I log into hootsuite today and I see a promoted tweet as below:


This annoys me because O2 as a company should be better at this kind of thing. Let me tell you why.

I used to be a loyal Nokia customer but ever since I bought an iPhone I can not imagine owning another device. A previous employer gave me a blackberry for work when I had a Nokia for personal use. The blackberry was great because my Nokia made it almost impossible to use the internet or emails. I thought the blackberry was amazing. However, as soon as got the iPhone I made it my mission to tell everyone with a blackberry how much better their life would be with an iPhone. I would never say never but Apple would have to make some serious bad moves for me to look elsewhere. I now have two iPhones and two iPads.

Ever since I got my first mobile around 1999 I was loyal to T-Mobile as a network. I changed because when I moved house the reception was so bad I couldn’t make a call. I still changed networks even though I was getting half price line rental with T-Mobile.

O2 provided good reception, I tested it against some friends on different networks before buying. However, Tesco Mobile offers the same network at a much cheaper price so I went through them. I had no loyalty to O2, I just wanted to use the O2 network and I could get it cheaper through Tesco.

I still think that the O2 network is the only network for me but you offer other routes to your network so I don’t need to do business with you directly. When I met Vincent Boon a couple of weeks back at a social business conference I told him I was a brand advocate for giffgaff and I am not even a customer of them (yet!). Ever since I first heard of giffgaff.com I have been telling people at every opportunity how great the business model and the company is. I believe that the social customer service model is the future. I would actually pay above the odds for that network because I want to help that business be successful and put the traditional mobile network business model out of business.

With all the social data out there, you can find out a lot about people so that you could target your promotions much better. Why send a promoted tweet trying to sell something to me that I don’t like and for a reason that means nothing to me. I would not want a blackberry if you gave it to me free with £1000 cash. I would still want an iPhone.

This is how I think you should target your customers with offers:


If you knew what kind of job somebody has and what their family situation was, you could profile people as to potentially how much disposable income they have. A single female who is doesn’t have any kids, lives on their own, works in an investment bank and earn a half decent salary will not join your network because you give her a £10 off a handset or a couple of free music downloads. She may be more interested in being successful in her career. If you can help her achieve what she wants to achieve you will be viewed in a better way and she may be more likely to buy from you.

Suggested tweet

Find out how O2 has helped employees of investment bank work better <insert link>


This is not sending an offer because I am walking past your shop, that is so Starbucks.

You could figure out roughly where someone lives from a number of different public profiles I have. You could target people based on the fact that your network is very strong in their area or you may know that your competitor is weak in that area.

You could pick up on location based data from people checking in to places using foursquare or Facebook. You could also use the geo-tags attached to a tweet. From this information you could find out places that someone goes to regularly such as where they work. If you could tell they are going places where your competitors signal is weak and yours is strong, then you could inform them that you could help them make clearer calls when at work.

Suggested tweet

Suffering from poor reception on T-Mobile? Get full reception in your area on the O2


You can tell what people like (and sometimes dislike) on their profiles. This can be done either through seeing if some has clicked “like” on the Apple or Blackberry Facebook page or you can use sentiment analysis tools to figure out if someone has good or bad things to say about your phones/network by looking at their tweets/status updates

Suggested tweet

At O2 we love iPhones too, O2’s new #on&on tariff could be a perfect new home for you iPhone


Free music downloads or 10% off calls to my friends is not going to motivate me to do business with you. You will not breed loyal customers by offering a form of manipulation to join you such as discounts or freebies (more in this article). The people who join you will be only be with you till someone else comes along with a better freebie to entice them away from you. I think O2 priority moments is a good attempt but it focuses on getting discounts and tickets. You can get a similar location-based experience with foursquare which you don’t have to be an O2 customer to get. You need to understand what motivates people and how you can make them feel part of something they won’t get elsewhere. Share you values, share your believes and people who believe what you believe will want to do business with you

Suggested tweet

Let @O2 show you why we believe that social customer service is the best way to help our customers <insert hyperlink>


When I bought my iPhone a few years back I was talking on social networks about what should I buy because I trusted my friends opinions and not company adverts. You could find out who was talking about buying a phone 22-24 months ago and then you would have a good idea to see if they were in the market for a new phone.

