Brands use real time conversations to engage consumers

Brands use real time conversations to engage consumers

With over 200m regular users worldwide tweeting more than 500m times each day, the potential on offer for brands to reach consumers via microblogging site Twitter is self-evident. To succeed on Twitter, brands need to become a relevant, informative and amusing part of an evolving two-way conversation. Katy Askew spoke to Twitter UK sales director Dara Nasr about how food manufacturers and retailers can insert themselves into the dialogue.

In an increasingly connected world, social media sites such as Twitter have given consumers the power to feed their everyday thoughts and experiences into an online community that seems almost unlimited in its size. In many respects, it is a marketer's dream and rarely does one hear about a marketing campaign these days without reference to a social media element.

According to Twitter UK sales director Dara Nasr, the network presents multiple opportunities to communicate with users at "real-time" moments throughout the day.

"There are approximately 15m users in the UK and when we announced that figure it was approximately 50% growth year-on-year. It is growing, people are tweeting a lot, we have 500m tweets globally every single day. It is very sticky, people are coming back to the site, tweeting, looking at what is going on. And we also know that one in two people [who use Twitter] follow a brand," Nasr says. "Brands recognise now that it is a platform to interact with their audience."

However, while social media affords the opportunity to reach out to consumers it also empowers them as part of a two-way dialogue. Individual consumers are given a voice that is as legitimate as - or more so - that of the brands themselves. It is a forum where consumers and brands can interact and share experiences, both good and bad. In this sense, it becomes vital for FMCG companies to get the message right.

"If brands do it right they can have a lot of success and they have had a lot of success. Conversation is very important with social media. Unlike traditional media it's not one way.... Actually it's an opportunity to really jump on real-time conversations, on what is going on," Nasr suggests.

Nasr points to Sainsbury's as a group that has done a "fantastic job" of "optimising their voice" on Twitter by entering into conversation with consumers.

"For example, a user simply said: "I tried to buy some battered fish from Sainsbury's but it didn't have a bar cod". Sainsbury's replied in the same tone of voice saying: "Were there no other packs in the plaice or was that the sole one on the shelf?". These tweets do very well for engagement. They are the right tone of voice. They are very relevant and they are timely."

Likewise, Coca Cola owned smoothie maker Innocent Drinks "do fantastically well" on Twitter, Nasr argued. "They have a great tone of voice, they are very helpful, they are informative - which we know our users love. From a Carnegie Mellon piece of research last year, we found 48% of users said they followed people because they are informative. They adore competitions, offers, freebies and keeping up to speed with what the product or service is."

The real-time element of Twitter can presents an opportunity for food brands to directly influence purchase decisions, Nasr says. "We talk about marketing on Twitter as being very much in the moment - 56% of consumers say they are influenced by content they see on Twitter when buying a service or product. A third of people say that Twitter has a direct influence on their purchase decisions. That is very positive for the platform. When brands get it right and they tweet well and they plan well around Twitter it is a really successful medium."

Brands can work to engage with people "in the moment" by analysing data that enables real-time planning.

"The real-time aspect is key: 80% of access is actually through mobile devices. That really gives you the feeling that you could be on the go, or watching a TV programme, or at an event. It is not a static medium. What we try to help brands with is real-time planning. If you focus for three areas - everyday moments, live moments and campaign moments - you can be really successful."

Tesco are "very good at capturing the everyday moment", Nasr continues.

"We provide them with data showing them when people are talking about shopping, when people are talking about food - and they can interact with users at specific times by clever scheduling, by clever tweets and just being smart and intuitive about it. We also know that 52% of our users follow brands because they like to be notified of special offers or promotions. Tesco obviously, this is key to them, so in the everyday space they can really interact with users talking about food, talking about shopping, using the data we provide to have always on conversations with their users."

In the "live" arena, companies can target specific consumer groups and associate themselves with particular events that promote a brand identity.

"There are live events going on at any given time and these get massively amplified on Twitter. The Brits is a huge event obviously in the UK and conversation exploded on Twitter. We saw over 4m tweets during the show this year. [Mondelez International-owned] Cadbury recognised that a lot of those tweets are going to come from their core audience - 16 to 34s, primarily female. They essentially set up live tweeting throughout that show picking up on moments. Pharrell wore a funny hat, they tweeted about that. The net result is they get a lot of engagement and interaction because it is timely, it is relevant, it is going on at the same time, people are watching it on TV and relating to what Cadbury is saying," Nasr observes.

When it comes to "campaign moments", using Twitter as part of an integrated multimedia marketing campaign results in a significant uplift in consumer engagement, Nasr suggests. "We found that Twitter can really work to amplify and make that campaign work harder. We have done a lot of work in the TV space here. We had some Nielsen research done with Kellogg at the back end of last year around Krave. The research found that exposure to promoted tweets leads to a significantly higher brand association, brand relevance and purchase intent. Kellogg found that Twitter users who are exposed to multiple promoted tweets show a 12% uplift in purchase intent. They are running TV alongside this - a variety of different things. We see a real alignment in the campaign piece. Twitter is a bridge rather than an island. It works very well in complement to other activity."

While many brands had a Twitter presence long before the website launched an advertising product, promoted tweets afford brands the opportunity to become a part of the Twitter buzz in a more targeted way, Nasr argues.

"For brands to engage with their audience, engage with people who are on Twitter, we have targeting on our ad products that can target specific conversations or areas of interest. If that is relevant to the user we typically find real positivity to the conversation because there is a natural feel to it. That is the same across any media really. If the point is there is a real time issue we see that being the best opportunity for brand relevance because they can talk. People followed brands on Twitter before we had any ads at all. People love brands," he suggests.

Because these so-called "native ads" are similar to organic products in appearance, they do not interrupt the user experience. "We have found these native ads have been very useful for engagement rates - when a user interacts with that ad - whether it be re-tweeting the ad, following an account, clicking on a video," Nasr says. "If you look at an average online digital display ad would get you about a 0.07% average engagement rate. On Twitter a promoted tweet is between 1% and 3%."

In the ever-shifting sands of online marketing, social media and sites like Twitter are likely to remain an important plank of any consumer-facing brand's strategy. However, perhaps there is a danger that as brands are increasingly promoted messages will be met with growing cynicism. The answer to this, it would seem, would be to adopt a more subtle approach that sees brands providing informative, useful and amusing information at appropriate real-time moments.