There is a new mantra - 'Trend my brand on Twitter' - that brand managers are chanting these days in India. This mantra is actually a new avatar of 'Create a viral film for my brand', which almost every brand manager embraced till 3-4 years ago. So what makes brand managers go gaga over 'Twitter trending'? Are they falling for a fad or is it their desire to show-off that the world is talking about their brand on social media?
For the uninitiated, any topic, which is being widely talked about on Twitter at a point in time, is said to be trending on twitter. Twitter enables a registered user to see the top 10 trending topics across the world. The topics may vary from politics to celebrities to sports.
Though the 'trending' process looks very simple and organic (if many conversations are taking place around a topic at a point in time, the topic is identified as 'trending'). It's difficult for brands to achieve that (at least organically), as users don't tweet/retweet about brands often, when compared to other common topics. This is what makes brands adopt inorganic ways to hijack 'trending' on Twitter.
Inorganic ways refer to brands initiating conversations on Twitter and fuelling them using ways like running 'contests' (asking users to tweet/retweet a brand-related hashtag) or activating influencers (users with large followers base) and asking them to tweet/retweet conversations related to the brand. Many influencers charge money for the same.
Seemingly effective, the whole process of hijacking Twitter 'trending', however, raises a pertinent question - does trending on Twitter (using inorganic methods) actually help the brand?
How effective is hijacking?
Trending via contests: Most people participating in contests are contest junkies or people with fake accounts who track and participate in all sorts of contests online. They interact with brands whenever there is a contest and later disappear.
This seems to be a good idea when the brand is targeting a broader audience base and doesn't really care who participates in the contest. For instance, for a fast food or multiplex brand, even contest junkies are relevant as they are also their potential consumers. These junkies, however, are not a good choice if they are not the right target audience for the brand and their association is merely driven by the contest.
As a result, even if the brand manages to trend on Twitter for a while, it certainly does not mean that it has succeeded in approaching the right target audience and building long-term sustainable relationship with them.
Trending via influencers: Influencers are still a better choice for 'trending' a brand on Twitter. Choosing the right influencer gives brands an opportunity to reach the right set of audience (followers of influencers). However, leveraging their association for short-term branding (trending) via few tweets is not a wise idea, as the influencers may endorse and tweet for competing brands soon after. To eliminate this possibility, brands should build long-term association with the influencers.
It is important for brands to first understand their need for 'trending' on Twitter and then resort to 'twitter trending' while making appropriate choices of the ways to do it.
The author is Planning Director (Digital) at OgilvyOne Worldwide and author of 'The Curious Digital Marketer' book series.