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Jul 6, 2009

Learning Twitter? Don't Take Your Cues From Ad Agencies

Some Tweet Deftly, While Others Lag Clients

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As Twitter moves into the business mainstream -- nearing some 35 million unique global visitors, according to ComScore -- it's increasingly clear that one community has yet to fully embrace the social-networking tool du jour: agencies.

The irony is that the same people clients hire to erect communications and social-media strategies often appear uncomfortable using Twitter themselves.

One stark example: A couple of months back, Volvo struck a landmark ad-placement deal with YouTube to promote the Twitter feed for its XC60 model (@VolvoXC60). But the agency that created the innovative rich-media ad for Volvo, Havas' Euro RSCG, has an account (@Euro_RSCG) that's never been used.

Asked what gives, a Euro spokeswoman said: "We're developing our Twitter strategy and in the meantime want to hold onto the name. It's a Catch-22: You don't want your Twitter handle stolen, but you also don't want to start using it before you're really ready."

Whatever the case may be, save for a few shining examples of shops that "get it," agencies need to catch up with their clients -- and fast.

Marketers offer better examples
Many marketers are known for successfully leveraging Twitter to boost brand awareness and interact with their consumers, among them Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (@zappos) and the chief marketing officers of Best Buy (Barry Judge, @BestBuyCMO) and Express (Lisa Gavales).

Computer maker Dell's strides in integrating social media into the company's marketing communications have been well-documented. But its lead marketing agency, Enfatico, doesn't own the handle @enfatico, and roster shop Mother, New York, has an account (@motherny) with a single update from May.

Sure, the argument can be made that Twitter isn't for everyone. And perhaps it's better to not be there at all than to be there poorly. Case in point: Digital shop Publicis Modem, London (@PublicisModemUK), declares in its bio that it is "one of the world's leading digital agencies operating in 36 countries," yet its tweets are sloppy, riddled with grammatical errors and say things such as "2 hours to work...not that fun."

'Thinking about tequila'
Grey has set up a Twitter account just for its interns, but it might want to keep a better eye on its content.@GreyNYInterns has informed the world it is "thinking about tequila" (at 9:30 a.m.; let's hope they're working on a liquor brand) and talked about seemingly proprietary information: "E*Trade brainstorm session. Do we use the baby or not?"

Then there's the problem of ownership of agency brands. Check out the Twitter feeds @BBDO and@Publicis, and you'll land on the pages for the networks' Dusseldorf, Germany, and Zurich outposts, respectively, rather than the pages for the motherships.

It's even worse at the holding-company level. The handle @Havas is following zero people, has zero followers and has one update: "on vacation." Meanwhile, the world's biggest holding company, WPP (@wpponline), has the biggest presence of its competitors, with an impressive 3,000 or so followers. Hard to understand why, though, because it follows no one back -- not even its own agency brands -- and the feed reads as a series of links to press releases.

Balancing self-promotion
Over-promotion is a big problem on Twitter. At the same time, an agency's Twitter feed should share relevant information -- not only press releases -- so the balance can be hard to find. The feed for BBDO, New York (@bbdony), for example, displays many tweets about gadgets and mobile-marketing trends but rarely posts anything about BBDO or its clients.

Still, the big agency networks often get a big rap for being staid, but at least many of them, Ogilvy and McCann, for example, have a Twitter presence and are trying to wrap their brains around it.

While ad types worldwide tweeted about hotshop Droga5's impressive showing at the recent Cannes International Advertising Festival, the agency itself doesn't have a feed, nor does founder David Droga. CEO Andrew Essex would say only: "Several individuals at the agency are on Twitter, which seems to work best for us at the moment."

Publicis' VivaKi is marginally better than some others in that it tries to attach a face to its Twitter feed, but the person who oversees the account (@VivaKi) identifies herself simply as "Stephanie" -- surely not what you'd expect from a company that earlier this year partnered with media owners to build a "Social Media Marketplace."

Tweeting CEOs
Humanizing your brand on Twitter with a known personality can be a great strategy, provided the person is good. Examples include JWT Chairman-CEO Bob Jeffrey (@bobjeffreyjwt). But a search for JWT's handle will come up empty. Ideally, agencies should have a company feed and a strong leader who shows he or she "gets it."

