Room for Improvement in Twitteracy of Fortune 100

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Though a growing number of Fortune 100 companies are tweeting, few of them can aspire to be a member of the Twitterati, the ranks of "the Tweet elite, whose feeds attract thousands of followers and whose 140-character spews capture the attention of the rapt who doggedly monitor them." (Thanks, Urban Dictionary! It has a very funny list of Twitter-related definitions. Before today, I didn't even know I suffered from Twitter's remorse, 'the regret you feel wishing you could improve, or say something better or funnier only after you have hit the Update button while using Twitter.")


According to a Weber Shandwick study, 73 of 100 of these companies had at least one registered Twitter account. Yet most aren't using Twitter effectively to engage their followers, at least not in Weber Shandwick's opinion.


Mashable shares highlights of the study, which looked at 540 Twitter accounts registered to Fortune 100 companies:


  • 50 percent of accounts had fewer than 500 followers.
  • 50 percent of accounts were used for a news feed or to build brand awareness.
  • 76 percent of accounts had fewer than 500 tweets.
  • 15 percent didn't use the accounts at all.


Weber Shandwick found 53 percent of the accounts lacked "personality, tone or voice." Associating accounts with a specific person or people who post on behalf of a company is preferable to having a "faceless" brand account, it said. In addition to newsfeed and brand awareness, companies used their Twitter accounts for: sales (16 percent), thought leadership (11 percent) and customer service (9 percent). Fourteen percent were categorized as "other," which I think is a worrisome sign that companies may not really know why they are on Twitter.


Richard Binhammer, a senior manager in corporate communications for Dell, which is often lauded as an example of a company that "gets" Twitter, told IT Business Edge's Susan Hall that Dell uses Twitter for three purposes: an RSS feed of headlines from its blogs and other news from Dell, to move merchandise at @DellOutlet ($3 million in sales since 2007), and to directly engage with customers and other people. About 200 Dell employees tweet on issues related to their jobs. Said Binhammer:


In the old days, if two customers have a conversation in Minneapolis in a Starbucks about a data center issue, we can't hear that conversation. We can't be a part of it; we can't contribute to it. We can't help work through whatever the issue is. Today, our data center pros can get online for a half-hour or hour or just here and there throughout their workday and they can be in touch with all kinds of customers, answering all kinds of questions, solving problems, getting them information. Whatever they need. No airfare, no long-distance charges, no nothing. It's right there on the Web.


Rob Siefker, senior manager for the customer loyalty team at Zappos and another source interviewed by Susan, told her the company sees Twitter "mainly as a connecting tool." He elaborated:


A lot of the stuff on Twitter isn't,"Well, I wanted to buy this shoe, but I can't find it." It's just people making comments, saying something about Zappos. We're interacting with them in a fun way, whether it's thanking them or telling a joke or putting out a positive comment. We just use it as a relationship opportunity.


Half of the accounts in Weber Shandwick's study did not score well on engagement metrics used by Twitalyzer, which factor in number of links, hashtags, retweets and references. Engagement is important, said Mark Evans, director of communications for social media metrics company Sysomos, when Susan interviewed him in September. He said:


The biggest thing about social media is that it's a give-and-take environment. Marketers traditionally are used to talking to customers. Social media is about talking with your customers. You're not just trying to take, as in taking their money in sales. You're also trying to give. You're trying to give them value, information, better customer service. You're trying to give them tools they can use.