Preparing For The Web Factor

Christmas is undoubtedly one of the busiest online seasons of the year. With more brands looking at including celebrities in their holiday campaigns to gain instant recognition and create an online buzz, ensuring that your website can cope with peaks in demand is essential.

The value of celebrities

Celebrity endorsement for brands and products remains a popular way to gain instant recognition and generate buzz. If you’ve got a celebrity talking positively about your company or products in the public eye, the benefits can be huge. What’s more, with so many celebrities active on social networking sites such as Twitter, the opportunity for brands to reach a wide audience is massive.

At the same time, however, brands need to think carefully about how they use celebrities to market goods and services. For instance, if a celebrity suddenly attracts negative headlines this focus can easily be directed towards the company. The online activity of celebrities can also create challenges, which is why marketers today need to keep a close eye on what celebrities are up to online.

The impact of celebrity endorsement

The challenges celebrities create for brands in the online environment concerns the spikes in web traffic. When teen pop sensation Justin Bieber linked to a news story about a charity campaign on Twitter, his 5.2 million followers caused the website of a regional radio station to crash. Stephen Fry, one of the most popular UK celebrities on Twitter, regularly asks that any charity he tweets about has the infrastructure in place to cope with peaks in demand.

Although this sort of issue can be difficult to plan for, brands that actively seek the involvement of celebrities for marketing campaigns can plan for peaks in web traffic. Stephen Fry, widely regarded as the ‘king of Twitter’, provides organisations with a warning to this effect on his website. On the site it states: ‘If you wish to asked Stephen to Tweet about a charity or special event which points to your/a website, it must be capable of taking 1,200+ calls per second to the website’s server in order to be able to stay live once Stephen’s tweeted.’

Preparing for peaks

To cope with such high levels of traffic, it’s crucial marketers prioritise the issue of web traffic management and talk regularly with their IT teams. If a site can’t cope with a large or sudden peak in online demand, the negative impact on sales and brand reputation can be huge. This is especially true in today’s environment as consumers won’t think twice about going to a competitor if the service they receive isn’t up to scratch. The impact on reputation can be also be long-lasting as consumers today are very active online, unafraid to voice their frustrations in a public environment.

For example, when Topshop and Topman recently launched its mid-season sale, the weight of visitors promptly crashed both websites. Within minutes, the brand suffered from a deluge of backlash on Twitter with individuals criticising the clothing retailer for being unprepared.

It’s good to talk

Speaking with IT teams more regularly sounds like an obvious action for marketers keen to tackle the issue of traffic management, but it’s surprising how few do. In many cases, campaigns are launched online without consultation with IT teams. A sudden peak in traffic as the result of a promotion can mean that the website is unable to cope, leaving customers frustrated. By alerting IT teams about marketing plans and giving as much notice as possible, means IT can ensure the right steps are taken back-of-house to prevent sites from collapsing under the weight of demand.

Downtime, no matter how long it lasts for, is unacceptable for brands of all sizes. Although most marketers know this, when it comes to launching campaigns online or using celebrities to endorse products, many fail to factor web traffic management into their planning. It’s vital that marketing and IT teams work together to ensure campaigns can cope with demands. Celebrity endorsements are great in helping create a huge amount of buzz but if organisations are to translate that buzz into sales, they must talk more to IT teams and prioritise web traffic.

Owen Garrett joined Zeus in 1999 initially as a member of the software development team. Owen has a strong track record in technology development and commercialisation and is a recognised Cloud evangelist speaker at key industry events. Owen studied Mathematics at Cambridge University, followed by Cambridge's Postgraduate Diploma in Computer Science. He is joint author of a number of patents relating to application delivery.