US giants failing on Twitter

19 November 2009

NEW YORK: A majority of the biggest companies in the US are failing to take advantage of the opportunities offered by Twitter, the microblogging portal, to build relationships with consumers and interact with potential brand advocates, according to a study by Weber Shandwick.

The PR agency assessed the activities of the members of the Fortune 100 index in an effort to identify which organisations were leading the way in establishing best practices on the Web 2.0 service.

Wal-Mart, the retailer, Procter & Gamble, the consumer goods giant, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, the FMCG firms, and General Motors, the automaker, are among the major advertisers which feature in this group.

Where the corporations concerned owned a variety of different products, only their "flagship" offering was subject to analysis, based on criteria including how well-branded their Twitter accounts were, and the overall purpose of their activity on the site.

Similarly, the study aimed to ascertain the "engagement" levels of brands on the rapidly-growing web property, revealed through metrics such as the number of replies, "retweets" and references received following on from their posts.

Overall, 73% of the sample had a presence on the San Francisco-based platform, with this cohort boasting a combined total of 540 accounts.

However, in 76% of cases, fresh "tweets" were added to these feeds on a highly infrequent basis, while 52% of these channels were also under-performing when it came to engaging members of the social network.

In terms of the purpose of these streams, 26% were defined as being news-based, and were thus a "one-way flow of information ... that offered no engagement with followers," Weber Shandwick said.

A further 24% of accounts seemed to be making a more concerted attempt to build brand awareness, but in many cases also "appeared to be on Twitter simply to have an online presence," rather than to listen to customers.

Just 16% were categorised as mainly focusing on sales, such as by providing offers, discounts and coupons, which were argued to represent a key way of generating revenues.

Customer service was the overarching rationale in 9% of cases, and Weber Shandwick suggested these examples were typically for the products most concerned about the possible consequences of negative word-of-mouth on consumer perceptions.

Just 8% took the form of "thought leadership", an area that requires a broader approach covering newspapers, trade publications, events, and so on, while 14% were more niche, such as staff-only or recruitment communities.
With regard to "personality", 53% of Fortune 100 Twitter members lacked a specific tone of voice or character, while 32% had uploaded bespoke backgrounds, and added the names and photos of the employees who were responsible for making entries.

In measuring engagement, the PR company found that 18% of its sample had between 501 and 1,000 "fans", with 12% recording a score of between 1,001 and 2,000, compared with 16% in the broad region of 2,001 and 10,000, and 4% with over 10,000.

Similarly, 76% of firms had made under 500 "tweets", while 12% were in the 501 to 1,000 range, 8% in the 1,001 to 2,000 bracket, falling to 3% for those on more than 2,001 but under 10,000, and 1% that had already broken into five figures.

In the same vein, over 50% of accounts were said not to be delivering in terms of the numbers of links, hashtags and "retweets" that resulted from their messages.

"This indicates either a lack of engagement by many companies with their followers, or newly established accounts that haven't yet started using the platform to build relationships," Weber Shandwick said.

A further 41 relevant accounts, which were not included in the study, appeared to represen

Data sourced from Weber Shandwick/AdAge; additional content by Warc staff