Tom Bedecarre of AKQA is a prolific tweeter, and one who's willing to put himself out there. Tweeted @tombed: "another awkward #CannesLions moment: I mixed up David Lubars and David Droga (double d'oh!)." At the same time, he uses his following to drive traffic back to his agency's feed, @AKQA.

Digital agencies, unsurprisingly, seem to have a bit of an edge over traditional shops. Interpublic's R/GA has appointed its senior VP and managing director of copy, Chapin Clark, to manage the shop's feed (@_rga). While he does the majority of the information mining himself, he also accepts suggestions from staffers.

Another, Razorfish, "encourages our employees to be on Twitter," said David Deal, the agency's VP-marketing. "Our CEO, Bob Lord, is one of those voices, and openly tweets, as do many employees on various levels. It's part of a deliberate strategy, along with Facebook, YouTube, employee blogs and more traditional forms of brand building such as speaking events. It's important we practice what we preach."

Drafting guidelines
Mr. Deal said Razorfish uses Twitter to announce company news; raise awareness of thought leadership by linking to research pieces; drive traffic to the company blog; build employee morale by congratulating staffers for use of the tool; and as a recruitment tool by posting job opportunities.

It is one of few shops (Campbell Mithun, @cmithun, is another) whose authors sign their Twitter posts, something that it does to reflect accountability and accessibility. The agency has gone so far as to draft guidelines for social-media use for staffers to help them be more effective. "I think it actually makes them more comfortable," Mr. Deal said. "Their level of blogging and tweeting began to rise after we shared [the guidelines] with them."

Subscribe to comments on: Learning Twitter? Don't Take Your Cues From These Agencies
By mgchildr | Athens, GA July 6, 2009 08:02:29 am:
While using a name-brand Twitter to promote a brand gives that brand a more distinct personality, it is still viewed by consumers as part of the brand's advertising (which, of course, it is). What about encouraging CONSUMERS to tweet about their favorite brands on Twitter? Personal recommendations are the most effective means of advertising, and Twitter provides an outlet for consumers to share their experiences with a brand, thus improving brand advocacy.

If you have not seen this video, it details the process by which consumers' use of Twitter can benefit a brand: http://bit.ly/szW0U
By Stevewax | NEW YORK, NY July 6, 2009 08:28:52 am:
At my company (Campfire) we see Twitter as a gathering place for individuals to share ideas and experiences. It's probably inappropriate for a company or brand to have a Twitter account. Much better for individuals at the company, even the CEO, to speak up via an individual voice.

I see Twitter as a lunch date or cocktail party with individuals of my choosing, some friends, some interesting strangers. So I'm more interested in what @eveon (one of our employees) or Craig Newmark (@craignewmark) or John Perry Barlow (Grateful Dead Lyricist: @johnperrybarlow) have to say than what a corporate site for General Foods or JWT might reveal.

Take a look at a Honda saleswoman in Charleston, South Carolina is doing to influence car fans and shoppers for instance: twitter.com/brunroxy09. No Honda Twitter account needed there.
By stephenpbyrne | Australia July 6, 2009 08:37:45 am:
It's sure a sign that some of the agencies you named are SO far behind the social media tsunami, they aren't going to catchup anytime soon, if they are already absent Twitterers, Twitter seldom or so ineptly. It seems indicative of the state of agencyland that there is such a vast chasm between agency's so called "thought leadership" vs actual digital know how beyond media planning and ad design. In most cases, even their digital front doors are so poor they can barely answer an email or update a blog. So why do clients keep going back? And why do we take any notice of what they have to say anymore? Hurrah to those like Razorfish & AKQA that do as they say.
Stephen Byrne
twitter @spbyrne
By JOHN | WASHINGTON, DC July 6, 2009 08:40:02 am:
At Ogilvy, we put our effort into being out there across social media as ourselves, not behind a corporate account. That's what social media is all about - not the corporate handle (which serves a purpose yet a small one in comparison to all of us Ogilvy People being active in social media.

We have been bloggers, twitterers, facebook group owners for more than 5 years. Not sure your assessment of agencies by their coporate IDs is that telling an analysis. Take a look at the thought leaders and people across the agencies who are very active throughout social media. I doubt you will find a group as involved and participating as Ogilvy.