Maybe you know who used to be a customer of yours and you could link their old customer record file to their social profile. So you know they left you 22-24 ago and that’s when you hit them with an offer to rejoin. You could maybe even pick up on the fact they were asking their friends about which phone to buy.

Suggested tweet

Contract run out soon? We would love you back as a customer here at O2 come say hi!


This offer has no relevance to me at all. That is the main motivation for me to sit down and write this blog about how bad it is. Although all the above points would offer more relevance, you could take it a step further by looking at people’s social graphs. If you knew whom out of my friends on Facebook I had a close friendship with and told me one of them had just joined O2 it might make me take more notice of the ad.

Suggested tweet

Your friend John Smith just joined O2 why dont you ask him why he joined us?


Companies such as O2 should be taking all of this kind of social data into consideration when trying to figure out how to market to people. At the moment you failed on so many levels, all of which you could have fixed if you knew how utilise social data.

All of the above tweets would have caught my eye but imagine if you could combine a few of the different attributes specifically for me?

Does your iPhone contract run out soon? See how O2 provides great social customer service <insert link>

That is a promoted tweet I would click on.

You are not alone. The majority of companies large and small dont get how to use social media properly. All they want to do is push generic or slightly targeted adverts down people’s necks. The social data is out there and so is the technology for you to change the way your industry works. So why with all the resources you have to play with are you not doing something which would have an amazing impact on the ROI of your marketing activities and could potentially change the way your industry operates?

Reader feedback?

What are you thought on promoted tweets? Do you think they might actually work if company seem to care what you actually want? How much more effective do you think social media marketing would be if companies used the information you share to provide better offers to you? Is it a step to far to dig around in your social graph to sell you what you actually want, when you want to buy it?

Other posts you may be interested in

Why complain using social media?

What is the future of Social Media? Part 2 – Retail

Other comments I found under the #blackberrysale I thought were worth adding to this post


Join the conversation


  1. Hi Chris,

    The vision you outline, with totally targeted, relevant and engaging promoted tweets and other social content is the same world I’d like to see. Social media, Twitter very much included, gives us great ways to engage more with our customers, including some of the promoted options, such as this. However, even with all the advances made, there still doesn’t exist perfect targeting. There is no way currently we could have the level of precision you describe above: i.e. even if we wanted to, we couldn’t have tailored that tweet to you in the ways you outline, because Twitter’s ad platform simply doesn’t have the options required for us to do so.

    I share the vision, although note not all consumers are as bought into this idea as you are – many have reservations about the concept of this degree of personalisation – but it’s Twitter you ought to provide feedback to.

    In summary to your summary, “failed” is a bit harsh, I’d say. Apologies for any inconvenience a promoted tweet about a Blackberry promotion caused.

    Alex Pearmain
    Head of PR & Social Media,
    O2 in the UK

    1. The reason why I said you failed and I still stand by that judgement is because your objective was to sell me a phone. I didn’t want to, and would never buy a blackberry therefore the tweet failed. I don’t mean to be harsh, I’m stating a fact. My original post explained in more depth why I think it failed so you could understand my logic and not dismiss me as a hater.

      I believe the concept of push advertising through social media is wrong. When marketing people look at social media as if it was a TV ad or newspaper ad, they are missing the real value that an organisation can get out of social media. It is not, and should not, be a one to many broadcast channel. I do not feel one social network (or their ad platform) will ever give you the kind of personalised approach in your vision. They rely on only the data their network holds and not things which are in your internal systems or on other social networks.

