How Big Business Is On Twitter Without Being "On Twitter"

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In the past couple of weeks there has been multiple instances where well-known brands have confided in me that they are on Twitter, but not participating.

What, exactly, are they doing if they’re on Twitter but don’t have an account, are not following anybody and are not tweeting out any sort of content?

They’re listening and doing a lot more than just listening.

In fact, a lot of these brands are acting on the customer service-related issues, they’re understanding where their competitors are dropping the ball, and they’re able to uncover areas of improvement and/or innovation for product development. All without tweeting a character.

Imagine this scenario:

Someone on Twitter tweets out about a bad customer experience. It turns out that the company being accused is not on Twitter. From that, other stories from other individuals surface. Along with that series of tweets comes people’s thoughts, perspectives and ideas on how the company can/should remedy the situation. Without responding or even engaging directly with these individuals, the company is watching/listening to the Twitterverse and acts to rectify the situation going forward. Essentially, they’re willing to sacrifice the several disgruntled consumers but resolve the issue so no new customers moving forward have a similar experience.

Think about that for a few seconds. 

As more potential consumers become actual clients, their experiences are not similar to those of their peers on Twitter. "It must have just been them," suddenly becomes a very plausible answer. Those new consumers might also be thinking, "I guess they improved, changed or fixed their business." Why would a business/brand not engage on Twitter or try to change the outcome? Usually it has to do with resources, legal, governance or corporate affaires. While we can sit and judge the company structure or their inability to be open to engage in these real interactions, it’s pretty amazing to think that there are many brands that are actively listening, resolving issues or looking for ways to be innovative by simply following the Twitter stream.

It’s a smart move and it makes perfect sense.

Twitter is an open market of conversations. All conversations are happening in a natural language and happening between real people who are not being paid for their time or opinion. It’s also a place where people ask their peers for opinions, advice and ideas. If companies are not taking the time to learn from this open dialogue, they should be.

What’s your take on businesses being highly active on Twitter without tweeting a tweet?


  1. If businesses are not going to “join the conversation” they should at least be listening. I think it’s smart.
    I think that a lot of good marketers see the value of Twitter, but tend to encourage other avenues to their clients because we know what it takes to do it well. Our gut tells us our clients are not willing to do what is needed.
    I’ve found the listening activity to be very effective for us on behalf of our clients (We will not tweet for them). We are able to share insightful current thoughts with clients about what customers seem to be thinking about products and services – at least share possible trends. Sometimes actionable, sometimes not.

  2. Hey Mitch,
    I conpletely agree with you as I believe the most important and the very first action for businesses to take is to listen. Many businessses just want to start twittering away without even knowing what kind of conversations are going on.
    This week I had one of my clients join Twitter and start tweeting after our first meeting even though I never advised them to start taking action right away before they know the medium and the overall strategy for their brand.
    The point being is that businesses sometimes just want to in but without having a clear goal ahead of them and understanding the tool, they might just leave as quicly as they joined.
    The right step for all businesses is to listen but also slowly start bring part of the conversation as it might have an additional positive impact on the business.
    Alex “listener” Ikonn

  3. What I like most about this is that they’re going far beyond just listening to actually spotting opportunities… few companies are doing that at a successful level. Great stuff.

  4. I’d be curious to hear from these brands why the choose to listen and not participate? Is it the reasons you state above (resources, legal, governance or corporate affaires), they just don’t get it, or maybe joining the conversation is still too new a concept. It is fascinating to think about though. Thanks for the insights, Mitch.

  5. It never occurred that this would be a good strategy but, after some thought, and in some special cases, I can see how the reasons to not answer could outweigh the reasons to. Many companies may not be willing to put themselves into a position that the litigious could take advantage of, preferring to fix mistakes rather than admit to them. I get it…in some cases.
    But in most situations, why not contact the customer for the simple fact that it takes more resources to gain a new customer than to keep one already using your product? Even if you don’t deal with every complaint, it seems ludicrous to not deal with the ones that are simple fixes. In the world of ski resorts and mountain sports equipment, simply getting back to a customer with warranty questions stands for exemplary service, yet most companies can’t even handle this simple task. The ones that do are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest. To think that most brands are sitting back and taking notes while choosing not to improve the relationship with their customers seems idiotic. As I said above, I understand the sit-back-and-watch approach in industries with heavy legal implications (pharmaceutical, for one) but in many cases, I can’t see how it would pay to ignore your loyal customer’s concern when all it takes is a little attention and care.
    Either way, this is a great conversation topic. Thanks for the post Mitch.

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