Monday, June 9, 2008

Twitter -- an entertainment industry branding tool in 140 characters or less

Corporate America still hasn't gotten it right with Twitter as an effective marketing vehicle.

Look at the examples cited this week in Adweek, where it's hard to get particularly excited about a Twitter feed from "DellOutlet," which is merely a coupon giveaway. The "RichardatDell" feed is done by an employee with 1,000 followers, but considering that I don't even know more than half the people following me on Twitter, I don't put much credibility in that number. On the micro-blog service, there are plenty of people who will follow just about anybody. That's like signing up for a subscription to a magazine you don't even bother reading -- they don't constitute an invested audience.

Personally, I have gotten very little out of it as a public relations professional. I have to run a business and keep on top of my Facebook page, so the ability to follow dozens of people carrying on tiny non-sequitur "tweets" is like trying to follow raindrops falling from the sky and trying to catch them. I honestly don't have time to poke into my PDA "Going to lunch to buy a meatball sub" and expect it to excite the dozen or so people following me.

But that doesn't mean that for some public figures and marketers, Twitter can be a buzz gold mine, yet to be fully exploited. Twitter can be the ultimate instant fan club.

Take uber-geek web TV host Veronica Belmont. She was going to be named the host of Qore, Sony Computer Entertainment's and publisher Future US' new monthly "program" on the PlayStation Network. While researching her bio, it was brought to my attention she had more than 24,600 Twitter followers, many of whom are probably raving tech dudes who have stalked her since her CNET days. So it was a no-brainer when I suggested to Future US that on the Qore announcement day, Belmont tweet that she's the new program host to her fan legion who clearly follow her every little tidbit. To me, that's an excellent instant viral pipeline of putting Twitter to marketing work.

Another Twitter clever marketing ploy that I am waiting for is taking the guise of a TV show or film character to promote a forthcoming debut. This is the next generation of, the elaborate Internet puzzle game the producers of Steven Spielberg's AI film concocted in 2001. If I'm Warner Brothers, I'd be shooting out stream of consciousness feeds from Bruce Wayne, Alfred the butler, and other "Batman" characters... and for Universal, I'm tweeting as Bruce "The Hulk" Banner.

For non-comic book types, imagine the talk that could be generated by Twitter feeds from intelligence agent-turned-beautician Zohan, Fox-TV's heroine Sarah Connors, Michael Myers' "Love Guru" or Survivor's Jeff Probst.

Down those avenues, there's a genuine emotional and creative bond created between the Tweeter and the followers, not doling out 5% off clips. And talk about low cost -- there's no elaborate web site construction or long turnaround time involved -- you just need somebody to "stay in character."

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