January 23, 2012

How Twitter’s Profile Makeover Boosts Branding

HP, Best Buy, and JetBlue reveal how they use Twitter’s enhanced profile pages to make every tweet sing.

It’s still officially in velvet-rope mode, but Twitter’s enhanced profile pages are heavily in play for those brands among the first to sign up. So how are the early reviews?

Dubbed #letsfly by Twitter’s hashtag-happy tweeps, the program–which provides businesses with space for a big, splashy banner and brand-centric layout, and highlights promoted tweets with expandable videos or photos–needs to catch on if the micro-blogging platform plans to hit $400 million in ad revenue forecasted by 2013.

Simple Usability’s eye tracking study took an early read on the enhanced profiles and found that a branded page has even less of an opportunity to make a lasting impression than a 15-second TV ad or a banner on a website. “The brand page potentially has one shot at attracting the user to become a follower,” the study concluded. “If the companies fail to do this, then they will have lost potential followers, and potential customers, and therefore they will have a much narrower audience and customer base receiving updates from them.”

The ability to “pin” promoted videos gives companies the opportunity to better shape the conversation about their brand. McDonald’s, say, can promote a video like the one featuring farmers who supply the restaurants’ beef as a way to combat such potential brand damagers as the photo that went viral twice depicting the mysterious pink slurry said to be the main ingredient in its chicken McNuggets.

As with anything this new, it may take some time (and tweaks to tweets) before everything runs on maximum ROI. Fast Company chatted with social media and communications executives at JetBlue, Best Buy, and HP about their strategies for hooking new followers and how they’re working.

JetBlue: Customer care without the complaints.

The low-cost airline hung its shingle on Twitter nearly five years ago to cement its relationship with customers through “honest dialogue,” according to Morgan Johnston, JetBlue’s manager of corporate communication.

However, Johnston says, “our messages were often lost in a sea of responses and conversations with our customers.” The brand page offered the company a way to ensure its key messaging stayed on top, even as it maintained its tweeting style.

JetBlue’s main objective on Twitter is to reinforce its commitment to customer care and to further the company’s mission to bring humanity back to air travel, Johnston says. “With social media, we use a variety of tactics, both human and automated, to track not just engagement and spread of the messages we’re pushing out to the community, but what the sentiment of those comments coming in are, and using what we hear to create an informed operations group with the ability to affect change internally.”

Johnston says JetBlue’s following hasn’t jumped significantly because of the new page but adds, “those tweets we do promote do see a higher percentage of engagement.”

Best Buy: Creating clarity.

Best Buy has built a formidable presence on Twitter, and set up several pages to deal with specific customer needs. Indeed, Twitter is central to its customer-care strategy–tweets to Best Buy’s help desk, @Twelpforce, are answered by one of 3,000 Best Buy employees. Alix Hart, senior director of digital marketing, says signing on early to get branded pages provided more opportunity to define its “handles” to consumers in addition to visually representing the brand.

“Our @bestbuy handle is dedicated to conversations about entertainment and technology. We share video content, highlight new products and events, and our biggest sales like our Black Friday door busters. We have a separate handle, @bestbuy_deals, dedicated to all of our best deals every week. Our customer care handle @twelpforce handle is focused on providing solutions to consumers on their technology,” Hart explains.

Since last month, Hart says the company has increased its follower base, but since the switch also came during peak holiday season, she’s not making a direct correlation.

Hart says branded page or not, for Best Buy Twitter is still all about two-way conversations. “We see it as a place to communicate and listen to a diverse set of topics based on how consumers want to get information,” Hart says. “We want to start positive conversations around technology and support our consumers with solutions around technology.”

HP: Bringing existing followers back to the page.

Simple Usability’s study found that consumers were immediately drawn to a promoted image of a bulldog giving the side eye to an HP printer. Turns out, HP retweeted the image, which came from a customer. A company spokesperson who leads the social media for HP’s global communications says this is part of the plan.

“The new features can influence the editorial [content] and strengthen our connection to the community. For example, the capability to pin a tweet at the top of the page is great for promoting a certain message, but we’ve used it to highlight content from our followers.”

HP drew the image from a mini-campaign it ran on the day of the brand-page launch in which followers were asked to “tweet a pic of how HP helps you do what you do.” Selected messages were then retweeted and featured at the top of the feed.

In this way, HP’s essentially created a reason for existing followers to return to the branded page. Who doesn’t want to see their precious pup (cat, child, significant other) featured in a promotion?

by Lydia Dishman, originally posted Jan. 19 on

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