Monday, January 5, 2009

Twittering to Support Their Brands

There’s been controversy lately in the pages of ClickZ about the value of Twitter in business communications, both pro and con.

Comcast, aka ComcastCares, runs its Twitter activity out of the customer service department, and that’s clearly the thrust of the activity, beginning with the name. Dunkin Donuts, on the other hand, started their Twitter program with the rather vague goal of engaging with their loyal customers. Another interesting difference is that the ComcastCares account has a human face, Frank Eliason, their Director of Digital Care. The Dunkin Donuts Twitter page identifies only “Dunkin' Dave, ” whom I would guess to be David Tryder, their Manager of Interactive Marketing. Two points. First, I prefer the identifiable human face—what about you? Second, even though a Twitter account is free, these programs are taking up the time of top marketing executives. They need to be worthy of that time.

The major buzz at the moment is around Scott Monty, formerly of the Crayon agency, who was hired to bring Ford into the social media age. In a short time at Ford he has already used Twitter to good effect in dealing with brand controversies including one with the independent aftermarket products site The Ranger Station. Scott’s full title is Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager for Ford and he has a strong strategic perspective on social media, including Twitter. Here’s an interview that’s worth listening to.

Did you know that the Prime Minister of Great Britain twitters? Well, at least someone in his office maintains an account for the PM. Barak Obama used Twitter in the campaign, and I doubt he wrote his messages either. That’s another model.

The take-away from all of this twitter about Twitter is that it does have potential uses, whether as a reputation management tool, a customer service tool, or – more problematically—just to hear what your customers are thinking. The emphasis should be on tool. And the question should be “how does this tool fit into our strategy?” Then there are issues of who has the expertise to do it well and how management is going to evaluate its effectiveness.

All of which says that--unlike individual consumers who may be twittering just for fun--it should be a strategic undertaking, not just “should we twitter?”

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