Five steps to a successful corporate Twitter presence

08 December 2008

As Twitter gathers pace, we are seeing more use of the micro-blogging community by companies and brands. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but like blogging that went before they will come unstuck if they don’t take the time to understand the platform before just wading in.

First let me state my opinion about companies and brands using Twitter – or any social media for that matter. The “screen name” you use says a lot. On Twitter I see an increasing number of accounts that are identifiable only as a company or brand name, rather than an individual. Personally, I’m not a fan of this. My logic goes something like this:

  • For me, social media is about human interaction.
  • People are human. Brands and companies are not.
  • The people who work for those brands and companies are.
  • I would prefer to interact with real people using their real names than anonymous company or brand names.
  • I would rather someone use their real name and include their brand/company in a profile than the other way round.

I accept that this is a personal point of view. Yours may differ. But companies need to tread carefully.

With this in mind, and appreciating that some companies will want to use brand, company and department names for their Twitter account – my definition of a corporate Twitter account, here is a suggested five steps etiquette guide for them:

  1. Listen. It’s easy to set up and subscribe to a search of your brand or company name.
  2. Add value. Provide useful content for those that choose to follow you.
  3. Only follow when followed or mentioned. Having an anonymous entity follow you is a bit like receiving spam – you don’t know who it is or why you’re getting it. If your following:followers ratio is more than 2:1 then you are probably being a bit desperate.
  4. Reply. Respond to every tweet directed at you.
  5. Use replies rather than direct messages. Be transparent about what you’re saying to others on Twitter.

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14 Responses to “Five steps to a successful corporate Twitter presence”

  1. Big Marketing For You » Blog Archive » Marketing Technology : Five steps to a successful corporate …

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  3. Trevor

    Well Said! I think it’s important to encourage reprsentatives of companies and brands online, so helpful lists like this will serve them well. Keep it up.

  4. mcmilker

    I have to agree that more and more corporations are using Twitter and making it a personal experience is important. I encourage my clients to indicate who is managing the Twitter account in the bio section – as simple  Jane and Justin Tweeting for xyz company.

    I disagree though regarding who to follow. I do think a company should do some research on the Tweople most likely to be interested in their tweets. In general, corporations should look at their Twitter accounts first and foremost as a customer service vehicle – by following those who might welcome your tweets, a company presents itself as customer focused.

    That said, I do agree that it’s important to start slow and follow a few people at a time and get followers slowly…it takes some time to find your "corporate voice" on twitter.

  5. Niall Cook

    I agree. Do some research. But for a "corporate account" (see my definition) surely only actively follow people who follow you or mention your company or brand. Just because I mention MP3 players doesn’t mean I’m open to being followed by any company who makes them.

  6. Joe Gannon

    I think that a successful strategy requires more than just jumping in. You first need to determine what information you can present, then in how it is best used. Then, you need to figure out how should it be communicated and by whom.  I agree with the comments, but also feel that some companies can get away with a general corporate account. To me, it depends on the type of information you’re presenting. While it wouldn’t make sense for a customer service profile, in other cases it seems that it would be ok.

  7. Ruth Seeley

    And conversely, individuals who have 2000 followers and are only following 145 people themselves have pretty much missed the point of Twitter. Granted that example is a BBC journalist who’s obviously used to having an audience. Old habits die hard.

  8. Niall Cook

    Well made point, Ruth. Journalists and "slebs" definitely fall into this category, although sometimes you can’t actually help how many people follow you.

  9. Dave Page

    Great post, thanks!

  10. Ryder Interactive » Five Steps to a Successful Corporate Twitter Presence

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  11. Gaylene

    Very useful Niall, thanks. I think a perfect example to support your argument and an example of an alternative route is Comcast’s execution on Twitter.

    As bad as a reputation they may have in terms of customer support, they created a twitter account called twitter/comcastcares. Frank, being the individual and customer support representative, is respected by most tweeters (not all of course) as he promptly responds to any nuances tweeters may be having with the service provider. Although not a personal name as you suggest, he still has created individuality behind comcast cares.

    So when we speak of Frank, we know who we’re talking about which gives the brand more personality, voice and listening ear to its consumers, a great form of engagement.

  12. Barb Chamberlain

    Generally good advice–not just for corporate or branded accounts but also for individuals getting started on Twitter.

    If you’re on Twitter, it’s like any other communications effort–it’s because you have a goal or reason for being there (in the context of corporate presence). With that in mind, I’d refine your advice on following a bit.

    Twitter is a cocktail party where most of the people are strangers, and you’d like to meet some of them. If you wait for them to come up to you, you’ll nurse your drink alone in the corner for a while and then go home and say it was a lousy party.

    I’ve been tracking what I’ve done on Twitter with the @WSUSpokane account I established for my relatively new, specialty campus of Washington State University and can provide detail for those who are interested. Find me @BarbChamberlain, or Google & get my email.

    Brief list of takeaways:

    - Strategic following–not spammy, desperate following or robotlike behavior–can help you become part of a community and get followed back. For a new brand in particular, and for small entities, if you wait for people to mention you there will never be anyone to follow.

    - Introducing yourself with an @ message to someone you’ve selected to follow is the first step in establishing a dialogue, which is one of the points of being there.

    - One of the ways to add value, as you so rightly point out is essential, is to retweet the content of others. That means you need to follow them to see it.

    I would add two additional points to your recommendations:

    - Even if you want to use the personal name approach for corporate representatives, grab the Twitter handle(s) that represent your brand so someone else doesn’t create a fake "you."

    - If you’re tweeting from a corporate name account, be human (and appropriate). Interact with the real humans behind the accounts you’re following/followed by. If it’s all just you doing one-way broadcasting, they’ll unfollow.


  13. Collective Conversation » Marketing Technology » Blog Archive » Twitter: The New Mobile Marketing

    [...] blog has been critical in the past of companies and celebrities tripping over themselves – and their virtual tongues – to climb aboard the Twitter [...]

  14. Sandeep Channa

    Good write up Niall. Social Media is widely used to spread the product & services at almost the hasty speed with no patience. I do agree with you Niall, especially with the point “I would prefer to interact with real people using their real names than anonymous company or brand names”. Transparency is the need of doing business in a better way.

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