Big brands see mixed results on Twitter

09 February 2010

SAN FRANCISCO: Major advertisers in the US are displaying a mixed record when it comes to building a presence on Twitter, the microblogging service.

A recent study by RJ Metrics, the online analytics firm, found that the San Francisco-based portal had 75 million registered accounts by the end of last year.

However, four in ten of these users had not even recorded a single "tweet", while eight in ten had delivered less than ten posts to date.

Overall, RJ Metrics estimated that there are 15 million "highly active tweeters", adding that this core audience is becoming "more engaged over time".

Dell, the computer manufacturer, is one advertiser that has effectively utilised this channel to connect with consumers, generating $6.5 million (€7.7m; £4.2m) in revenues via this medium in 2009.

Half of this total came from @DellOutlet, where the company offers refurbished PCs to shoppers based in its home market.

Richard Binhammer, Dell's senior manager of corporate affairs, said the fact people voluntarily sign up to receive real time updates has been key to the organisation's success.

"At Dell Outlet, we don't know what our inventory's going to be from day one to day two. It's pretty unpredictable. It's an outlet store, so it's open-box specials," he said.

While much has been made of Twitter's role in customer relationship management, Binhammer suggested the broader purpose of establishing a presence on the site was to mirror changing behaviour.

"What happens is, we go wherever our customers are on the web. Some of our customers happen to be on Twitter. Where they are is where we need to go," he said.

Best Buy, the electronics chain, operates a dedicated "Twelpforce" on the Web 2.0 property, which fulfils both customer service and marketing functions, and currently has 22,000 opt-in members.

"Clearly, Twelpforce has the potential to be a resource for our customers in helping them do the things they aspire to with technology," Barry Judge, its cmo, said.

"Secondly, I think Twelpforce can be a catalyst to think very differently across our company about customer service. No longer do we need to passively wait in our channels for people to come to us."

However, Apple, the maker of the iPod and iPhone, is one example of a sizeable corporation that is not even represented on Twitter, while several other brands remain sceptical regarding its overall usefulness.

Hyundai's US arm has nearly 3,000 "followers", but Joel Ewanick, its group vp of marketing, was unsure about the benefits it provided for the automaker.

"I'm not a big fan of Twitter. My Twitter meter has gone down," he said.

By contrast, Facebook, where Hyundai has 14,000 "fans", has proved to be more useful from a marketing perspective, having adopted many of Twitter's best features, he continued.

By, contrast, Twitter has "become the butt of a joke. You start seeing in popular culture people making fun of Twitter," said Ewanick.

Geoff Cottrill, chief marketing office for Converse, the shoewear specialist, further cautioned that the portal's popularity may be short-lived.

"Twitter is a little bit overrated. There will be a new media toy that will replace it in a year or two," he said.

Coca-Cola is one of the most popular brands on Facebook, where it has more than 4.8 million "fans", compared with just 16,000 people who have adopted the corresponding status on Twitter.

Moreover, while Hallmark, the greetings card giant, has nearly 2,200 Twitter fans, this figure stands at 1.7 million for Someecards, a two-year-old web-based rival.

Similarly, Woot, an online store and community, has 1.6 million "followers", compared with totals of around 8,600 posted both by Wal-Mart's "Specials" feed and Target's main account.

More positively, Colle & McVoy, the ad agency, has reported that Doritos was the subject of 35,000 "tweets" during the Super Bowl, a result directly attributable to its TV advertising during this event.

Brands owned by Anheuser-Busch were in second place, on 22,211 "mentions", with Coca-Cola's spots in third, on 10,550 comments, demonstrating Twitter's credentials as a "live" tracking tool.

Data sourced from Brand Week/Colle & McVoy; additional content by Warc staff