corporate microblogging on Twitter

by Urs E. Gattiker on 2008/12/15 · 13 comments 15,808 views

in checklists,Twitter

    Why should people follow a corporate blog or what is tweeting for companies 101? It is like the old saying about wheat and chaff: with a lot of followers come a lot of hecklers. In turn, having specific standards and understanding better what works well helps weed out the worst.
    This post addresses some characteristics of corporate Twitter account from Dell, ComcastCares, Tyson Foods and so forth.

Microblogging – also called microsharing has become ever more popular thanks to Twitter and the many Twitter tools that help one make better use of this communication tool. We have addressed this elsewhere like:

Twitter – what works what fails

Return on engagement – Twitter for social media experts – benchmarking with My.ComMetrics.com

Here we are particularly interested in finding a better on what distinguishes a corporate Twitter account from a business or personal type of account.

Louis Gray did a survey amongst Twitter users (about 50 respondent online to one question – select your primary reason for using Twitter). Findings revealed that half of the respondents answered for social network or communicating with friends. However, interesting to us is that just about half used it as part of their job, monitor what others are doing and collecting information.

And while only 1 respondent admitted to use it for a brand, the survey did not address the self-branding issue (i.e. many use it to self-brand, of course) or getting brandchecked for that matter.

what is a corporate Twitter account?
Like we have done for corporate blogs, a definition must be given for a corporate Twitter or microblogging account. We list a few (do you know of a few more for FT Global 500 or Fortune 500 companies, please leave a comment) below:

Direct2Dell – pendent to blog – about Dell services, customers, etc.
DellShares – pendent to blog – investor relations, etc.
DellHomeOffers – get the latest deals, offers, rebates for a limited time only
TysonFoods – pendent to blog – corporate social responsibility – foodbank, etc.

Twitter account uses corporate name
Direct2Dell.com Direct2Dell (about products, happenings, feedback) or  MyComMetrics MyComMetrics (users, get feedback, ideas) are corporate Twitter accounts that provide information.

Tyson FoodsTyson Foods is an example that illustrates a corporate Twitter account whereby the company is supporting its hunger relief campaign with its microblogging efforts.

While the focus is quite different for each of these examples, the corporate name features prominently. Similar to a CEO blog, Twitter accounts can also be used by top management to tweet on behalf of the organization.

For instance, ComMetrics Commetics or Frank Eliason ComcastCares – the face behind the Twitterfeed (see images to the left) -both tweet on behalf of their employers.

In short, using the corporate name and keeping copyright with the company seems standard for corporate Twitter accounts.

However, there are many people using Twitter for professional or business purposes. Their tweets may mention the employer and the corporate brand. Nonetheless, the Twitter account is her or his own, as these examples illustrate. These business Twitterers provide great tweets for many people on business related matters:

Jean Russell/Nurture Jeremiah Robert Scoble Tamar Weinberg

Twitter profile – bio links to corporate website.
Besides using the corporate name/brand for the Twitter account and the copyright being owned by the organization, a corporate Twitterfeed is usually linked to a corporate website.

For all the many Dell examples one can find on Twitter, each Twitter account links to its corporate weblog.

Hence, the microblog extends the blog’s voice or vice versa if you wish.

Consistency and volume
Usually, corporate Twitter acounts do not send out tweets during weekends. Below shows you three Dell Twitter accounts and Tyson Foods’ Twitter efforts.

To the left you have DellHomeOffers that provides clients in the U.S. only with special offers. Most times, a tweet gives one a link to a special offer valid for a limited period only.

As the graphic shows for the period of August through November, few tweets are sent to followers each month. However, tweets are limited to sales information nothing else. Hence, very focused and narrow type of tweet content. Accordingly, unless you are in the market for a new product from Dell, this feed might not interest you very much. If you are in the market, however, this tweet can help you save you a few dollars for sure.

