Weber Shandwick Study Shows Corporations Are Missing Out on the Twitter Revolution

tweet-retweet-450One of my clients recently sent me a link to a recent study by PR powerhouse Weber Shandwick profiling the Fortune 100’s failure to adequately harness Twitter as a marketing mechanism. The report calls for a Twittervention to help the Fortune 100 wake up and hear the tweeting of their customers and partners.

According to the study, 73 percent of the Fortune 100 had a total of 540 Twitter accounts, but 76 percent of those accounts failed to post to Twitter that often. They also gauged that 52 percent were not actively engaged, as measured by the number of links, references, retweets, etc. What’s more, 50 percent had fewer than 500 followers, 15 percent had inactive accounts, and 11 percent had inactive “placeholder” accounts to prevent “brand-jacking.

As the report says:

“Think of Twitter as an uber corporate cocktail party. The influentials, celebs and dealmakers you invite will stay only if the conversation is entertaining, valuable and interesting. So, what makes good conversation? The key is listening and engaging.”

Apparently the listening and engaging aspect is where most corporations fail in their social media strategy. Best practices dictate that Twitterers not only tweet about subjects that are important to them, but they must follow other conversations and retweet and reply to others using the @username convention. More than half of the accounts did not meet the engagement metrics outlined by Twitalyzer, and three quarters (76 percent) had posted fewer than 500 tweets.

I suspect the social media failing of all corporations, large and small, is due to a lack of a cohesive strategy. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other media outlets can be powerful tools to promote a conversation with customers, prospects, and others, but the challenge is what are you going to talk about and who is going to manage the conversation. For example, further analysis shows that 26 percent used Twitter for a one-way data flow, 24 percent of accounts were for brand awareness, 16 percent were for sales purposes, and 9 percent for customer service. Eight percent of Fortune 100 Twitter accounts were being used for thought leadership, and 14 percent were used for other purposes such as recruitment of employee information dissemination.

There are innumerable possibilities here as to how you can harness Twitter and other social media outlets to advance your business. But who manages the conversation? Sales? Marketing? HR? Corporate Communications? Every department has a stake in social media, so managing social media is an interdepartmental discipline. But who sets the rules for use, for what you can and cannot say? Does it come from legal? Human Resources? The CIO’s office? The CEO’s office? Again, it depends, and most likely it will involve input from multiple senior management authorities to make sure that the company’s social media activities don’t violate policies and procedures or, worse, government regulations.

As the Weber Shandwick study points out, there are five essential steps to true engagement: listen, participate, update, reply, and retweet. But before you can engage, you need to have a gameplan, establish some guidelines for conversation, and designate spokespersons. Granted, you can always open the door to everyone who wants to engage in the conversation, and I know of a lot of companies whose employees tweet on a regular basis. But if they are tweeting on behalf of the company or even about the company, you have to give them a playbook to protect your business and your brand, and help you advance your social media strategy rather than hinder it.

Social media levels the marketing playing field. Even if the Fortune 100 can’t connect the tweets, there’s no reason you can’t. Develop a strategy, a playbook, and policies and procedures and turn your social media mavens lose. The results will prove worth the effort.

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