Twitter.com - whose unique user base in India has grown more than 3.5 times in the last five months to reach 6.5 lakh unique users in May 2009, as per Vizisense.com - has started catching the attention of various marketers in the country.
For the uninitiated, Twitter.com is a social networking and micro-blogging platform. It is a free service, which enables registered members to send updates or short, text-based messages of up to 140 characters in length. Members can also read updates created by other members and share URLs of Web pages.
A member can post messages, which will be displayed on his profile page; but to receive messages from other members or friends, a member has to follow or subscribe to their Twitter accounts. Members can send and receive 'tweets' through mobile phones as well.
Even television media companies such as MTV and Colors have also joined the Twitter world.
In other categories, travel companies such as Cleartrip.com, Travelguru.com, Kingfisher Airlines have a presence in this social networking and micro blogging website.
Amongst political parties BJP is known to have used the Twitter platform during the recent General Elections.
Among new age media companies, Naukri.com, TimesJobs Shine.com, and MSN.co.in are using Twitter for various purposes. Many of these job portals talk about the new product features on their sites, discuss human resources related issues, announce job openings and share boss-related jokes through Twitter.com.
In the high end and lifestyle brands category, Fastrack is taking the help of Twitter to announce various contests, while the recently launched premium hatchback Honda Jazz has used to it announce its launch.
afaqs! spoke to a few of these brandowners to find out their individual strategy and objective behind their presence in the Twitter world.
MTV India created its presence in September 2008 and is available at Twitter.com/mtvindia. It has 5,837 followers and sends an average of eight messages daily, according to Tweetstats.com.
Fly Kingfisher at Twitter.com/FlyKingfisher became a part of the Twitterverse in April 2009 and has 389 subscribers. Naukri.com is tweeting an average of four messages daily since March 2009 and is followed by 563 users.
afaqs! spoke to Ashish Patil, senior vice president, creative and content and general manager, MTV India; Vikram Malhotra, vice-president, marketing, Kingfisher Airlines and Sumeet Singh, national head, marketing and corporate communications, Info Edge (India).
afaqs!: What is the objective of using Twitter.com?
Malhotra (Kingfisher): By creating Fly Kingfisher's presence on Twitter, we aim to engage in a fast, direct and real-time conversation with our technology-savvy guests. Fly Kingfisher on Twitter is a further consolidation of our attempt to talk to our guests in their comfort zones in a cost-efficient manner.
Singh (Naukri.com): To listen, gain feedback and engage with our target audience to have two-way conversations. Twitter users, we believe, are early adopters of Internet innovations. Our presence on Twitter will help us to expose new services or facilities on Naukri.com and receive insights and feedback on the same.
afaqs!: What is your Twitter strategy?
Patil (MTV): Be fresh. Be regular. Be one with the audience. Be ahead of the audience. Be around. And be available.
Malhotra (Kingfisher): In the first phase, we aim to provide information about new happenings from our side and collect feedback. In the second phase, we will use Twitter.com for customer care and service.
Singh (Naukri.com): We look forward to listening - good or bad - about us and gain user insights through Twitter.com. We intend to use this medium for spreading news on our product developments, company announcements and so on. In future, we may conduct polls and contests through it.
afaqs!: What are the things you tweet about?
Patil (MTV): From sharing exclusive pictures of the new Fiama Di Wills MTV Style Check sets to giving information on where the Pulsar MTV Stunt Mania auditions are happening to tweetcasting or uploading links about episodes of MTV Roadies.
Malhotra (Kingfisher): Anything and everything that is relevant for and welcomed by our guests. News on sector launches, flight updates, weather reports, special promotions, product additions and feedback sessions.
Singh (Naukri.com): We talk about hiring trends and news, latest developments on our product and sometimes indulge in boss jokes and office anecdotes. We also listen carefully for tweets on the job requirements of users and reply with the relevant set of jobs.
afaqs!: What are you doing to build traffic on your Twitter account?
Patil (MTV): Nothing in particular. We do not try too hard. Blatant marketing to sell a product never works in the online space. But we do use MTV Ticker to push the latest on our Twitter account and also do a few occasional shout-outs on Pepsi MTV Wassup.
Malhotra (Kingfisher): Our Twitter presence is featured prominently in several of our guest-outreach efforts, but as in any social media format, our best growth comes from follower referrals and word-of-mouth publicity.
Singh (Naukri.com): We engage and listen meaningfully. We have seen our follower count increasing.
afaqs!: What are the measures you will use to check the effectiveness of your Twitter account?
Patil (MTV): There is no direct way of measuring the effectiveness of Twitter account, but if you just go by the number of times we get ReTweeted (RT), it is enough of an indication of how our audiences are reacting to our tweets.
Malhotra (Kingfisher): In the first phase, and given that Twitter and social media is still in its infancy in our country, our measure is the sheer number of followers that we are able to generate and the nature of tweeting touch that we are able to maintain with our followers. In the second phase, our measurement benchmarks will involve feedback tracking and issue redressal.
Singh (Naukri.com): Measuring efficacy could be qualitative or quantitative. On the qualitative side, we look at aspects such as engagement, participation, conversation and discussions. We also look at how quickly the tweets get ReTweeted or replied to. On the quantitative end, we look at aspects such as follower count, following count and page visits.
afaqs!: What are your learnings from Twitter usage so far?
Patil (MTV): The audiences are willing to experiment with newer media and learn more, provided they find somebody with a similar outlook to guide them. The trick lies in not just joining the bandwagon, but understanding the bandwagon first and then playing your trumpet smartly.
Malhotra (Kingfisher): While it's still early days and the learnings are coming in, it is clear that this is the fastest response mechanism that a service brand can set up. Guests tweet in real-time and we are sensitized to feedback on a live basis. However, the core challenge will be to stay relevant and keep reducing turnaround times at our end.
Singh (Naukri.com): Tweets travel fast.