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18 October 2017 Feature

Twitter advice from a Twitter boss

Twitter EMEA VP Bruce Daisley on how listening helps you learn, sharing helps you grow, and responding can get you out of a hole

Q. How would you rate businesses’ use of Twitter?
A. A lot of businesses have found that even if they don’t use Twitter, their customers do. The old chief exec of O2, Ronan Dunne, used to describe how, at the end of every day, he went on and searched his brand. He saw it as walking the floor with customers.

Irrespective of whether you’re listening to them, people are saying things about you. And the customer perceives a power imbalance: they don’t think anyone at an organisation will ever listen to them. Even the merest contact and response tends to solicit a really receptive and welcoming tone.

Whether you look at it or ignore it, change is continuing. The more that you can learn from these conversations, the better.

Q. You’ve previously referred to Twitter as the medium of truth, so do you think businesses can use it to improve people’s perceptions of them, to build trust in their brands?
A. Yes, I think a lot of organisation do that very effectively.

First, it’s important to recognise there are audiences within audiences – a few vocal people who are unhappy about a new branch of a supermarket, for example, are not remotely representative of the majority of people.

But we’ve got countless examples of organisations who maybe had a bad PR run, or had issues with prices going up, and their first instinct would probably have been to keep their heads down. Instead, they’ve thought about how they can respond to some of the people criticising them, and they’ve shared some of the other stuff they are doing.

Q. Going back to our main discussion about how businesses are trying to grapple with fast pace of technological change, how would you suggest businesses keep on top of social media trends?
A. There’s a balance to be struck between subjectivity and objectivity. There’s no substitute for any business leader in trying to understand by first-hand experience and there’s a role for experimentation. But new things aren’t necessarily the way to deliver results. They don’t always go to the bottom line. Subjectivity can sometimes distract you from that.

Instead, try to understand: Is it big with your audience? Is it growing with them? Do you need to keep an eye on it?

Q. Which businesses do you think are doing a good job on Twitter?
A. There are many chief execs who are doing a wonderful job. I’d put Elon Musk and Brian Chesky from Airbnb in that group. In the UK, I’ve always liked what David Gold, one of the owners of West Ham, has always done, chatting directly to one of the most febrile audiences that you could ever have.

I think businesses that are doing it well include Sainsbury’s and John Lewis. Sky is also very good for the breadth of what it attempts to do with social media.

Q. What are the biggest mistakes you see, on a day-to-day basis, from businesses on Twitter?
A. Thinking that social media conversations aren’t there or will go away.

Taking a past example, there was a very regularly used hashtag about [telecoms firm] NTL, called #NTHell. It’s very easy for an organisation to blame the platform for that abuse, but the platform was merely giving voice to what their customers were saying about them.

If customers are saying something about you, it is one of the most powerful signals you can get that they want you to hear and they want you to respond.

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