      You are right in saying that some (and probably most) people have not bought into this level of personalisation. I believe this is because most companies abuse information by only thinking about how they can use it to push more messages to them with little or no increase in relevance. If somebody clicks “like” on your Facebook page, if they do not know what information it enables you as a company to get from them it is an entirely different issue. It means (like most people) they don’t read the T&C’s on Facebook.

      If you or any other organisation had customers who trust you, and you told them what they would gain by sharing more personal information with your company, assuming they wanted to gain what was on offer, they would share more with you. The more they share, the more personal your service to them would be.

      For this to be successful you need:

      1. Your customers to trust you – which I would imagine you must be fairly good at doing already
      2. Figure out how you can demonstrate you would use that data to add value to their lives – something I can see little evidence off

      If you could ever get to the stage where people actually wanted more marketing from you, I am sure you would agree that would be amazing. I think companies (like you) should aim to imagine their customers buying their marketing communications. If they had that vision of providing real value that their customers would actually pay for, then they would be far more successful. A company would not tell the world about how amazing their products are or what they do. Instead, they would figure out how they can help educate and inform people about the industry, the buying process or how a mobile device can help them achieve what is important to them etc.

      I do not know anyone else doing it, but the data is out there and so is the technology to make this happen. It is not brain surgery, it is just profiling a customer based upon a bunch of different attributes and giving them a custom message. All it takes is one person, in one company, to share this same vision and want to investigate how they could make it work. Not only would this change their company but it would change their industry and potentially how the rest of the world uses social media. If it is not you then it will be someone in another industry or maybe even one of your competitors.

      I guess initially the concept wouldn’t scale to the size of your customer base. Instead of targeting millions, you could pilot the idea on a hundred or a thousand people. Although it would probably cost more to execute, I would be amazed if it did not show you a significantly better ROI than any other marketing activity.

      If you could do it, would you actually stand up and be the first one to try?

  2. On the ‘failure’ point – it’s difficult for me to comment on whether or not you’d ever buy a Blackberry. as you’re clearly better placed to outline your views! I’d note there was a time that people swore they’d never buy an HTC, before they became one of the premium handset manufacturers. As a wider point – and it’s one common across posts about social media, I don’t think use of the word ‘failure’ is really all that helpful. Actually (as is apparent from your comment above) you’re aiming to make a constructive point about brand engagement through social media, and optimisation of it. Framing it as ‘failure’ as a dramatical narrative tactic doesn’t do the ideas justice, nor does it do us justice.

    On the wider point regarding use of customer data and opt-in marketing via socila media: I don’t think the world you’re outlining is so far away. I don’t think there’s a brand who has totally achieved it, but I feel most top brands are doing elements of it (I like to look for the positives in good practice out there – it’s a more constructive route to long-term industry progress). I’d say every time a customer likes or follows on Facebook or Twitter, they’re inherently doing what you propose: opting in to have a deeper relationship with that brand. If I pick out examples from our own work – we have millions of views and hundreds of thousands of comments on O2 Guru YouTube clips, where we provide the sort of wider, contextual customer advice you suggest above.

    There’s undoubtedly more we, and every brand, can and will do. But the future’s here now – and the more we emphasise the positives which we admire, the more real that future becomes.

    1. I had never heard of the O2 Guru site but having checked it out, it looks really good. So much so that I will use you as a case study as to someone who has done something really well in social media when speaking at events and in training sessions I run. I might even write another blog about how good it is 😉

      I feel there is a great deal of potential for organisations to make leaps and bounds in this personalising the way they communicate through social media to help them better achieve their business goals. It will require one organisation to step up to be first and push the boundaries of what is possible but I honestly don’t think it is that difficult to achieve. It will take some work but I think the end result is well worth it. It could revolutionise the way the world uses social media.

      I thank you for your honest and open response. I would be happy to carry on the conversation offline if you wish.

  3. Quite funny that the giffgaff brand you praise runs on the O2 network ;o)

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