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Best Practices for Branded Twitter Accounts

Erin Ledbetter.

There has been a lot of debate lately about corporate Twitter accounts and how companies who do choose to be on Twitter should approach their involvement. There are three sides to the debate over whether it is okay for big brands to use Twitter for social media marketing:

  1. Twitter is only for people connecting with people,
  2. Twitter is okay for brands, so long as they have a human face representing them, and
  3. Big brands add value to the Twitter community.

The best thing about Twitter is that when a branded account does nothing but project its own message, you don't have to follow and you don't have to listen. So what if Coca Cola is following you and polluting its feed with "buy, buy, buy" messaging? You don't have to follow back or even acknowledge its existence. While all sides to this debate have some quite obvious and valid points, the reality is that people are finding value in corporate tweet streams, evidenced by the fact that a substantial number of people are following back.

So the question becomes, not whether brands belong on Twitter, but how to manage your branded Twitter account once you're there. Understanding best practices for brands on Twitter is especially important now that Twitter may begin charging for corporate accounts, successful or not. It makes sense to learn from those who are doing it successfully - not only corporate brands, but personal brands and the people behind them. So I've compiled the following information from some top Twitter accounts. While these tweeters may not be ranked 1-10, they are all high ranking accounts that can teach us a lot about how to manage an account successfully.

Who to watch (Showing the number of followers and in order of rank according to Twitter Counter)

Top Personal Twitter AccountsTop People on Twitter - Total Followers

Most Social BrandsTop Social Brands on Twitter

(I know some of these aren't necessarily the best Twitter examples (i.e. Blendtech), but they are top brands who have used social media successfully, so I figured it was worth taking a look at what they are doing on Twitter.)

Top Brands on Twitter Top Twitter Brand Accounts - Followers

How many people should you follow?

It's a no-brainer that your Twitter account should NEVER go out and just start following everyone under the sun. But there doesn't seem to be much of a consensus on whether you should follow your followers or others who are talking about your brand.

Which Top Tweeters Follow-back? (based on how many tweeters they are following)

Top People on Twitter - Following back

As you can see, for some top tweeters the follower to following ratio is equal, suggesting they almost always follow back. Others only follow a couple hundred relevant tweeters compared to their 15,000 plus followers.

Which Social Brands Follow-back?

Most Social Brands - Follow back

Which Top Brands on Twitter Follow-back?

Top Twitter Brands - Follow back

However, most of the branded accounts are likely to follow back. You could argue that following your followers lets them know you're listening, but with the auto-follow capabilities out there, simply following back is not enough.

Who should manage the account?

This is again a question that has been debated. Some even say Twitter should be like Facebook, requiring a personal account to accompany every branded page. But it doesn't seem to be bothering the public yet that there is no person attached to half of the most popular brands on Twitter.

For the Top Social Brands and Top Brands on Twitter, accounts are managed by:

Who is talking on Twitter

What should you talk about?

That said, brands can't get away with having an impersonal presence. Notice that over half of the most recent 20 tweets by each of the top brands are replies to followers, suggesting they are listening and actively engaging with the community.

What are companies saying on Twitter?

Does the number of updates impact the success of a branded Twitter account?

So what you say is more important that who is saying it, but does it matter how much you've given to the community? Not really. As you can see there doesn't seem to be much of a correlation between how many tweets you send and how many followers you have.

How many updates have the Top Tweeters made?

Top People on Twitter - Updates

How many updates have the Top Social Brands made?

Most Social Brands - Updates

How many updates have the Top Brands on Twitter made?

Top Twitter Brands - Updates

Of course these aren't the only variables that contribute to the success or failure of a Twitter account. The qualitative measurements, like being personable, engaged, and providing your followers with interesting content, are just as important as the tactics illustrated above. What does your brand do to actively engage with your followers? And if you don't manage a brand, why do you choose to follow the brands you do?


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