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Last week O2’s network crashed for 24 hours, leaving its customers fuming as they were forced to face life without text messages and Facebook mobile.
While O2 subscribers are unlikely to forget the experience in a hurry, those of us who use different mobile operators were treated to a masterclass in PR by the staff operating the company's Twitter account.
Flooded with hundreds of messages, O2’s social team responded courteously to customer queries and justified complaints, while also giving some sharp, funny comebacks to a few abusive individuals.
However, while this was a great way to maintain some humour in an otherwise disastrous situation, some could have viewed it as too close to smug and uncaring at times.
This is the dilemma for brands, funny Twitter accounts can be a great PR tool, but it also runs the risk of backfiring if you don’t take legitimate complaints seriously.
With this in mind, I found eight other brands that use quirky or humorous tweets to entertain their followers while also promoting a softer brand image...
One of the finest brand accounts on Twitter, Arena Flowers seemingly has no interest in promoting offers or marketing messages.
The entire feed is full of funny one-liners and random thoughts, which has attracted almost 10,000 followers.
As a UK flower delivery company Arena perhaps has more scope to run an entertaining Twitter account than major global brands, but nonetheless it has done a fantastic job of it.
According to Arena Flowers CEO Will Wynne:
For now we see it as a branding / awareness thing. We get sales, when we push certain products and offers around key flower buying times but the rest of the year people are not that likely to buy....so it would be annoying to keep pushing buy messages (the average Brit buys flowers twice a year). So our plan is to keep people engaged and have our name in their head so that when they do buy, they think of us.It's really an awareness thing to get our company's name into your head because you want to read our tweets a few times a day (and in the head of your followers via RTs). You'd have to pay a lot for the equivalent TV / radio name coverage...
Another brand account that does nothing to directly promote the company’s product or services. However, it’s a great PR tool and will help differentiate the brand from its competitors.
Except, of course...
In keeping with its brand image, Paddy Power’s Twitter account intersperses its marketing messages and live odds updates with jokes and random quotes.
Old Spice’s TV ads proved to be a massive viral hit, and it has continued the same theme through its Twitter feed.
A lot of the content is related to Old Spice, so it’s a great way of keeping users engaged with the brand and building on the success of the TV campaign.
However it’s much easier to be funny and quirky when the content comes from a fictitious character, rather than from a corporate brand account.
While most of Coca-Cola’s tweets are straightforward brand messages, it comes into its own during football tournaments when it goes multi-lingual to support the various teams.
Train companies must have to field a huge number of complaints on Twitter, so London Midland is one of many companies that seek to humanise the process by identifying who is operating the account at any given time of day.
While most of its tweets are updates on delays and forthcoming events, the team also use humorous tweets to let followers see their personalities.
Kia has setup an account to promote its new C’eed model, with all the tweets supposedly coming from the car itself.
It’s relatively inexpensive and quirky marketing tool, and the bio gives the customer service phone number in case any disgruntled customers are looking for assistance.
Marmite's loyal customer base means is the kind of brand that is purpose-built for social media, and its Twitter account is dedicated to fuelling the ‘love or hate’ debate.
The social team do a good job of retweeting and responding to fans alongside tweeting marketing content.
While many loathe the Aleksandr character (including myself), you can’t argue that it hasn’t been a hugely successful marketing gimmick.
As with the Old Spice example, Comparethemarket’s account is a continuation of an existing ad campaign rather than a standalone marketing tool.
But whether you love him or hate him, there are still more than 53,000 people who want to read Aleksandr’s tweets.