Corporate Twitter Accounts

It seems like the 1 million followers mark is the threshold upon where someone reaches twitter-celebrity status. My whole philosophy has always been it’s not the quantity of your followers but the quality. Who will retweet, share on facebook and spread information via the old fashion word-of-mouth. MySpace has an unlimited allowance for friends, Facebook caps its friendship. However, something has to be said for seeing that large number of followers on Twitter and imagining that the moment a communications person hits send, over one million phones, twitter accounts and affiliates instantly are pinged with that corporation’s message.

But why do some corporations and organizations have large followings and others do not?

The NBA was the first sports organization to reach the million follower threshold. The NFL is at 800,000 followers. While the NBA’s 2008-2009 season occurred concurrently with the rise of Twitter, the NFL was off-season. Assuming that Twitter grows and the NFL uses Twitter in creative ways, the NFL could easily over take the NBA in number of followers by the Superbowl. For the record Major League Baseball has 229,000 followers and the NHL has 2,516 followers.

But comparing sports leagues is comparing apples to oranges. What about businesses that compete with the same product.

Jetblue was the first airline (and one of the first corporations) I knew that was on Twitter. And maybe moving first has helped the low-cost airline reach the numbers it has. Jetblue has over 1 million followers on twitter. I’ve heard stories about jetblue using Twitter to solve problems, not just to “advertise.” And that’s how Twitter should be used. But I’ve communicated with Virgin America and while I’ve never had a problem, I’ve received answers. But Virgin America only has 27.000 followers. Perhaps in this case it’s the size of the airline. Virgin America is newer, has limited routes and a smaller presence at airports. But what about the other airlines?

Southwest has a very respectable 420,000 followers, but still no where near Jetblue.

So if size matters, why is American Airlines, one America’s legacy carriers and biggest airlines only able to carry a paltry 9,063 followers?  American Airlines is offering discounts, holding contests and on August 4th, the airline challenged their followers to break 10,000 followers. American Airlines had just crossed 8,000.

Delta has a few hundred followers than American Airlines, but they haven’t updated since June 17th when it ironically announced 80 years of “nonstop service.” I’m guessing that the Delta communications teams isn’t reaching for 80 years of non-stop service.

So what’s the lesson? Maybe once you account for size of the airline, you take into account what following your company means to the follower? Discounts are nice, but you have to fly at prescribed times. The airlines aren’t giving away tickets during peak travel times. Contests help, I’m sure. But what really seems to make a difference is the interaction the airline has with the customers.

A bunch of public tweets that say, “Thanks @so_and_so, we know why you fly” isn’t going to cut the mustard. But a public response (and a possible solution) to an issue of, “Why is my @jetblue flight late?” Is going to win some points and more followers.

If anyone want to compare customer satisfaction and number of followers, I’d be interested to see the correlation. I’d also be interested to see some apples-to-apples comparisons of different companies who sell the same product.

One Response to Corporate Twitter Accounts

  1. Jeremy says:

    The number of followers the airlines have is tiny compared to their customer base, take JetBlue as an example, it is the most successful airline on Twitter with more than 1 million followers, yet that only represents about 4.5% market penetration ratio,which means that the majority of their customers are not on Twitter – yet. Other airlines fare even worse, for details, check out my blog post:


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