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Does Your Company Need a Dedicated Tweeter?

A new study says that big companies just don't get Twitter (PDF file). Of course they don't: They're not paying anyone to get it.


The study, performed by Weber Shandwick, says that only about three-quarters of Fortune 100 companies have Twitter accounts, and of those, many were either inactive or mere placeholders to fend off name-squatting. Few of the companies were following Twitter "best practices," says WS—that is, retweeting pertinent messages, @replying, and using hashtags to mark topical tweets. Most corporate accounts had fewer than 500 followers, and fewer than 500 tweets.


But look at the "account purpose" question in the study, pictured above. It found that many corporate Twitter accounts exist to promulgate "brand awareness." Huh? If you're already a Fortune 100 company, "brand awareness" is probably not your biggest problem. Another big raison d'etre was "news feed." As if customers care about the minutiae of your products.

Look at the people who are most popular on Twitter; let's take Ashton Kutcher as an example, with three million followers. People listen because he doesn't tweet for "brand awareness." He tweets because he likes tweeting. (Below, a typical Ashton tweet.)

Ashton tweet

Ashton is just as much a brand as Coca-Cola or J&J. When I worked at Red Bull, we were constantly taught about the company "personality." Who is this "Red Bull" guy and what would he do at parties? On New Years'? What does he listen to? Where does he live?

To succeed on Twitter, I'd bet that companies need do no more than ask those questions—and then hire that person to tweet about anything but brand awareness and product news. Twitter is so popular because it's so personal and so direct; give one person the keys to your brand's castle, and they'll go out and connect. But don't try to drag the whole board-room table.

That said, don't feel bad if your company hasn't yet found that person. It was big news when Twitter itself hired an outsider who got Twitter.

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  • Daniel Honigman

    Funny -- when I started Colonel Tribune, I did the same thing. The persona we ended up developing was very granular, but it shaped our efforts for months -- and now years -- to come!

  • Kelly Wells

    Social media venues are being taken advantage of. My company has a twitter but its pretty self-explanatory as to why: to direct our followers to our facebook page. We don't sell anything, we don't market anything as we are a service company; our intentions are to provide a venue where people can comment on ideas, things that impact them, and share their thoughts with a group of equally interested people.
    I feel recently facebook, twitter and the other countless arenas are trying to appear harmless but infiltrate to gain better ratings, have a high headcount, or to add the person to an endless list of collected e-mails. What once was a site to share pictures, thoughts and personality has transformed into a ugly, stranger luring you into the back of his van with promises of candy type connotation. And I'm not alone. With increased popularity come increased predators ( I use this term very loosely) looking for the next best strategy to utilize the trend.

    Companies interested in this really should analyze the motive behind their registration. It can benefit if intentions are truly genuine but can, in the end, scare those who have been taken advantage of. A good thing can quickly go sour.

  • Jim Mitchem

    hahaha - yes, where's the 'share on Twitter' button (re: Danya). Also, these companies need to consider hiring outsiders who both 'get' Twitter, but also who are experts in mass mobilization - copywriters. See this for details:

  • George Tucker

    At Crestron Electronics we take an approach which is a combination of the suggestions Amybeth details. We have a dedicated person (me) who runs the main Twitter/Facebook presence and a number of 'satellite' accounts with the company name and their first name. Most of us are all multi-year veterans of the industry and the company but we do have a few first year people also in the loop.

    Our general framework is loosely based on the tenets of the Cluetrain Manifesto in that we are there to be part of the discussion. Our content is a mix of general conversation, tech help and (based on our followers request) software updates and general press info – in effect ‘pushing’ information (forgive the old school nomenclature).

    Having a central social media person helps to provide an overall consistent voice without excluding others who want to contribute.

  • ResearchGoddess

    I wonder if individual user accounts who tweet on behalf of these companies were taken into consideration, or if the only Twitter accounts that were considered were officially endorsed accounts, created by the companies themselves. I for one know that many companies have employees who represent them, on a rather official basis, but they aren't 'branded' as a company account because the companies realize the need for personalization of their Twitter presence.

    Furthermore, each company is going to have a different purpose for using Twitter. Some perhaps don't need/want to engage there. Anyone who understands marketing and social media strategy knows that the shoe doesn't fit everyone in the same way. I see that the study discusses that briefly.

    As to the original question of this post, I don't think a dedicated "tweeter" could/should be a full-time job at this point. It should be part of many people's jobs. I think it's better to ask people who understand your company (i.e. NOT a brand-new intern) to participate in some degree. This doesn't have to (and shouldn't, in my opinion) rest solely with one internal team or individual. It should be a collaborate effort - after all, if the purpose of a company being on Twitter is to engage, shouldn't the entire company be represented, not just its marketers?

  • Dayna Steele

    Nice article but where's the button to share on Twitter? Kind of ironic.