Over the last few months, I’ve heard a lot in the Twitterverse about corporate entities getting into twittering in various forms. I’ve also been hearing various opinions about it. I want to explore here the different methods of twittering that are being adopted and what their aims can or seem to be, as can be inferred from their twitter streams, and whether they are heading in the right direction or not.
Broadly, I’ve noticed that twittering by corporate entities follows one of these trends:
1. Solely broadcasting links that they carry on their websites, such as by @psfk, @Techmeme, @DeloitteLLP, @HPNews (Hewlett-Packard’s twitter stream). These kind of tweets can get irritating after a while, and its not just me who thinks that – this the opinion expressed by more than one person who uses Twitter. The logic is that if we want to just get links, we’d go directly to their blogs or sites. Not a very smart way to use Twitter.
2. For company updates. Some of these streams are protected, such as by @RegOfficeatDell, which is meant for members of Dell only. This restriction works because it’s one of the ways a company can use Twitter to engage with its employees, and is something I’ve touched on before. Some are not, and these make sense for people who want to track what a particular company is up to, like @seesmic. The good thing with these kinds of twitter streams is that unlike type 1, they don’t keep shooting links out. On the other hand, they can be quite boring, like @xignite, the twitter stream of Xignite Web Services which just has one tweet that is repeated every few minutes: ‘All Systems Up’, indicating that their customers, who employ ‘mission-critical corporate applications’ as their twitter sidebar says, don’t have anything to worry about.
3. To actively engage with consumers, such as @BBCClick, @turbotax, @HRBlock and various individuals who are employed by Dell: @RichardatDELL, @BradatDell. The single most important thing that these companies do is employ individuals to run their twitter streams and talk to people. In other words, we have the comforting knowledge that these are people who listen to what we have to say and respond to them, and that they are not just some faceless entity or PR machine that is churning out marketing links on Twitter. This particular tweet is a great example of customer service through Twitter, for example. This one is a good example of engaging with the customer and asking for tips to feed into the website’s work. Personally, I think this is the best way for companies to use Twitter, because even if you shoot out the occasional link, people won’t mind as long as that’s not the only thing you do. @grahamgilbert notified me on Twitter about another company that uses Twitter in this way, @plasq.
While on the topic, I was super-amused to see @goldmansachs – someone who is honest enough to call themselves a ‘squitter’ : in their words, ‘someone who registers a brand name twitter handle for safekeeping and future profit’!!!