Clear goals key for brands using Twitter

03 February 2010

SAN FRANCISCO: Brands hoping to make an impact on Twitter must establish clear goals and decide whether marketing departments should manage their overall activity, according to Forrester.

The research firm recently analysed the performance of 30 major corporations on the San Francisco-based portal, in order to establish the emerging best practices in this area.

Nate Elliot, principal analyst at Forrester, argued that a nuanced approach is required when utilising this fast-growing growing channel, with the exact strategy depending on certain, specific needs.

"Do companies want to get the message out and talk directly to consumers and fans? Or do they want to get new ideas to improve their business? These are so many things you can do as a business," he said.

"As a company you have to ask yourself: what are our objectives and would Twitter help us? Who is the right person to manage our Twitter account?"

Honda, the automaker, has failed to achieve this objective, Elliot suggested, as it has several dealers communicating separately, but no centralised unit responsible for co-ordinating these efforts.

"Honda Motor has several dealerships tweeting locally, but no easy way for consumers to find specific streams for their areas – and no obvious objective for what each local dealership should be tweeting," Elliot stated.

A spokesman for Honda said it was currently developing a "system" to manage this process, but added that its dealers could write "within reason, whatever they want."

Forrester reported that retailers often prove highly popular on Twitter, with Topshop, the UK-based apparel chain owned by Arcadia, one of the most successful, with 45,000 "followers" overall.

One piece of advice it offered to marketers was to ensure that people are easily able to locate their official Twitter accounts.

Dell, the computer manufacturer, has a dedicated section of its website,, providing details of the name and purpose of its more than 30 different feeds.

This was said to be particularly useful when the name of a specific stream does not feature the word "Dell", such as @Digital_Nomads, which is aimed at global travellers.

Providing such a list also serves to reassure web users that the organisation concerned has not been the victim of "brand-jacking", as has occurred on a number of high-profile occasions.

In 2008, for example, a university student set up a fake offering from Burger King, the fast food chain, and soon built up a reasonable fan-base.

Similarly, Exxon Mobil was forced to contact Twitter to ask it block a user of the site operating under the title "ExxonMobilCorp" despite having no relation to the energy giant.

Personalisation is another area where many brands under-perform, Forrester said, although Toyota, the Japanese auto firm, is one successful example, as it identifies each of the four employees responsible for running its @Toyota platform.

Similarly, providing regular updates can prove highly effective, and Forrester found that of the 30 businesses it reviewed, some 80% uploaded "tweets" on at least a daily basis.

Within this, 40% did so between four and ten times a day, with 13% posting comments at least ten times in a given 24-hour period.

However, Nike is one operator that has failed to maintain its Twitter presence, having not made any additions to @nikeplus since April last year, despite the fact it has more than 5,000 "followers".

Similarly, Opel, the German automaker owned by General Motors, last provided fresh news in September 2009, and has been silent at a time when it has been very much in the public eye.

In contrast, Ford, Southwest Airlines and State Farm Mutual Automotive Insurance have moved beyond simple promotion, and offer a range of interesting content and targeted deals to their fans on Twitter.

According to Elliot, one of the main challenges lies in ensuring that the correct department takes control of a brand's activity on the Web 2.0 service.

"In many companies, marketing owns the entire organisation's Twitter activity. But many of the objectives you can pursue through Twitter are better suited to other parts of the organisation," he said.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff