With social media in its autumn years as a “thing”, most brands in English speaking countries are finding their way on to Twitter, and quite rightly too. It’s a party you just can’t afford to miss. Unfortunately, it feels like one of those dysfunctional parties where nobody really knows anyone. Some are there with an agenda and some are quite clearly just there because it’s where all the cool kids are.

This is all well and good but the disparity leaves the audience feeling confused. Some brands want to sell things to you, some want to be friends with you and some want to help you. Unfortunately, unless you go to a brand’s Twitter page and have a good long look at their profile, you can’t really work out why they are there until you’ve followed them for a while. In some cases you might want help with something and find yourself disappointed because they aren’t listening to you (see below Tweet to Reebok).

They didn’t respond… 🙁

Right or wrong?

There’s no absolute right way to do it. In my opinion, it’s OK to be an information feed and it’s also OK to be a sales or support channel. That said, just because there’s no absolute right way to do it, it doesn’t mean there’s no wrong way to do it. There are plenty of wrong ways to do it. Going back to the party analogy for a minute, let’s look at those that turn up to the party without an agenda. They’re there just because they think they should be. More often than not, these are the ones getting it wrong.

Flitting between awkward semi-engaged conversations, sales pitches and pictures of cute kittens etc. While nobody really minds this, it can be a little confusing to the very people they’re trying to engage. Is this brand pretending to be my friend just to try to seel me things? Of course it is. This feels dirty, and what results are they getting anyway?

I think the key thing here is to be clear and consistent with your messaging. And yes, you’ve probably heard that a million times but there are still so many brands not doing this. They are, without doubt, getting it very wrong.


I’m not going to name and shame (not in this post anyway) but I will give you some examples of brands I believe are getting it very right.

@FirstCCFirst Capital Connect

First Capital Connect are a rail company in the UK whose Twitter account serves purely as a customer support channel and they do this very well. They have named operators running their account and nearly always respond with helpful advice when a customer complains. I say “nearly always” because they get a lot of abuse (even from me) and of course, it’s usually best not to respond in these cases.

@mashableMashable, Social Media (and other) News

The Mashable Twitter account is nothing but a news-feed. You’ll never catch them responding to an @ mention. They don’t engage. They produce content and fire it out over Twitter. And that is that. Is it bad that they don’t engage? No, it’s fine because you know exactly what you’re getting. It says quite clearly in their bio what they do and gives details of another account (@MashableHQ) to use for sending questions to the staff.


Measuring your success is the next step, and while I won’t go into detail about that here (because it’s quite a broad topic) I will say that it’s certainly a lot easier to measure success if you’re 100% clear about your purpose for being on Twitter in the first place. If you’re on Twitter to sell stuff, measure sales. If you’re trying to gain brand awareness, measure share of voice & sentiment. Set clear KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and tweak your communications to better serve them.

I will follow this post at some time in the near future with an analysis piece that will hopefully put some figures behind all this stuff and highlight the right-doers from the wrong-doers. In the meantime, if you’ve got any particularly outstanding examples of brands getting it right (or wrong) I’d love to see them so please drop me a comment below.

2 thoughts on “Should all brands engage on Twitter”

  1. Thanks for this. I agree that purpose is everything. I met a potential SM client a few weeks back who wanted to show me their website and get feedback about working together. Immediately after seeing it I realized not only didn’t they have a message but they didn’t have a purpose. Engagement changes with the brand, purpose does not. Look forward to the followup.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Sam.
    I remember that being the norm. “We need a website” “Why?” “Don’t know but let’s get one anyway”
    No purpose at all… Wow… That’s a REALLY serious issue! Not something a website, social media or even the best marketing in the world can fix!

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