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The No. 1 Mistake Retail Brands Make with Twitter

Ah Twitter, the blue-birded blogging birthplace of tweets and retweets, where brands, marketers and advertisers alike have staked their claim -- all in an attempt to increase their bottom line via real-time engagement.

I actually just made up that definition off the top of my head but I must say, it's not half bad. Not half good, either, but not half bad.

Now in case you just landed on this planet or were busy the last 5 years or so, here are some of the latest Twitter stats to illustrate just how popular and powerful Twitter has become in the world of social media.

Twitter statistics mistakes marketers make branding

Obviously, Twitter is a very popular and powerful platform. So with all this popularity and power going for it, can anyone tell me why, despite the fact that 90% of the top 50 retailers have a presence on Twitter, only a mere 29% use it to actively engage with consumers?

What's even more head-scratching is the fact that while fewer of the top 50 brands use Instagram and Pinterest -- 42% and 60%, respectively -- they are much more engaged on these sites. Of the 42% who have an Instagram account, 80% of them are actively engaged. As for Pinterest, of the 60% with a presence on the platform, 70% are actively engaged.

What in the world is going on here?

Why are so many brands ignoring so many Tweets?

The results, which I read about on a story on prdaily.com, speak to a growing epidemic that is a combination of apathy and fear when it comes to brands and Twitter.

The apathetic side comes from the fact that far too many brands -- and I do not think this is reserved for retail brands by any means -- still feel Twitter can essentially run on auto-pilot.

I'm showing my age here, but who remembers the old Ronco Ron Popeil classic line of "set it and forget it?" It is my belief that many brands just "set it and forget it" when it comes to Twitter. No, not literally forgetting it, but more often than not they assign either an already over-worked marketer or young, inexperienced, entry-level person to man the Twitter account.

This person will do the obligatory Tweets during the course of a day without any thought to content or more importantly, engagement.

The fear comes into play when a consumer takes to Twitter to rattle off a Tweet complaining about this or that or ask specific product and service questions. If the person manning the Twitter account is not trained in dealing with product/service questions let alone dealing with a crisis, they will be more apt to turn the other Tweet, in a manner of speaking.

Sorry, bad joke.

The point is if the one responsible for being the voice of a brand on Twitter -- which is unlike any other social media platform in many ways -- is not adequately trained to be the said voice, and is fearful of repercussions for saying the wrong thing, then the only thing left to do is ignore it altogether.

Lou Cimaglia, PR director at Grow Socially, told PR Daily: "A Twitter account is an official corporate channel of communication. It is a reflection of the brand. Imagine having a half-finished website up and running. It is unthinkable for a large company."

Rock on, Lou, for it IS completely unthinkable for a large company or brand or any brand for that matter to not realize the magnitude of being the voice of their brand in the Twittersphere.

Brian Chandler, president of Commonwealth Public Relations said, "Big brands should view Twitter just as they do customer call centers," adding that "in most cases, social media for retail companies should be considered a customer service communication tool, especially since a phone call is a one-to-one conversation, but social media creates a one-to-many conversation that everyone sees."

I would just add to Chandler's comments that social media for ALL companies should be considered a customer service communications tool.

Why do you think so many tweets go unanswered by so many brands?

Who do you think should be responsible for manning a given brand's Twitter account and why?

As a consumer do you take to Twitter to lodge a complaint, ask a question and if so, has your Tweet gone unanswered?

Sources: prdaily.comedudemic.com

Named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred, Steve Olenski is a senior content strategist at Responsys, a leading global provider of on-demand email and cross-channel marketing solutions. 


Join The Conversation

  • Feb 4 Posted 4 years ago plebel


    Now I may not be an expert on this topic or social media in general, but I can say that as a college student who actively participates in social media engagement as well as being in a Social Media class that you are very correct in the fact that most businesses lack in engagement on Twitter.  It seems that some companies do it right while others forget they even have an account.  However, as a younger person I do think that we may have a better grasp on what social media needs to be and what it should provide.  Not saying that people higher in the company won't be able to handle administering the Twitter, and I also agree that an entry level should not either but I think that the social media "job" position should be somewhere in the middle.  Someone of average age of the company or even someone who best fits their target market.  I think that is a huge thing that can increase their involvement.  You've got to reach your customers with someone who is relatable.  That is who is going to drive the responses and feedback.  You can't hire someone who is 40-50 and likes cats for a company who seeks young dogwalkers.  That is a bad example but I'm sure you get my idea.

    I believe there are so many unanswered tweets in the fact that companies are scared to start responding.  One response will lead to word of mouth and tweets about that response to go viral and then increase the number of incoming tweets drastically.  Customer service is tough face to face and during business hours, now imagine 24/7 and globally.  I also think that companies feel that it will cause them to give more.  More returns, more discounts, more free things.  Another theory I have which could be totally wrong is that bigger high end companies like to remain mysterious and "too far away".  For example high end apparel stores in my opinion want to see better and on a different level than other retailers.  This adds a sense of "untouchable" and you're lucky to buy from us feel.  This could be a reason for them not engaging in tweets.  They have a twitter for specific reaches and purposes but still want to remain luxurious and nose in the air.  But, like I said this could be a total guess.

    I think it is silly for companies not use the frequency and reach that social media can instantly provide for them.  It gives them the potential to increase their ratings and reviews as well as keep up with what their target market expects and wants.  Yes, customer service via twitter seems to be an ongoing pain for the person in charge and we have to understand that is not easy, but with enough people handling it and all on the same page it seems to me that the task is not too much.  

    I've had great responses via Twitter for customer service.  For example: our cable was messing up right during The Bachelor one season and so my friend tweeted at the cable company complaining about our connection.   They became aware of the issue and soon found that something had happened to our whole line of houses and tried to fix it as soon as they could.  That situation increased my respect and opinon of that company and I think that other companies can easily jump on that same train.


  • DavinaKBrewer's picture
    Feb 1 Posted 4 years ago DavinaKBrewer

    I see the same mistake elsewhere, on FB and Pinterest. Worse part about the autopilot is that even if someone is setting it, forgeting it they've also forgotten what it's really all about - the audience. These ignored social channels become nothing more than advertising feeds, with one post after another about the brand and with nothing about or more importantly FOR the customer. It's not just about push, it's about PULL - pulling in and engaging customers, and yes responding. 

    I've gone to Twitter a few times w/ mixed results; but when a brand did respond and take action, boy did it have a positive impact, made me rethink the brand should I ever be in need of their services again. FWIW. 

  • JasonHJH's picture
    Jan 26 Posted 4 years ago JasonHJH

    Hi Steve,

    Good article. But I feel that we've been talking about this problem for a long time. I believe engagement levels have since increased by a mile. Do you think the less-than-satisfactory twitter usage rate is due to other factors? While I understand the onus is on the comms managers to persuade the board to take up such a strategy, how can we help them to do so? Personally, I think the audience we are targetting are already believers of social media. They just need to be guided when they meet problems/obstacles.

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