JAKARTA - In Indonesia's capital Jakarta, a buzzer is not an alarm or a bell, but someone with a Twitter account and more than 2,000 followers who is paid to tweet.
Jakarta is the world's tweet capital and advertisers eager to reach the under-30 crowd are paying popular Twitter users to spread their word through social media, starting at about US$21 (S$27) per tweet.
While celebrity endorsements via Twitter are common worldwide, Indonesia is unusual because advertisers are paying the Average Joes too.
These Twitter "buzzers" send short messages promoting brands or products to their followers, usually during rush hour, 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., when Jakarta's notorious traffic jams create a captive audience with time to scan their mobile phones.
Jakarta has more Twitter users than any other city In the world, according to Semiocast, a social media market researcher, and Indonesia is home to the world's fourth-largest population, with half the people under 30. All ingredients for a social media marketer's dream.
"Indonesians love to chat. We love to share. We are community driven as a culture. For us it's very easy to adopt social media because it is a channel through which we can express our opinions," said Nanda Ivens, chief operating officer at XM Gravity Indonesia, a digital marketing unit of London-listed advertising giant WPP Group.
For advertisers, using Twitter buzzers is a way to personalize the pitch, connecting someone who may have a special interest in a product with like-minded potential customers. A local photography buff, for example, would be a good target for a camera company.
An effective social media campaign will generate real conversations and genuine endorsements, said Thomas Crampton, Hong Kong-based social media director at advertising firm Ogilvy. But one issue with paid buzzers is that they may be seen as endorsing something only for the money.
"It's not going to be transparent to the people reading the Twitter feed whether they're being paid, and that's not very honest," said Crampton.
"The followers will see that this guy is for sale. It's really like talking to a friend. If your friend is being paid to tell you something then a) you wouldn't consider that person your friend and b) you're not going to believe them."