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Why I Love Brands on Twitter

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

“If you want to know me, follow me on Instagram. But if you want to get to know the real me, follow my Twitter or Tumblr.” I couldn’t agree more.

Now let’s see, I’ve been on Twitter since 2011 -- and still am. They say each social media account has its own personality. Instagram is where you maintain an aesthetically curated feed featuring all the highlight reels of your “exciting” life, Facebook well…is for when you have nowhere to dump you album-loads of photos from your last vacation, or when you have to be courteous and accept your third cousin’s uncle’s Friend Request because he wants to stay in touch with you so you can no longer post anything and everything you want (oh and where you get reminded of people’s birthdays so that you don’t have to remember it yourself), and then there's Twitter where all the other sh*t goes. It’s where you express your raw, unfiltered self – your depressed thoughts, your existential questions, a new inspirational quote you came across, or simply fangirling over that new Netflix series and so on – at least that’s how a millennial like myself categorizes and interprets my use of the various social media platforms. Or, maybe it’s just me. Either way, the realness and rawness you see on Twitter, is something you can rarely find on other platforms.

Perhaps that is also why memes first originated on Twitter – that blunt, sarcastic, dark humoured content that is popular for its relatability. The Verge puts it very nicely, “For some meme creators, Twitter and Tumblr are a canvas, while Instagram is the wall where they display their work.”.

So, because of the unique space that Twitter offers its community, and the unfiltered personality that it brings out in them as a result, this is why I am still on Twitter.

However, it is interesting to note – and this is my main point – that this is not just a side that Twitter brings out in the individual users on its platform, but of any user for that matter – brands included.

Just take a look at the brands that have made it big on Twitter in the last couple of years because of a few viral tweets. Twitter is therefore the place for brands to be, especially if they want to market to millennials. The question is, why do some brands succeed on Twitter and others don’t? It is because those who succeed, understand the platform and the audience they are marketing to. These audience appreciate authenticity over advertising, conversations over conversions, and people over products. After all, just like The Drum says, "All good relationships are founded upon understanding. At a fundamental level, this tells us that being more human as a brand is about being more in tune with people and their lives.". Knowing this and applying this as part of their Twitter marketing strategy will differentiate them from their traditional, boring and detached competitors. In my opinion, here are 3 main factors that have contributed to the success of brands on Twitter, and why you will love these brands as much as I do.

     1.   Humanization

“Twitter has facilitated a new sort of intimacy for brands, one in which they can blend in with people and develop their own personas.” – The Vulture

Branding strategists have always talked about brand personas, whether it’s in the brand’s tone of voice, creative direction, or even in its mascots. However, Twitter has taken this to a whole other level – these brands tweet as if they were an actual person, rather than a huge corporation. Coupled with a pinch of witty banter and a dash of wisecracks, this has resulted in a number of brands growing and amassing thousands upon thousands of followers like a couple of social media influencers.

The humanization of a brand helps audiences to relate better to it, as one relates better to another human being rather than an inanimate object or concept. Brands that embrace a more human-like persona on Twitter, tend to perform better in both engagement as well as following. Who doesn’t want to engage with a brand who is guaranteed to respond or even better, to respond with some kind of fun, witty comeback? This explains why some Twitter users are even boasting about it when brands roast them through their Twitter replies.

Furthermore, people are tired of brands telling them to 'buy this' and 'buy that' and 'why this product is the most revolutionary product you can ever have', yada yada. They want brands that can first and foremost, connect with them. Take beverage brand, Innocent Drinks for example.

Community Manager Helena Langdon said, “It’s our goal to make our pages a place on social media where people want to visit and enjoy seeing in their timelines, then people won’t mind when we try to sell them drinks every now and again.”.

Most brands on the other hand, do it the other way round – their primary purpose for their social media presence is to push out their products aggressively – awareness, awareness awareness; and then occasionally, slipping in a non-promotional content or two. With today’s banner-blind and ads-adverse people, this isn’t going to work.

     2.   Humour

With that being said, having a brand persona is good, but it isn’t enough. We all have personalities, but it’s those who get us that we eventually connect with on a deeper level. Peter Scazzero once said, “To feel is to be human”. That is why many brands aim to connect with their audience on an emotional level – to let their audience feel something, to connect – especially these humanized brands on Twitter. An article in Forbes beautifully wrote that when brands build an emotional connection with their audience, they "become a part of their lives, both in their homes and -- done right -- in their hearts". So out of all the emotions that these brands have displayed on Twitter, the one that has garnered the most attention (and retweets) is humour. From relatable humour to savage roasting – you name it, they’ve got it. Most of all, it’s hella entertaining to scroll through too.

Wendy’s for instance, is infamous for its roasting tweets, not just to competitor brands but even to users. Or take other brands like Old Spice, Taco Bell and MoonPie too, just to name a few.

