 90 per cent of B2C companies can successfully use tweet ups to publicise their product.” But the strategy probably works best in the case of alcohol brands, who aren’t allowed to advertise in India. When Cointreau’s ambassadress Dita Von Teese came to Delhi last month, the alcohol company took the opportunity to organise a tweet up to promote the brand. “We leveraged upon lifestyle and fashion influencers within the digital sphere with a high following.
We interacted with them and in turn got them to engage with their followers by promoting Cointreau and raising awareness. Influencers who turned into evangelists of our brand continued to participate in our hashtag lead contests as well as attended the party, giving people on the other side a live preview of the ongoings at the party hosted for Dita Von Teese. The mileage received by bloggers and Twitter influencers was phenomenally over one million,” says Rajeev Grover, marketing manager — Indian subcontinent, Cointreau India Pvt Ltd.
But the biannual beer ups, organised by Kingfisher in metropolitan cities such as Bangalore, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai, are probably the most well known events amongst the Twitterati. “A link to the twitvite (an invitation on Twitter) is uploaded on the Kingfisher page of the micro blogging site. If the company is going to release the invitation at 5 pm, everyone starts refreshing the page 15 minutes earlier to check whether the link is up. The first 200 people to RSVP on the twitvite can attend the beer up,” explains Anisha Bangera, a copywriter at a digital agency and a food blogger, who has been a part of three such events. At these events held merely to engage fans, Kingfisher beer is served on the house, says the Twitter influencer who has 3,200 followers.
Brands have realised that tweet ups not only help them publicise their products and events but are also economical. “Tweet ups are a good option for brands because it helps them build influence through a credible, digitally-connected community at a lower cost than a TV commercial,” says Malkani.
Also, by getting bloggers and influencers on Twitter to talk about them, companies are no longer shooting in the dark. “On Twitter, you only follow people you get value from. This gives strength to the medium, because you know that an influencer is perceived as a trendsetter. When they tweet about something, they’re reaching out to thousands of followers,” explains Tyagi.
But how are these influencers chosen to attend the events? “There are three parameters we look for in a Twitter influencer. One: What are they influential about and will they fit with the brand’s image? Two: How engaged are they on Twitter? What kind of conversations do they have? Three: How many followers do they have?” explains Malkani, who invited select Bob Dylan fans from Twitter for a tweet up organised for the launch of Tempest, Dylan’s latest album in October.
Author Kiran Manral, who logs on to Twitter at least three hours a day, has been invited for a couple of tweet ups. “Organising a tweet up is definitely a better return on investment, rather than getting a newspaper advertisement,” she says. Manral also believes that Twitter personalities are likely to take such invitations far more favourably as opposed to journalists, who often skim through press releases. “Targeting Twitter influencers means you’ve a more focused strategy. Young tweeps such as Miss Malini or Anish Bhasin are recognised for being influential — whatever they say is taken extremely seriously,” she adds.
Twenty three year-old Anushka Hajela, founder of Bombay Bubble, a blog about fashion, beauty, style and interiors, who was invited for the Kiehl’s event, couldn’t agree more. Elaborating how tweet ups are more personalised than press conferences or store launches, she says, “Rather than being concerned about the celebrity who is endorsing the brand or attending the event, the influencers are genuinely interested in learning about the product. It also gives them a chance to interact with likeminded people who are active on Twitter.” This tweet up trend, undoubtedly a mutually beneficial one, is only likely to get more popular in the future.