Why Brands Are Unsuccessful in Twitter

Rodney Rumford bluntly points out in this latest post about 33 Brands That Suck on Twitter (be sure to read the comments for more color). Most of them have been “Hijacked” (their corporate name scooped by an individual) and many remain dormant. Having a successful brand in Twitter is few and far in between, and here’s why.

Why Brands Are Unsuccessful in Twitter:

Brands are slow to the party
Who knew that Twitter would become a phenomenon –esp among the social media circles and media? Most brands are too late to come and squat on their names, some savvy individual had the foresight to get the name (either deviously, or out of brand passion) brands like @disney, @marlboro are already reserved by individuals.

Corporate domain: “out for lunch”
As Rodney points out, some of the brands have registered their domains, but choose not to participate, they’ve just quietly reserved it, unsure about how to wield this slippery conversational tool.

Not personal enough
If a brand is lucky enough to have parked their domain, they’re now ready for the next challenge: producing relevant content that resonates with the audience. What should they tweet about? Obviously there ‘s a business driver, so announcements, re-echoing blog posts, and responding to direct (but safe) questions make the best bet. In many cases, there is no individual tied to the account (listed or picture) and no one knows if they’re talking to an intern, or the CMO.

Too personal for you
Yet brands have another challenge? Do they get into the minutia of the daily life as many Twitter users do: “updating my brand guidelines to include twitter rules of engagement”, or “attending marcom meeting about next week’s big acquisition”? Brands are at risk to either alienating followers –or just looking well, fake.

Campy persona wears thin
Some brands may take their brand too far, acting out the brand persona with pro-brand content that after awhile sounds like a trite recording of “want to feel better @jowyang, buy our product for relief” -soap style messages.

Big brother is watching
Some brands have started to ‘follow’ other members, hopefully to increase the rate of them following back. While complete normal protocol in Twitterville, many users get ‘freaked out’ when a brand follows them.

Hybrid brands of personal and corporate won’t last
In the case of both Oracle and Dell (and others I’m sure) many of their employees straddle both their personal sharing, as well as representing their brand (rather well actually). They choose names like @OracleJulio or @RichardatDELL, and really add to the conversation, both being personal, and promoting the attributes of the company. Unfortuantly for @OracleJulio’s situation, he moved on to greener pastures, and had to somehow get a name change, he’s now @socialjulio.

ROI unclear
What’s the ROI from Twitter? A very difficult question to answer, yet you’ll find the solution if you can also measure: “Whats the ROI of a conversation in real life”. Since many brands have an objective (return profit to shareholders or owners) ensuring this is a high priority task will be difficult for many corporations. (read more on broadstuff)

No one gives a care
Some brands, regardless of how they use twitter, their profile pictures, or what they talk about, no one will care. Either their product isn’t known, or not releavnt, or the brand hasn’t done due diligence to first find out if their market is even in Twitter, as a result, tweets go unheard in the forest, yet no one minds. (Update: I’ve added this one a few hours later)

Despite these many challenges, there are a few brands that are doing it right, take a look at ComcastCares, one who’s received press attention for responding to angry twitter community members. Of course, the real challenge is if they can make real long term changes to company’s products –or are they just a mouthpiece to dampen the social media amplifiers.

Got other reasons why it’s a challenge? Or have solutions? Leave a comment…