I can speak for my corner of the universe - Ogilvy's 360 Digital Influence team and you will see a very active social media culture via our hub here including cross links to our brothers and sisters across the globe and across all of the disciplines:

By craigcooper | craigcooper.com, NY July 6, 2009 08:57:37 am:
"35 million unique global visitors"

Of those, how many are regularly active?

Of that percentage, how many are "real" people and not marketers, hookers and get-rich-quick schemers?

And of those, how many have an income that is not best described as an allowance?

That's the number that matters, please and thank you.
By ehmie | TORONTO, ON July 6, 2009 09:00:42 am:
I'm the publisher of YummyMummyClub.ca - an online magazine for moms. When I joined twitter I was shocked at how most of the agency and Pr peeps I knew were clueless about this important marketing tool. Together with @unmarketing, the self proclaimed Mayor of Twitterville, we invited a large group who work in advertising/marketing for a seminar on the Do's and Don't of Twitter. Here's a short video with hightlights many may find useful:


Erica Ehm
By SingularityDesign | Philadelphia, PA July 6, 2009 09:03:17 am:
I think a lot of agencies tend to suffer from "shoemaker's children" syndrome. When they prepare for their clients' accounts, they gather their sharpest minds and follow a prescribed process that leads to success. In many cases, when agencies do their own promotion, they lose that self-discipline and just work on it whenever they can with whatever spare resources are around.

Agencies need to treat their own Twittering, email newsletters and websites with the same TLC and structure that they do for their clients, if they want to get the same level of results. Sometimes its not easy without a client to establish solid expectations, but you just have to bear down and commit to doing it the right way no matter what.

- Jeff Greenhouse
President, Singularity Design
By scottmonty | Dearborn, MI July 6, 2009 09:05:30 am:
I echo what John said (doubly so, since we work with Ogilvy 360). I'm a little troubled that Ad Age's assessment didn't dig deeper to find exactly who from various companies is on Twitter. Various brands have different conventions for naming their accounts, and most companies allow employees to tweet under their own names.

What matters are the interactions with individuals from companies, not a nameless, faceless brand or logo. Since you mention Zappos, I think it's disingenuous to simply focus on Tony (although he leads by example). There are over 400 more Zappos employees on Twitter, having interactions with customers all day. That's a much more scalable - and human - approach than a single company-specific account.

Scott Monty
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company
By dilaram | istanbul July 6, 2009 09:17:48 am:
I do agree with Stephen, Erica, etc.

If as an agency you are not aware, or active in these social networks, how can you use them for your brands?

We are, Runway Interactive agency, a rather young, dynamic team here in Istanbul.

The most interesting, innovative brief just landed on our lap.

THY (Turkish Airlines), last week invited us to their Mobile pitch. AND this is where they did a genious job. Instead of sending us the brief itself, they sent us a document with only clues to get to the brief. We had to use several Iphone apps, as well as visit social networks, etc to get to the brief.

Another genious idea that is in the brief, is to seed information during the preparation of the pitch (2 weeks), about THY Mobile brief, our agency, and most importantly document this for the pitch.

They want to see that we can actually use, as well as our expertise on this medium. How smart of them.

I believe all brands should employ this strategy from now on while they are choosing their agencies.

You can follow our adventures on twitter @ thymobile or @thylounge, as well as on thymobile.mobi

Dilara Z. Moran
Runway Interactive
Strategic Planning Advisor

twitter @dilaram
By DMOSS | Buffalo Grove, IL July 6, 2009 09:27:16 am:
>> Stevewax ... At my company (Campfire) we see Twitter
>> as a gathering place for individuals to share ideas
>> and experiences. It's probably inappropriate for
>> a company or brand to have a Twitter account.

Try YAMMER. Registration (and viewing) is locked down to people who have your company's @address. It has a Twitter-like interface that allows spontaneity while maintaining the security of an Intranet.

As for Twitter, maintaining your marketing presence is a full-time job. If a company isn't willing to dedicate a person to that position, they're better off not having a Twitter presense. On Twitter, bad is globally bad. But good has terrific ROI: ask Starbucks, Wendys, Discovery, Dell, CNN, NPR, TMZ, etc.

