CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- 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.
While brands as diverse as Southwest Airlines and Smirnoff vodka have been tweeting and accumulating followers for months, Land Rover attempted to use the burgeoning social-media platform in a more ambitious way, seeding so-called hashtags (words used in tweets that make it easier to follow an ongoing conversation via online searches) on billboards, taxi TVs and other out-of-home venues; spreading word of the Twitter effort through auto-obsessed blogs and online publications eager for a peek at its latest bells and whistles; and paying a fledgling Twitter ad network to spread the word among its army of compensated, heavily followed Twitter users, all of whom wallpapered their Twitter profiles with Land Rover branding.
While it's too early to know what sort of return Land Rover will receive for its efforts, "it cost us virtually nothing," said Keith Rhodes, VP and account director at WPP-owned direct-marketing firm Wunderman, which orchestrated the effort.
Mr. Rhodes said he was particularly encouraged by the Twitter-fueled traffic to a blog post he wrote about Land Rover's initiative. Posts on his site typically draw about 30 views; this one grabbed more than 200,000 views.
Land Rover is not likely to remain the only national marketer doing this for long, said James Eliason, CEO of Twittad, the Des Moines-based "social-media affinity network" Wunderman tapped to boost Land Rover's launch.
Mr. Eliason said the next national effort using Twittad's roster of 4,500 Tweeters, whom it pays to post on topics and brand their profile pages, with nearly 5 million followers, will be for Elations, a glucosamine-enhanced beverage from the makers of Sunny Delight targeted at women over 40.
All told, the Land Rover effort was Twittered to more than 300,000 followers, Mr. Eliason said. Twittad used 15 different Tweeters with at least 5,000 followers, although the majority had between 2,000 and 4,000 followers.
Most won't get rich doing this anytime soon. One paid Tweeter, willconley777, wrote on his blog that he was paid $2.50 for letting Land Rover sponsor his profile page for seven days. Mr. Conley has 1,160 followers. Still, for those few Twitter users with huge reach, real money might one day be possible. The most-followed Land Rover campaign participant, queenoftheclick, boasts nearly 25,000 followers and was paid an amount "in the hundreds" for her participation, Mr. Eliason said.
Other larger-scale marketers are also eyeing Twittad, which is in talks with Sears.
The appeal to marketers is obvious: It's a cheap way to reach people through their trusted contacts. And Twittad's technology is able to sort its users by geography, demographics and interests, which can both lead to more targeted appeals and, perhaps, prevent Twitter users from feeling under siege by advertisers, a major concern.
"We were worried it would be considered spam, but we didn't get a single complaint [about Land Rover]," Mr. Eliason said. "What that tells me is that our connectors have influence."
Less clear is whether the model is sustainable. Mr. Eliason, who launched Twittad eight months ago, said he expects it to break even by the end of its first year. He said he has contacted Twitter about a revenue-sharing agreement but has yet to hear back.