Wednesday 28 April 2010

What makes a good corporate Twitter account?

My first homework assignment for the IAB social media practitioner programme is to write a blog post critiquing two corporate Twitter accounts: one who gets it and one who doesn't get it. Examples that Henry Elliss gave in his talk at the first session included @twelpforce (25,542 followers), @easyJetCare (6,048 followers), and @virginmedia (10,775 followers). All three of these companies use Twitter for customer service - a brave choice. The nice thing about this is that they are able to respond quickly to their customers. Virgin Media and easyJet initial their tweets to that you can trace them back to a particular employee.

One thing I noticed about Virgin Media was that their background image is too large so that some of the information is hidden unless you view the page fullscreen.

Green rectangle highlights hidden information. Note the right-hand scroll bar is at the bottom (background image is fixed). (Click to enlarge.)

And this is what you should have seen.

Whereas easyJet's design has no such problems:

Although there is a bit of pixellation (meh):

Don't quite get it
The Highways Agency (@HighwaysAgency) uses Twitter like an RSS feed. I'm not sure this is a good thing. Are you supposed to read through all their tweets in case you spot any roads that might affect your journey? It might be more useful in a mash-up or if you set up a custom search to find all tweets referring to specific roads, e.g. A34 or M40. But then you might as well just go to their website; unless you're on the move and accessing Twitter through your phone. Maybe it isn't so bad then. But then again, only 196 followers. This is an indictment that they don't interact at all with their followers. We are after all talking about social media, which implies that you should have a two-way conversation, not a lecture.

Whilst the Highways Agency is guilty of over-tweeting, the Midcounties Coop (@MidcountiesCoop) has only tweeted three times in 2010 so far and has no sort of branding whatsoever. They haven't even uploaded a profile picture. No wonder they only have 41 followers. Maybe they just figured "if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all."

Gets it
Quidco (@quidco), "The UK's no.1 cashback & voucher site", has a nice balance between highlighting their best deals and sharing consumers' feedback by retweeting their success stories. They also use it as a quick way to respond to customers' concerns and refer them on to their support team. 3,105 followers prove it's at least more popular than the Highways Agency and the Coop. These figures are quite good compared to big corporations like Virgin Media and easyJet.

One thing to note about Twitter accounts that are used for customer service is that followers may only stick around while they have a specific query. Once their issue is solved, they may stop following (I know I would). If my brother is anything to go by, Quidco users are quite loyal and always on the prowl for a bargain.

What have I learned?
  1. Don't over-tweet.
  2. Respond directly to followers.
  3. Get your branding right.
I'm interested to know what corporate Twitter accounts my fellow Rising Voices in social media are blogging about. Let's get these pingbacks going!

Note: The company I work for, Torchbox (and in particular Rob Salmon, Director of Digital Marketing), encouraged Jonny Grum and me to attend this course at the IAB in London so we could develop our social media skills. By the end of the course, I will be a certified Rising Voice in social media!


  1. It's interesting that you point out the presentation of easyJet and Virgin Media's branded Twitter feeds. I've seen a lot of pages with additional content worked into the left-hand side of the background image and it often looks very poor.

    And how many people ever look at a brand's (or individual's) Twitter page? Stats suggest that less than 50% of tweets are actually made through, so the vast majority of the content a user sees will be through their feed, which could be via a third-party client or site rather than And what of visitors to Twitter's mobile site?

    I'd rather spend the time getting the profile image and bio right. I note that EasyJet have two accounts - one for customer service and one to plug their products and services. Both accounts use different URLs and have different profile pics.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Stephen. That's interesting what you say about less than 50% of tweets being made through I'd never thought of that. TweetDeck revolutionized the way I use Twitter. You're right to point out that most of the users won't even see the branding, but for those who do see it, they shouldn't have to see ugly pixellation. That said, slightly sloppy in appearance fits my conception of the easyJet brand quite well.