I was recently interviewed by Marketing Mag’s Kristin Laird for the publication’s “Very Necessary Twitter Guide”. As it was an email interview, I was able to lean on my colleagues Marty Yaskowich and Nik Badminton for their thoughts. The Q+A is below but you can read the full and final version here:
The usual caveats about disclosure apply – there are plenty of client and client competitive examples here.
Question: Is Twitter more than a reactive tool (dealing with consumer complaints)?
Answer: I see Twitter as a channel rather than a tool – it can be bent to whatever use brands want. Because of the immediacy of twitter, it does tend to see a lot of knee jerk reactions and content from consumers. Organisations have to make a decision how they want to deal with these reactions or if they want to lead the conversation around their brand. Twitter is also a tool to gain better visibility on online search. Bing and Twitter have recently resigned their partnership and indicated that more collaborative approaches to search by combining the two will be coming.
Q: Can Twitter be used as a brand building tool? Why or why not? And how?
A: The way the platform has been built and used, it lends itself to personal branding and as a result, brands with defined personalities (ex @BlackBerry), personalities behind the brand (ex @Zappos) or personalities within campaigns (my personal favourites are @TheKevinButler for Playstation or @SaltysLife for Knorr) have been the most successful, from a “branding” perspective. I’m unaware of a brand that has been built purely on twitter…but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t, can’t or won’t be done.
Q: What Canadian brands are using Twitter right? Can you give a specific example?
A: Without knowing the strategy behind the execution, it’s hard to say. That said I think @McD_Canada has done a fantastic job, and has received deserved kudos, of continuing to engage its user base at scale. I’m not being obsequious when I say that that @marketing_mag has done a phenomenal job of really speaking to a niche audience while providing valuable content.
Q: Who should manage a brand’s Twitter account – third party community managers, agency partners, or in-house communications/marketing team? And why?
A: The answer that no-one likes is that it depends. It depends on the brand, the in-house resources, the agency and its competencies. Budget comes in here as well – to do twitter right can take considerable resources. Speaking from an agency perspective, some of our clients want to take this in-house and use us as strategic resources, while others ask us to take on everything from strategy to content creation to engagement with consumers…within certain pre-agreed parameters and supported by the necessary response protocols and escalation procedures.
Q: What are the common mistakes brands make on Twitter?
- Looking at twitter as a broadcast channel, being selfish and only sharing its own content
- Not having a clearly defined vision of where twitter fits within the overall marketing activity – the platform doesn’t help this though. The measurement tools for those using the basic account are very weak so it is easy to flounder with no clear direction or measures of success beyond followers, clicks and “engagement”. But for our clients participating in the beta, we have been able to tightly focus on a particular demographic/mindset/interest and show how our followers are the right followers and we’re not just collecting followers for its own sake.
- Not providing the platform with the correct funding either in terms of time or media (see above)
- Seeing Twitter as a standalone as opposed to being a component of the overall Paid, Owned and Earned media ecosystem. It does not stand alone and still needs to be planned in alignment with marketing activities such as the digital strategy, PR, web-site updates and other social media outreach activities such as Facebook or blogging etc
Q: Do consumers expect too much from a brand’s Twitter feed? They expect an answer too quickly, or that any problem can be solved by complaining about the brand openly.
A: There are a lot of myths and misconceptions around using twitter for customer service that marketers hear and can be easily seduced by. I strongly believe that brands using twitter to facilitate customer service has encouraged consumers to “shout” for help, rather than using formal customer service channels. In her book, “Open Leadership”, Charlene Li looks at the famous Twelpforce case study, from Best Buy, but what most people don’t realise about this case is that the business problem was identified first, then came the solution and twitter just happened to be the facilitation channel. The “idea” was never to use twitter as a customer service tool, it was to use the latent time of the thousands of best buy employees to better serve their customers and answer questions or solve problems.
For a pitch, my team looked at the consumer sentiment of a well-known brand that uses twitter for customer service. We saw that the volume of conversation around the brand had increased since they started this initiative, but so had the negative sentiment – this brand had trained its customers to shout about any negative issues.
Q: Give three tips on how to manage a corporate Twitter account.
- Know your objectives and strategy – and more importantly how they fit in with the business objectives and culture. If it’s appropriate, give your employees permission to engage on Twitter without constraining them too heavily. They are your people, they epitomise your brand and can be your greatest salespeople
- Know your audience – and, more importantly what content they want to see. Hint: it’s not just your content
- To paraphrase the British army adage: no plan survives contact with the consumer