Levin has tweeted for Adidas, IKEA, Kit Kat, MoneySupermarket and L’Oreal. A tweeting gun-for-hire, he is in huge demand in London, and has a growing base of international corporate clients.
At 6.15pm, next Wednesday, Sep 11, in Vertigo, Cork County Hall, he kicks off Network Cork’s autumn schedule, by discussing the topic ‘Social Media: Risky Business’. Levin was a big hit at the Cork Meets networking forum in April. Network Cork represents business women in the region. As evidenced by Levin’s return to Cork, business people are keenly interested to hear his views on building a profile on social media, and the role entertainment plays in the serious business of, well, business.
Levin tweeted to prominence with a spoof account for a pub in east London, @the_dolphin_pub. His tweets for TV shows, such as The BRITs, saw him named Time Out’s ‘favourite London tweeter’. He also tweeted for BBC’s The Voice (@BBCTheVoiceUK), breaking BBC records for followers and engagement. He has had similar success for The Apprentice (@bbcapprentice).
Levin advises that companies adopt two identities for social-network interaction — one serious, corporate tone of voice for customer queries; and one entertaining voice for fun and banter. Tesco, for instance, has adopted two such tones of voice.
“It is all about engagement,” says Levin, whose Twitter identity is @davidlevin123, but who mostly works under assumed corporate tags. “You have to react fast on Twitter. As you only have 140 characters for your message, there is an onus on choosing, and using, your words carefully.
“Twitter lends itself to word play. Puns work well. You need something that jumps out at people. Socially, this medium is a microcosm of real life, and you get all the extremes, from negative people to positive people.
“You go from people who just slag off celebrities, who can be a bit annoying, to people who you are more likely to like, people you’d probably find interesting in real life. That’s a lot in just a few words, and people’s attention spans are so brief.
“I like getting into different personas. I am a writer by trade, and I always enjoyed writing scripts for TV. It doesn’t take long to get into each new voice. I don’t find it hard, once you set the tone. The hardest bit is establishing the tone. Once you have set the template, it is easier to continue.”
Like a sped-up version of life, social-media users quickly decide whether they like or dislike your character. Levin says this instant like/dislike social interaction is guided by tone of voice.
Speed of response also matters. He cites Oreo’s quick reaction to the lights going out during the Superbowl. Oreo instantly reminded sports fans they could still dunk their biscuits in the dark. That tweet attracted thousands of re-tweets.
What are his current, top-five hit corporate brands? @WStonesOxfordSt, a funny, clever account for Waterstones bookstore; @Skittles, a surreal and futuristic approach to tweeting; @Oreo, for its speed of reaction to current events; @O2, which has enjoyed great success replying to customer enquiries with a funny tone of voice; and @innocentdrinks, an early and very successful entrant to corporate social media.
Word-play games and quizzes work well in social media. By way of an example of successful word play, Levin cites the #fishmovies game started by one London fishmonger. People’s suggestions for fish-related movies included titles such as The Codfather, Herring Potter, and Eel Magnolias.
A professional creative writer, having worked in TV and other media, Levin enjoys social media’s fast-paced battles of wit. Along with his liking for puns, he also brings a keen ability to spin the social discourse in a way that draws people towards his corporate clients, offering views on X Factor, or other topics, that give his clients a positive sheen.
For some clients, Levin adopts spoof characters. Given his scriptwriting background, it is not surprising that he enjoys role play and is good at adopting characters. People realise that he is a character, ‘acting’ on behalf of a corporate entity. Social media is playtime, not work time. People often want a sense of downtime, even while the discussion is not focused on having a laugh.
Levin says: “Some people did not like IKEA’s recent advertising, featuring a doll’s house. They said they were frightened by the dolls. I did a Twitter campaign in the character of one of the dolls, talking to people in character.
“The response from people who had been afraid was very good, and the campaign was very positive. The people were happy to have a response from IKEA. They can see that the account was paid for by IKEA, but they were talking to me. People like to follow people.
“Of course, sometimes you want to complain about a product. Customer service is a different function, requiring a different tone of voice, but people still want to engage with the same account.
“You have to know the right ways to separate customer service from using Twitter as an entertainment tool. The brands that get that right are doing very well on Twitter. I think you can do that through your tone of voice; one for customer service, and one for general banter.”
People who attend next Wednesday’s Network Cork event in County Hall will also engage in a Q&A after Levin’s talk, discussing how best social media can be used as a business tool.
Network Cork is supported by Cork City and South Cork enterprise boards. Anton Savage is chairing. Local panellists include Laya Healthcare’s digital brand manager, Doreen O’Mahony, prolific B2B blogger, Greg Canty, Network Cork PRO and Essential French founder, Natasha Lynch, and Cork City FC’s Niamh O’Mahony.
The event is free of charge to Network Cork members, €25 for non-members.