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Tell the Twitter story right and tell it often enough for people to know it: Sonali Malaviya

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Tell the Twitter story right and tell it often  enough for people to know it: Sonali Malaviya

In a bid to expand its outreach to agencies in India and capitalize on live, always-on moments and video innovation, Twitter has launched a multi-pronged Agency awareness program through the platform. The outreach program in India is anchored by a three-prong strategy: gamified learning through DIY postcards, new deep dive courses for its Flight School online education programme, and a new series of multi-city #GoLive agency bootcamps.

While the first two stages are aimed at building scale awareness in media agencies, and this goes across all the functions like traditional planners, digital planners, strategy, client leadership and then moves into boot camps which are about in-depth Twitter learning.

“Agencies today are making massive strides in the space of digital education and somewhere agencies and platform partners have to work together, because that is the only way to fuel growth. Today, an agency is handling 10, 15 or 30 businesses and it is much easier for me to make sure that the agency is fabulously entrenched in my platform, knows everything there is to know, and then leave that evangelism to them; of course we are there to support them with clients, with solutions, with whatever they need. There can’t be a gap between agencies and clients and it’s our responsibility to make sure that agencies get it as much attention as the clients,” shares Sonali Malaviya, Head of Marketing, Twitter India.

Making planners understand what Twitter really stands for and what they can do on this platform is what this intensive campaign is aimed at. “Personally, for me, the big win will be when they (media agencies) don’t think of Twitter as a standalone solution, and think of Twitter or all of digital as part of a platform neutral solution for a client brief or a client objective,” she says.

At the moment, there are separate strategies for Twitter, Facebook and Google – with all of it in a bit of a silo. Understanding synergies between mediums and how every platform or every medium fits in to the client’s brief is what the planners need to recognize feels Malviya.

Edited Excerpts from a Q and A with Sonali Malaviya on the drivers behind the media agency awareness program, business objectives she hopes to achieve through the campaign, including doubling the business in the next one year and more ….

What are the business targets that you are trying to achieve through this initiative?

It is two-fold; one is to get everybody on the platform so they can start understanding and experiencing the value of the platform for themselves and their businesses, and only when you experience it, you understand the potential of it. And from the other side, it’s about driving more brands to the platform; it’s about encouraging more advertisers to come to the platform. Eventually, it is about integrating not just a standalone silo, but becoming a much larger part of the whole strategy. It’s about thinking through a brands strategy across the platform, across the 365 days, which answers brand objectives, talks to that consumer, their passions and comes alive on Twitter.

At the end of this intensive campaign, what increase in terms of advertising are you hoping to achieve?

Actually it’s difficult to say because we are doing it for the first time and I don’t have any benchmark. But If with all of this, I am able to double my business over the next 12 months, I will be a delighted person.

So this campaign is your idea....

Yes, it’s my idea and I am hoping that it will be something that will go well for us, I guess only time will tell.

You have invested in the India team to have the resources to do it. Can you give us some idea about the kind of investments that you have made?

What we have done is that we have invested in the function itself, so before me, there was no marketing function in India. And because India is one of the fastest growing markets in the region, and actually globally for us, that was the first big investment to say that, yes, we need somebody strong to make sure that the Twitter proposition is heard by the B2B audience, and that is the one we have really missed on, because while there were opportunities and people were having meetings with people, there was no scale and there was no face to these conversations.

Moreover, I was not just given a free hand to run everything but I was also given a substantial amount of budget to do it. After our interaction with various people, we realised that the knowledge about Twitter is very superficial and that is what we tried to overcome, which is why we have this really intensive programme.

So, there is an agency initiative running right now in the region, but this kind of depth and this much rigour is being put behind India for obvious reasons – one, it is a big potential market for us, and secondly, we have reached an inflection point where we need the agencies to come up to speak. The fact that agencies are the real custodians of these brands, it is important that they learn. For me, it is as important to educate agencies as much as it is to educate clients because they are the ones who are creating those strategies and overall manage those budgets, so why should there be things in silos in different places?

Given your experience, is this campaign a result of that, given that you have been on the other side too?

It helps me empathise with agencies rather than say--why can’t they do it? I know the challenges that everybody goes through every day, so it’s one more platform to learn, it’s one more technology to get your head sorted around. They understand they need it but where is the time? Somewhere the onus also falls on the platform to work with our partners as collaboratively as possible. Ultimately, agencies work really hard at what they have to do for their clients, and if we can make that experience a little better for them, I don’t think it is a bad thing at all.

For me, the most gratifying thing is that we have created a platform where people feel comfortable to ask questions and it also encourages our teams to engage with them through this initiative. 

During this campaign, what has been that one question that has surprised you?

My moment of truth literally was when we were talking about giving people the tools and giving them the products, jargons, effectiveness measures and metrics and all of those things, when in reality, we haven’t taken a step back and said – do they even understand how to open a Twitter account to create their own handle? What is a hashtag? How to tweet? I discovered that over the last few days. Sometimes we live eat and breathe the platform and we assume that everybody else also understands it as easily.

What was your mandate when you joined, given that Twitter India did not have a marketing head in the past?

Given that business marketing is important for us, it is a pure play marketing function. When you grow, people want to understand the kind narrative you employ. When we talk to people and ask what the Twitter proposition is, everybody will articulate it differently.

Today, one of the big focus areas is to say – tell the Twitter story right and tell it often enough for people to know it, create a lot more awareness, create a lot more education so that everything else happens subsequently. But get the basics right first. It is a massive market, and when you start doing things, you realise that sky is the limit. You get to a stage of growth, and if you want to really want to explode, it has to happen at a scale.


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