The use of Twitter in branding: the case of the University of the Free State
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Twitter is shaping brand communication globally at a mere 140 characters a time. Although Twitter is seen as a social media platform with little impact, the number of followers that can be attained “tweet” another story. This article focuses on the way in which marketers can utilise this social media platform to promote their brand image by improving their brand’s online presence. By investigating the branding strategies and characteristics of an Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) strategy, and more specifically the 5R model proposed by Schultz (2000), a framework was created to analyse social media messages. This framework was employed within a qualitative research approach to analyse all the Twitter posts of the University of the Free State (UFS) between 1 January 2013 and 31 July 2013. This was done to determine how the UFS made use of its Twitter profile to enhance the perceptions about its brand. The results underlined the importance of IMC characteristics in social media messages for the messages to contribute to the overall brand image of the institution. Furthermore, the results indicated that in order for a brand to have a successful online presence, the marketers should embrace technology and align all messages with specific objectives. When each online brand message contains an IMC characteristic, a core value of the institution and a motivational objective, there are no boundaries for how far the “little blue bird” can take the brand.