Which Ad Agency is going to be the first to develop a Twitter Dept and sell 24/7 marketing for small companies that can't have a dedicated Twitter-position?
By brianvandeputte | Macomb, MI July 6, 2009 09:43:50 am:

Our four day vacation continues! We aren't even working but we're sort of famous- @adage article about Twitter. http://tinyurl.com/ol4rku26 minutes ago from web

From this tweet, the Grey NY interns come off as sort of egotistical and somewhat ignorant. Did they even read this article? It doesn't exactly sing their praises...
By Paul | New York, NY July 6, 2009 09:44:01 am:
I am new to Twitter - about a month. Shame on me. But when I learned how to use it, which didn't take very long, I found it both gratifying and addictive. I spent my first couple of days trying to find senior agency executives and agencies to follow and, as has been said, I was stunned to find out how few where there. Agency's are way behind the curve. And how do they expect clients to perceive of them and their services if they are not using the very same media they preach to their paying clients. But that is no different than the poor web sites that most agencies have, including the interactive shops. Agency's still don't "get it" - the first place client's go for information is the website and places like Twitter and Facebook. What a sad commentary this all too true article is.

Paul S. Gumbinner
The Gumbinner Company
New York, NY
By AnneDeeterGallaher | Mechanicsburg, PA July 6, 2009 10:28:13 am:
Twitter is a refreshing opportunity for the smaller agencies to compete with larger houses and to attract the attention of larger businesses. Our influence on Twitter is powered by the value of our information. More importantly, it's not the vast number of followers that is a measurement of success, but who those followers are--who is listening to what we're saying.

It doesn't take long on Twitter to understand who in the agency kingdom and who in the business/corporate world "gets it." And thanks to the transparency of the public timeline, a business can easily discern the quality and influence of an agency's Twitter insight. If it's a litany of media releases and self-promotion, the followers and influence dry up. If it's an anticipated flow of marketing wisdom and business expertise, the followers listen and the influence expands.

At the Deeter Gallaher Group LLC, we tweet from our personal profiles (@AnneDGallaher, @MarisaCorser, @JoshMGallaher), and our clients and colleagues appreciate our transparency. We are able to convince our clients/CEOs to engage in social media, because they can see our own efforts. We listen, learn, and share. Social media engagement has produced impressive results for us and our clients and provides an additional messaging platform for traditional communications pieces.

During a Social Media panel for tourism in central Pennsylvania, I told the business audience that before they partner with any agency for social media strategies, ask the agency for their profile names. For Tweeting CEOs and brand humanizers, I have learned volumes from Peter Aceto at @CEO_INGDIRECT Canada and Ford's @ScottMonty. We look forward to more listening, learning, and leading.

Anne Deeter Gallaher,CEO/Owner
Deeter Gallaher Group LLC
By giles | london July 6, 2009 10:35:28 am:
@ogilvy has over 14,000 followers, around 10,000 more than most of the other users you mention in the article.

The majority of the content is aggregated from the Ogilvy employee blogs that John mentions above and focuses on the impact that technology is having on the relationships between brands and their audiences.

These posts come from all countries, companies, disciplines and levels and are unfiltered. Consequently the views don't necessarily reflect those of the corporation but the people within it. A fine but very important line.

We endeavour to follow everyone back (we are at about 11,000, it is holiday season after all). We also try to respond the all DMs and @ogilvy comments.

I believe this authenticity and open attitude is one of the drivers of it's relatively large and loyal following (there has been about a 5% drop off over the life of @ogilvy). The majority of feedback is positive and very often enlightening and thought provoking.

We find experimenting in the space for ourselves, rather than talking about it, provides valuable feedback and insight that we can bring to bear to help build our clients businesses.

Giles Rhys Jones
By John | Alpharetta, GA July 6, 2009 11:03:05 am:
Parekh writes "perhaps it's better to not be there at all than to be there poorly."

You really can't do poorly if you know who you want to speak with, have something of value to discuss with them, and say it in a way they can appreciate The problem always comes when companies and their agencies lose site of why they are communicating and what results they want the messages to deliver.

Also, it is nearly imnpossible for agency professionals who don't have anything to say to not say anything.

John Ribbler
By smackerony | Rotterdam, ZH July 6, 2009 11:18:49 am:
what about @mediaedgecia or @mecglobal and @mecinteraction -> wpp's main media agency / outlet
By hartmanjon | Minneapolis, MN July 6, 2009 11:35:28 am:
The premise of this article felt a little old school to me.