The truth is, such an approach appeals to young people who appreciate personable brands that don’t take themselves too seriously. Plus, a viral tweet can drive organic following for your brand without you even having to spend a single cent.

So how can we be like them? In the wise words of Conor Bond, “Don’t”. No doubt, not every brand can tweet like these brands, but we can learn something from them and inject our own personas into who we wish to portray ourselves to be on Twitter. Netflix for instance, doesn’t dedicate its entire Twitter account to roasting, they’re pretty neutral most of the time. That being said, they still have a finger on the pulse when it comes to staying light-hearted, culturally relevant and personable.

Having an up-to-date sense of humor and keeping it light-hearted is therefore an excellent strategy for any brand that wishes to target millennials on Twitter.

     3.   Conversation

We’ve already established this earlier – about how important it is to recognize that human beings are wired for connection. You probably already knew that even before you started on this article, but did you know that connections start with a conversation? Tut-tut, I know what you’re going to say, “I already knew that too”. No you didn’t. If you did, you would've walked up to that crush of yours and struck up a conversation instead of eye-candying from a far. If you did, your brand wouldn’t be merely pushing out content all the time but would've started to integrate conversation marketing into your strategy. Conversations are two-way streets, not one. Lucky for brands, given the nature, design, and layout of Twitter’s primarily copy-based platform, it provides them with that unique opportunity to engage in conversations, starting with how it keeps track of them through ‘reply threads’.

I mean, you don’t have to take my word for it, just take a look at some of the top performing brands on Twitter. Standing at 18 million followers, PlayStation has been growing at a staggering rate the last couple of years with an average of 6,833 new followers per day! Following closely behind is Xbox with 14 million followers and an average of 5,655 new followers per day (Source: Unmetric). The secret to these brands’ success is their responsiveness – their ability to be “at the beck and call of its gaming community”. In fact, Xbox was even awarded the Guinness World Record for being the Most Responsive Brand on Twitter in 2011. Responsive customer support was at the forefront of their strategy.

Or if you are afraid of mixing customer service support with your day-to-day tweets, just do what brands like Burberry, Nike, Target and HubSpot did – have a separate Twitter account dedicated just for that. Although there is an upside to keeping it under one main account too. (Say you have excellent customer support where each customer isn’t just satisfied, but delighted by the responsiveness, helpfulness and personalized service provided by the team. The praises that follow each thread is social proof of the brand’s ability to effectively engage its followers on Twitter. This means more followers, higher engagement, and greater brand visibility! Also, since the answered questions are visible to all, this may serve as a valuable resource for those who might have similar questions as well.)

Another exemplary brand is Netflix, which uses its account to not just address queries, but also engage in conversations with its followers on the shows that are currently trending. (The brand tweets an average of 14 times a day!) For football fans, Southampton FC recently initiated a game of Tic-Tac-Toe with Manchester United on Twitter, when their actual game got cancelled. It was pretty entertaining for fans to watch as they exchanged moves, and even had its own accompanying match commentaries in each tweet. Other brands like Taco Bell have even gone above and beyond to engage with their audience by practicing social listening. So instead of waiting for their audience to engage with them by tagging them in their tweets, they took the initiative to start the conversation.

Charmin, named the "Sassiest brand on Twitter" by TIMES in 2014, gets the conversation going by coming up with its own hashtags that delve a little into "potty humour" like #TweetFromTheSeat (which won them a Shorty Award) and #CharminAsksIf a brand as boring as one who sells toilet paper can do it, so can you.

Talking about starting a conversation, another common tactic is to jump on trends. The beauty of tweeting is that it is mainly copy-based (albeit you can throw in an image, meme or gif here and there) and you can do it real-time. So look up the hashtags and keep your finger on the pulse of today’s trends, but do it sensitively. Although jumping on trends may be an excellent strategy to portray a brand’s relevance and cultural-savvyness, the opposite is also true – doing it in an insensitive and ill-informed manner can gravely jeopardize a brand’s image as well. Some of the brands that have gotten a backlash as a result of hopping on hashtags without doing their homework are SpaghettiO’s #PearlHarbor tweet and DiGiorno Pizza’s #WhyIStayed tweet.

Overall, brands that take the effort and initiative to understand, appreciate and connect with their audience on a deeper level, tend to experience a boost in customer loyalty and brand affinity, ultimately performing better on all fronts. Today, people are craving connection more than ever, and brands have got to adjust their tones and strategies, and learn to put the 'social' back in 'social media'. So to end off, allow me to quote my favourite excerpt from Cluetrain Manifesto:

“Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. Most corporations, on the other hand, only know how to talk in the soothing, humourless monotone of the mission statement, marketing brochure, and your call-is-important-to-us busy signal. Same old tone, same old lies. No wonder networked markets have no respect for companies unable or unwilling to speak as they do. Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.”

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