The feed to the right – DellShares – is for people interested in the firm’s share price. Of course this means investors and analysts.

All tweets and their content focus on issues of relevance to investors, analysts and shareholders.

DellShare provides maybe one tweet or less each week throughout the month as the graph to the upper right shows.  

To the lower left you have another Dell Twitter account. Dell2Dell has about 1 tweet every work day. It is usually quiet on weekends as are the other two Twitter accounts shown above.

So in comparison to Dell, Tyson Foods (see lower right side) has a few more tweets throughout the month. It also supplies its followers with tweets during weekends.

There are other things that make the Tyson Foods Twitterfeed a bit different from those offered by Dell.  The Tyson Foods Twitter account focuses on an issue that is not directly linked to the company itself – namely, fighting hunger.

Twittertweets focus on THE corporate social responsibility issue Tyson Foods has chosen to pursue and be associated with. This is an engaging matter. Helping people not go hungry during an economic crisis and, as importantly, is of interest to many more people than just those looking for the next best bargain available in Tyson Foods stores.

Corporate Twitter accounts – social relationships versus broadcasting
Following the above reasoning, the engagement level with the Tyson Food blog seems quite high. It has quite a few messages starting or containing somewhere an @username. These are replies to tweets followers have sent in.

Accordingly, all other things being equal – corporate Twitter accounts tend to send out fewer @username replies than other accounts. Except for the case of Tyson Foods mentioned above, all Dell Twitter accounts rarely if ever send out replies. So Dell uses its Twitter accounts to provide followers with information about its products or the corporation. Some would label this classical broadcasting – one way communication. Nothing wrong with that since this is what subscribers expected and got. Nevertheless, building social relationships is something different but can be done nicely as Tyson Foods illustrates.

Followers versus Follwing
As illustrated by Dell Twitter accounts, corporate Twitterers tend to follow fewer people than follow them. In some cases this may be extreme (see Dell Norway following 0 – screenshot earlier to the right). Again, Tyson Foods is a bit different in that it follows more people than follow Tyson Foods. Nevertheless, this is more of an exception than the rule with corporate Twitter accounts it seems.

Some Twitter users even state that they choose not to follow those that:

“… Follow way more people than follow them (this seems spammy, or at the least, desperate)…”

There seems to be no fast and simple rule with corporate Twitterers. Some may follow few people (see Dell) and others follow many (e.g., Tyson Foods) but rarely if ever more than follow them.

Many corporate Twitter accounts – not Dell for sure – have automatic follow in place, whereby anybody who follows the brand will be followed back. With a lot of followers comes a lot of cruft. How these companies stay on top of it is hard to say but time-consuming for sure.

Besides the above characteristics of corporate Twitter accounts and challenges, quite a few do a very good job indeed as illustrated above. Nevertheless, each brand needs to find AND define what the purpose is for using Twitter. Only then can it deliver.

Got other reasons why it’s a challenge? Or have solutions, ideas what makes up a good corporate blog? Leave a comment…

And if you care – follow me on Twitter. ;)
======> Addendum 2008-12-17
Self-employed workers already account for nearly a third of the US workforce– up more than 25 percent in the past two years.

This means ever more often the single-practice doctor, lawyer, accountant use their corporate or family name for Twitter. However, tweeting serves work efforts and not private interests. This type of small business/self-employed entrepreneur type of Twitter accounts are on the increase.
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Here’s what I’m suggesting for today. Add your comment to this post. Keeping in the spirit of Twitter, please tell us about your corporate Twitter feed in 140 characters or so.
Please provide people with your corporate Twitter ID so they can follow you. Only corporate microblogging accounts should be added (for definition see above of course). Thanks.

follow us on Twitter. ;)

    My.ComMetrics.com, type in your blog’s URL and start tracking your performance – straight dashboard for straight answers.

Get the latest about benchmarking tools and new features we offer by signing up for the Twitterfeed MyComMetrics MyComMetrics
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