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Twitter and the meaning of life, the universe and marketing

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Seems like we may be closer to an answer (if not 'the' answer) than we thought and Twitter as you may have guessed from the title of this blog may have something to do with it.

The other day I had a chance to see a rerun of "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" on cable. One of the main plot drivers in the book and the movie is the quest to find an answer to the most important question of all - what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything? While not at the same level of inter galactic significance, the marketing function of companies across the globe, have been over the better part of the last century, striving in vain to find the answer to their version of the 'most important question of all' - "how do I connect with my customer such that he buys my product?" The frustration to find an effective answer is perhaps captured best in John Wanamaker's famous outburst "half the money I spent on advertising is wasted, the trouble is I don't know which half! "

Seems like we may be closer to an answer (if not 'the' answer) than we thought and Twitter as you may have guessed from the title of this blog may have something to do with it.

But first let us look at some of the elements that make twitter a part of 'the' answer

Each tweet is a discrete unit of thought expressed by an individual

The artificial limit of 140 characters forces the tweeter to succinctly summarize his thought - in effect forcing him to leave out all fluff - about 80% of the content of blogs

Being a unit of thought of an individual, it is possible to aggregate these units and arrive at some sort of conclusion on what a significant population of your stakeholders are thinking. The fact that each tweet is only 140 characters long makes it easier to process the data both from a size perspective as well as from a content perspective, all the more so because we are talking about 'unstructured content', here

Tweets can happen/ are happening near real time and they are increasingly about 'thinner slices of life'

The limit of 140 characters also ensures that it does not take much time to compose a tweet. This combined with the fact that twitter apps are available in all smart phones makes tweeting almost as easy as airing your opinion to the person sitting next to you in the restaurant. And we are seeing this happening. We have all heard of how twitter broke the news about the latest happenings during the Arab Spring and also that the world first heard about the US raid that killed Osama Bin Laden through twitter. But tweeting is now becoming a part of our everyday lives much more deeply. You are at the movies and you see a good scene, you tweet about it to the world, almost immediately, subconsciously, almost as if you were talking to your friend in the next seat. You tweet about the advertisements in Super Bowl. You tweet at traffic signals etc. etc.

Becoming embedded in to our lives means that tweeting is now increasingly about 'thinner slices of life'. Thus it is now about what you like about a specific moment in the game during Super Bowl or about how good David Beckham looked in this year's Bodywear for H&M Super Bowl ad and you tweet about  it almost real time. The marketing implications are not difficult to fathom. Not only are you able to estimate how many people watched the game and where they watched it from but you are also able to get qualitative inputs into what they liked about specific 'slices' within the event.

This drives secondary consumption as well. Reading a tweet about an event within a game such as Messi scoring a goal for Barcelona is very likely to make you drop whatever you are doing and tune in to it on cable or the internet or watch the rerun/high lights. Similarly tweets about a specific 'slice' of an ad increases viewership of the ad on YouTube. Yours truly was among the many thousands of people who watched the David Beckham ad on YouTube as a result of hearing about it as a twitter trend. It is quite possible that some of the people who read this blog may be prompted to do the same . Again the implications from a 'connecting with the customer ' perspective are obvious

Tweets are conversations unconstrained by the vagaries of time and distance

Tweets are conversations anybody can join in, anywhere in the world, whenever they want. This is what makes topics trend!  and you join in only if you are affected by the discussion topic. Did you realize that I just described the perfect setting for a 'focus group' discussion? Again the marketing implications are obvious.

Leveraging the Twitter chatter

Markets are about conversations. And so is marketing. Twitter affords opportunities for marketers to join in on conversations or observe from the side lines and figure out ways of influencing conversations. Companies are realizing this. And there are now tools available in the market which allows companies act on this realization. And companies are using this tools. But the key to  effectively utilizing this unforeseen opportunity to tap in to the minds of customers/influence their decisions lies in being able to interpret the raw data correctly. Deriving 'actionable' insights from twitter and other social media and implementing - is however still in the early stages of infancy. Deep understanding of the domain, analytical ability and imagination are some of the key requirements of the job. On the part of the organization scalability and flexibility would be the key asks. By the way, we just wrote ourselves in to this story - for the attributes just described are the hallmarks of a domain focused business process outsourcing firm.

Indeed this is one of the focus areas of Infosys BPO. So do watch this space for updates...

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