Tweet with Transparency

Gerard Tollefsen - January 22, 2010

I have worked in sales and marketing since I graduated college.  I am a fan of marketing and take pleasure in seeing creative ads on TV, radio, and online.  I love the “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign from Dos Equis.  I crack up every time I see that commercial for Heineken where the couple is showing off their new house and the woman takes her girlfriends to a huge walk-in closet and the men get a tour of a huge walk-in cooler filled with beer (Heineken, of course).  I don’t mind watching the 15-30 second commercial before the videos I watch on  I didn’t ask for the commercial, but I know its coming and I am fine with it.

Here’s is what I don’t like about marketing: disingenuous product endorsements.  Celebrities get paid big money to endorse a product, but rarely do I believe they use the product of their own choosing.  Call me cynical, but I don’t think Tiger Woods (maybe a bad example here given his current decline in sponsorship deals) drives a Buick.  But I understand that is part of the game, Buick pays (or paid) Tiger big money to participate in commercials promoting the Buick brand.  I know he is being paid and if I choose to buy a Buick based on Tiger’s endorsement, I do so with full knowledge Tiger is paid to say good things about Buick. 

This same strategy should also be applied by businesses using Twitter to promote their brand, product, or service.  There needs to be transparency with how you deliver the message as well as the message itself.  When you use Twitter to promote your company, be clear with your followers.  You can be creative with coupons or discounts to reward your followers.  Running contests and “tweeting” about it can be a great way to get additional word of mouth and increase your base.  Social media users are very savvy these days and can see through a veiled attempt to promote a product, service, or brand if you are not fully disclosing why you are reaching out to them.

There have been some high profile stories lately where companies have used celebrities to promote their brand without disclosing that the celebrity is being paid to tweet about the product.  Once the stories broke, there was an understandable backlash as social media users felt somewhat betrayed by the message.  This type of revelation can lead to bad press and direct people to consider your company as dishonest.  This is easily avoided by keeping your message clear and transparent.  It is perfectly acceptable to promote that you want to increase your followers, and you are willing to reward them for their loyalty.  There is no need to trick people into providing that loyalty.  Creative and honest promotions can accomplish the main goal of growing your base without the risk of turning off potential customers and losing credibility.

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