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Twitter is the now-generation of networking online. It will have more daily users than larger networks such as Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn within months (possibly weeks). As businesses learn how to capitalize on this growing phenomenon that is receiving mainstream press by the minute, what manifestations of marketing will be acceptable and which will not?

Land Rover Twitter

According to this article on Adage, Land Rover last week became the first national brand to execute a national Twitter campaign in a bid to promote its newest models' debuts at the New York Auto Show.  They hired a company called Twittad to use their network of 4500 Twitter users to broadcast their branding and start conversations about their new models.

The bashing is coming, but let's start with a couple of positive things about the two firms in question:

Land Rover is smart enough to recognize the tremendous opportunity that Twitter holds for businesses attempting to build and strengthen their brand. While direct selling is both tabboo and futile, branding and buzz are both effective and relatively safe if done properly.  Land Rover has made an attempt, and for that they should be commended.

Twittad - why not? If Twitter is going to allow people to make money off their platform, a company with the drive and vision to do something with it should not be condemned absolutely. I certainly do not agree with the idea of paying people to tweet fake conversations are tweet insincere interest in a particular company, but still, someone is going to do it. Companies like Magpie and Twittad are simply taking advantage of the system.

Now the bashing...

What Land Rover Should Have Done

Land RoverThey had the vision to see Twitter as a way of getting their brand out there. Then, they proceeded to go with the cheapest possible route to achieve their goal. If I controlled their marketing and I wanted to get on Twitter, there are many ways to do it that are much more transparent.

  • Live Tweeting the Car Show: Take a couple of laptops to the car show. Get a sign that says "Tweet What You Think About This Car".  Have a Twitter "DJ" conversing with people live and on Twitter. Get pictures taken and tweeted. Videos. Loads of branding potential.
  • The Twestdrive Challenge: At the dealerships and through a website, have a "Twestdrive Challenge". Ask people to test drive this model or that model and tweet their thoughts when they're done. Create a hashtag associated with the challenge and let draw one person after a couple of weeks from those who used the hashtag... they win a new Land Rover (even if the Tweet was negative, btw)!
  • Land Rover Nationwide (Insert Charity) Drive: Take a new Land Rover and pay someone with a large Twitter following to attend Tweetups (twitter meetups) nationwide promoting the ideas of the charity with transportation and expenses sponsored by Land Rover. It could easily have a strong effect across other social media sites such as YouTube and StumbleUpon.

That's off the top of my head, and even though I do social media strategy for a living, I assume that anyone could have thought of a more creative campaign than "let's pay people to Tweet our brand."

What Twittad Should Be Doing

TwittadRight now, Twitter is pretty much open to just about anything. They are being very forgiving to just about everything other than straight out spam.  While what Twittad is doing is acceptable now, it won't be forever. Paid tweets are eventually going to be sniffed out and outlawed once Twitter puts their own revenue model in place. The time is coming.

Rather than paying people to Tweet, wouldn't it be better to create conversations, grow in followers, make friends, network, and build up a stable of accounts that were "tastemakers" in the Twittersphere"?  In other words, be good at using Twitter and the sponsoring will follow.

Once the accounts are strong, be transparent. "I am being sponsored by Land Rover."

Tweets such as this: "1 of my sponsors, Land Rover, is putting out (new model) in May - Holy Crap it's awesome (and not just because they sponsor me) Here's a pic:"

Some people will still object to "being sponsored" but at least most will accept it and appreciate the honesty. Guess what - they'll still look at the picture either way.

Who's to Blame

Should we be mad at Land Rover or Twittad for insincere Tweets? Probably, but just a little. Should we be upset with Twitter for allowing this to happen? Probably not - they've got a master plan and they haven't been wrong very often in the past, so I trust their direction.

Should we be mad at those being paid to do what we willing and thankfully do every day for free? I'm personally not, but I'll leave the answer to that question up to you.

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