It’s late November, and UK Lord Chancellor Sir John Simon has just told Parliament that Britons have sent watches, jewelry and gold to help the government pay for war. According to Sir John, “One girl sent a small envelope, asking me to accept her ‘peace offering.’ Inside was her engagement ring.” Incredible. Particularly because I just learned of this from a tweet chronicling the world war that’s raging in Europe right now.
You didn’t know there was a war going on in Europe? That’s because it took place in 1939. It’s the beginning of the Second World War, and it’s being retold on this date and at this time by the Twitter account @RealTimeWWII. After tweeting for only three months, @RealTimeWWII, which according to Mashable is maintained by Oxford graduate Alwyn Collinson, has already exceeded 150,000 followers. Why can’t brands be this inventive?
WHERE ARE THE BRANDS?
While unique and intriguing, this historical exhibition had our post-advertising team wondering, “Isn’t this a major missed branding opportunity?” Where’s LIFE, whose logo is often seen on the images posted to the account? Where’s the History Channel? Can you imagine the benefit if a university’s history department had developed this idea as a course exercise?
Seemingly as fast as new digital tools emerge, impassioned fans have found new and unique ways to use them. @RealTimeWWII is just one example of the versatility of Twitter, which in its short history has chronicled the comic ramblings of one man’s father (which spawned a short-lived sitcom), hosted group chats, brought fictional TV characters to life (both branded and fan-based), fueled computer sales and provided a platform for customer support but, most important, has given brands a new way to creatively connect with its audience.
PERCEIVED TWITTER GATEKEEPERS
So why aren’t more brands actively searching for more ways on Twitter to provide valuable and engaging content, like @RealTimeWWII? The necessity for a sustained, persistent effort coupled with the blind faith that people will eventually catch on can be a major barrier to entry for brands that have little patience for devoting resources to an effort with no immediate or guaranteed return.
Success on Twitter is often calculated by the most tangible of measurements: number of followers. Any seasoned marketer knows, however, that given the numerous black-hat get-rich-quick methods of gaining followers and the necessity for relevance, follower count is not a metric you can ultimately measure success by. It’s this obsession with numbers that brands must get past to take a whack at creating the good stuff, the content that doesn’t scream “Marketing!” and that instead entertains or informs or, as in the case of @RealTimeWWII, both.
STEAL THESE IDEAS
The branded Twitter landscape isn’t barren, though. There have been a few efforts (like the Weather Channel, below) that can be considered quite post-advertising, and also a few that we’ve come up with on our own. Take a look, and let us know your ideas in the comments:
- The Weather Channel taking over accounts named after hurricanes, like @Irene, where they give up-to-the-minute information about the storm from its point of view.
- Paramount Pictures or Disney Pixar creating characters’ personas on Twitter before the specific movie is released, in a prequel of sorts, as if the character had a Twitter account before the movie action took place.
- Ford creating a unique Twitter account for the development and eventual unveiling of its latest model, including live updates from the manufacturing facility, gradual insight into features and road testing (with media).
- Sports Illustrated creating an account for a fictional Chicago White Sox batboy in which he chronicled the famed 1919 “Black Sox” season in real time.
Even if a brand doesn’t come up with an idea but finds an effort still in its early stages that it can align itself with and that can become a true resource, the brand can own the effort and benefit from the momentum. The History Channel could still help sponsor the @RealTimeWWII effort, enabling it to be developed in more languages (currently offered in Spanish @TiempoReal_IIGM and Russian @war_only) or even from different perspectives (British, German, American, etc.). Regardless, any brand that wants to get involved will have to do more than just logo slapping if it wants to keep the existing audience and momentum.
Whether your brand is filling the wastebasket with half-baked ideas or looking for the right idea to help cultivate, Twitter is fertile ground for brands extending their reach and helping grow audiences. Success won’t be immediate, no matter what your goal, but if you believe in the idea and dedicate the right amount of sustained resources, content marketing on Twitter can pay huge dividends.
What opportunities are being embraced or missed by brands on Twitter? Do you have any more to add to our list?