Does Twitter count as direct mail?

With the emergence of digital technologies and the fast uptake of social sites such as Twitter, the boundaries of direct marketing are fast becoming blurred.

Gone are the days when a mail shot landing on the doorstep could be considered a full and far-reaching direct marketing campaign.

Writing on Promotionworld.com, a US based marketing news portal this week, internet entrepreneur TJ Philpott says that with 75 million people now using Twitter, the site has become an integral part of direct marketing strategy.

However, a separate survey of technology marketing professionals by Johnson King revealed this week that Twitter is regarded as the Marmite of social networking sites, as marketing professionals either love it or hate it.

A straw poll in the Marketing Week office revealed that opinion is divided on whether Twitter should be considered as part of the direct marketing mix.

I’m of the firm belief that it should be, just as email and SMS marketing should be, but only if they’re used well.

Used well, Twitter allows nimble footed direct marketers to reach huge volumes of consumers directly and it’s a hyperfast way to spot and keep up with ever changing trends.

Used badly, the irritation of junk mail arriving through the post is multiplied
when poorly targeted, poorly executed emails, texts and corporate Tweets arrive in the consumer’s inbox.

The survey by Johnson King revealed some interesting figures about marketers’ perceptions of Twitter.

More than a third don’t see it as a valuable marketing tool, with a quarter believing companies shouldn’t get involved at all and Twitter should remain a personal forum.

The most staggering figure from the survey was that almost 60% of marketers using Twitter have no corporate usage policy to follow, and so the output is very much on the whim of the individual.

This is how Twitter differs from traditional direct marketing where a campaign is planned down to the last detail based on data to target the right audience and there are policies and brand guidelines to follow in terms of copy, and design.

If companies want their Twitter use to be taken seriously as a legitimate part of the direct marketing mix, they need to treat it with the same care and attention to detail as other, more traditional formats.

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