Social media isn't just another media platform. It's, well, social. It's about interaction.

People interact with people. Like several people have commented above, agencies (or especially holding companies!) with twitter accounts are are kinda weird - like my dad trying to befriend me on Facebook. They're clearly not in on it for altruistic reasons. No one would argue that agencies need to monitor and engage with what's being said about them in the social media world, but to periodically engage in some forced broadcasting of their ideals or offerings? Awkward!

The beautiful thing about twitter is that is transparent, quirky, and personal. God bless the Grey interns for thinking about tequila at 9:30am. You know what? I'm kinda relieved that they are. They're people... I'm guessing 22 or 23 year-olds who aren't getting paid much and are supposed to be creative. Tweeting about tequila makes them real.

Consumer brands (i.e., DMOSS' Starbucks, Dell examples) act as entities. Their brands need to be carefully molded, and so singular communication from them makes sense.

But clients don't hire an agency anymore, they hire the people... the real, live, quirky, breathing, individual people with ideas and opinions, and kids, and jokes. Those are the people I want to hear from on twitter.
By jessebrightman | NEW YORK, NY July 6, 2009 11:53:35 am:
As a Grey Healthcare Group INTERN, not to be confused with Grey's summer interns, I feel like the @greynyintern twitter account puts interns in a bad light. I use to tell people I am interning at Grey, but since this article, I will be sure to make the distinction.

For me, the most dissappointing part is the fact that I have worked my butt off to get this internship opportunity and have been complimented on my ideas and work ethic (I am an account person). These creative interns at the other Grey building are setting Grey Healthcare Group and other agency interns back. I hope this AdAge article does not let this be the face of agency interns. Arrogance and ignorance should be the last thing any intern should have, because we are lucky to have the opportunity to prove ourselves while gaining insight into an industry that many of us feel so passionate about.


Jesse Brightman
Twitter: @jessebrightman
By jdysart | CHICAGO, IL July 6, 2009 12:07:07 pm:
Interesting story, Rupal, with a diverse assortment of perspectives on the use of Twitter—from novices to more seasoned users. Between articles such as yours (and the comments that follow) as well as the examples of others, I think this is where the real learning takes place, giving everyone an opportunity to learn from others and improve on their use of the tool. So there are definitely some good takeaways here.

As manager of Draftfcb's Twitter feed (@draftfcb) I definitely feel our biggest challenge right now centers on responding to direct messages and replies. Not because of a concern with regards to messaging, but timing as I juggle all of the day's other tasks. I've actually found that a great resource has been other agency employees. If someone asks about a job, I can direct them to people here like @creativeadgigs or @AConnJob who are using their feeds to find talent. The same is true for people who are looking to learn about the agency's other disciplines or work. I think it's equally important to know what others in the agency are doing with their feeds and utilizing them as a resource if you can.

Josh Dysart
Manager, Corporate Communications
By craigcooper | craigcooper.com, NY July 6, 2009 12:30:34 pm:
Advertising Age (or have you already renamed yourself Twittering Age?), you have already described Twitter as "social-networking tool du jour."

Perhaps these agencies feel the same way.
By craigcooper | craigcooper.com, NY July 6, 2009 12:34:49 pm:
Advertising Age (or have you already renamed yourself Twittering Age?), you have already described Twitter as "social-networking tool du jour."

Perhaps these agencies feel the same way.
By nmckinney | AUSTIN, TX July 6, 2009 12:42:15 pm:
I help monitor our Twitter for GSD&M Idea City. I find our biggest challenge has been finding a voice that works for us and for our followers. Recently a twitter follower put @IdeaCity under a microscope saying that there was no "conversation" and nothing "personal" about our tweets. And, to be honest - that was something we struggled with when we first started posting.

Ultimately, we had to do what was right for us. We figured our followers were people who were either potential hires, potential clients, vendors, those interested in advertising or fans of Austin, TX (where we are headquartered). As such, we try to use this as the guiding light for our tweets: Is it about us, advertising, our people, clients or Austin? If it isn't, we don't put it out there.

Our advice? Do what fits your brand, and don't let people say you are doing it wrong. If you are there, reading tweets and trying to get a sense of the space, you are at least doing something right.

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