By Lois Geller, President of Lois Geller Marketing Group
Does your company have a @tweetstar? Some do, some don’t. I’m sure when you have a good one, it matters.
A lot of companies use Twitter well. Dell, The New York Times, E!, and Whole Foods are four of the top dozen tweeting companies. They use Twitter differently. For some, it’s almost an old school call center for answering questions from customers and prospects. Others just broadcast sales, product news, or links to product news. (In the case of E! and the NYT, it’s just news, period.)
Whether their tweets engage, inform, or entice, the big players have managed to grow their followers. For example, the NYT has more than two million. Looking a little deeper into the twittersphere, I’ve learned you have to have clear objectives here.
Take Dell, which to me, is confusing. If you go to Dell.com/Twitter, you’ll see that the company has a lot of Twitter sites. What you’d think is its main one, @Dell, has less than 4,000 followers. Dell’s big site is @DellOutlet, with more than 1.5 million followers. @DellOutlet is run by Elise Osborn, but her own Twitter site, @EliseAtDell, has less than 100 followers. @DellOutlet tweets deals, and a million and a half people want to hear about them. Elise answers questions on her own site, but she doesn’t seem to get a lot of them. In other words, Dell doesn’t care about engaging customers. Its Twitter focus is moving merchandise with big deals and doing it through a fictional “outlet,” which keeps the Canal Street aspect of the business slightly removed from the main brand. There seems to be no star power here. Just deals. It’s basically a commercial delivered via Twitter.
On the other hand, Ford does have a Twitter star. I’m not sure where Ford’s Scott Monty fits in the upper echelon of tweeting, but he does a great job. @Ford and @ScottMonty (both run by Scott) have about the same number of follwers—between 40,000 and 50,000. Scott engages customers and prospects beautifully and has much higher numbers than Dell on one side of the ledger and much lower numbers on the other side. @ScottMonty helped me when both Ford dealers in our neighborhood closed and @GeezerRepublic wanted to buy an Explorer. I tweeted, Scott responded, and Mike got the car.
I was thinking about all this last week just after a mini-epiphany about how companies use—or don’t use—Twitter to react to customers. It started in the middle of a conference call when a client said our phones made us sound like we were submerged under water. We called AT&T, and the rep said there were phone problems in the building. But we have VoIP service, so I checked with my neighbors in the next office, and they said they used Comcast with no problems. I tweeted about it, but neither AT&T nor Comcast responded.
Comcast is even more confusing than Dell. Most of Comcast’s tweeting happens on its @ComcastCares account. I wasn’t surprised about AT&T (apparently the company doesn’t even have a Twitter account), but Comcast’s lack of response to my ranting amazed me. A few years ago, I had a cable problem, and when I tweeted about it, Frank Eliason of @ComcastCares responded quickly, and someone magically appeared to help with installing my new TV. I’ve heard that Frank has moved on to Citigroup, and he had been Comcast’s Twitter star (at least for me).
So what happens when you lose your star, your spokesperson? Years ago, we were involved with Sarah Ferguson on the Weight Watchers business, but when Sarah left, nobody seemed to care. It’s different in social media, because the stars are engaged with people, and they become “friends.” I wonder if companies even know that? For instance, when @JohnAByrne left Businessweek, I stopped subscribing.
Just a guess, but if you’re thinking of the Twitter star approach, maybe it’d be a good idea to create a fictional persona and have different people do the tweeting, sort of like Reader’s Digest’s fictional Carolyn Davis used to do in print. Or maybe that wouldn’t be authentic. What do you think?