Twitter is a brilliant tool for communicating with consumers and when used effectively can be a great way of building customer loyalty.

In recent weeks I’ve come across a number of brands that have excellent Twitter strategies and several that I thought were less impressive.

This could be because they were dull, unimaginative or simply weren’t living up to their potential.

So to shine some light on the differences between those brands getting it right and those that perhaps aren’t, here are five good and four bad examples of brands using Twitter…

Five good

ASOS

ASOS operates several different Twitter feeds for fashion updates and customer services, which is a common strategy as it means that marketing messages don’t get mixed up with customer care queries.

The women’s fashion account has more than 470,000 followers and responds to hundreds of @mentions each day, mainly from customers who are excited about a recent purchase.

The social team adopt a casual, friendly tone which reflects the brand image and is a great way of building a relationship with customers and improving brand loyalty.

It also adds to the excitement around the customer’s purchase and is a way of replicating the personal touch of in-store customer care.

ASOS’s feeds also tweet product suggestions and marketing messages, but these are largely lost among the huge number of @mentions.

Looking at the customer care feed, the ‘Here to Help’ account is excellent at promptly responding to customers and deals with queries with via direct message and a follow up call or email from customer services.

This means that all conversations are moved away from public forums and reduces the likelihood of an embarrassing complaint.

Nike

Nike has a wide range of Twitter feeds for each of its sub-brands and each one does a terrific job of interacting with customers and followers.

For each of the feeds – which include golf, basketball, FuelBand and football – the focus is very much on responding to @mentions rather than pushing out marketing messages.

For example, the Nike.com feed (797,000 followers) responds to more than 100 tweets per day regarding order queries, stock information and product details.

As with ASOS, the sports brand also operates a Nike Support feed to resolve product questions and technical needs. This dedicated customer service feed also answers hundreds of questions per day.

The sport feeds also respond to a large number of @mentions each day and are on hand to dish out training advice, product information or encouragement to other users.

Personally I’m a big fan of Nike’s Twitter strategy and would like to see more major brands adopt a similar approach as it goes a long way in turning customers into brand advocates.

Nike has also achieved some notable successes by using Twitter as a central tool in its marketing campaigns. During the London Olympics it managed to outshine official sponsor Adidas with a massive billboard and social campaign around the capital.

Nike eschewed the usual celebrity endorsements in a campaign that celebrated everyday athletes. It bought up hundreds of billboards around the city featuring the hashtag ‘#findgreatness’.

Adidas, which spent tens of millions of pounds to be an official sponsor, ran a campaign featuring Team GB athletes and the hashtag ‘#takethestage’.

According to Socialbakers’ CheerMeter there were more than 16,000 tweets associating Nike with the word Olympic between 27 July and 2 August compared to 9,295 for Adidas.

Tesco

Tesco has a huge number of Twitter feeds for each of its business units, not all of which are very successful, but it’s worth taking a look at its customer care feed.

It has almost 80,000 followers (an increase of 30,000 since January) and is incredibly active having tweeted a whopping 262,000 times.

The customer care team respond to and resolve hundreds of queries every hour and are available for most of the day – 8am to 11pm from Monday to Saturday and 10am to 8pm on Sundays.

The tone is generally quite light-hearted and the social team also joins in conversations with other users and brands.

Overall it’s a great case study for how to get social customer service correct and should stand as a benchmark for others to try and emulate.

Microsoft and Xbox Support

While the main Microsoft and Xbox feeds are quite uninspiring and largely stick to pushing our marketing messages, the customer support feeds are definitely worth checking out.

A report from Simply Measured shows that 30 of the Interbrand Top 100 Brands currently operate a dedicated customer service Twitter account, a number that has increased from 23 since December 2012, so it appears to be a strategy that works.

The Xbox Support feed has tweeted an astonishing 1.3m times and according to its bio it holds the world record for being the most responsive brand on Twitter.

The handlers adopt a very informal tone, often referring to customers as ‘mate’, and are extremely proactive at making sure that problems get resolved.

Further to this, Simply Measured found that another official customer support feed, Microsoft Support, responded to @mentions in an average of just 42 minutes.

I feel it’s a fantastic way of using social to both deliver customer service and drive brand loyalty, though it obviously requires a huge investment in staff and training.

Arena Flowers

Not all brands adopt a serious approach on Twitter, as is demonstrated by the likes of Arena Flowers. Avoiding any actual reference to what the company does, the Arena Flowers Twitter feed 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 more than 16,000 followers.

As a UK flower delivery company Arena has the freedom to run an entertaining Twitter feed, whereas I can’t see the same tactic working for a major brand like Nike or ASOS.

Even so, it does a fantastic job of raising awareness of the brand so that when people are in the market for flowers they remember the Arena Flowers name.

The company also proved to be quite flexible with its social policy recently when it suffered a catastrophe with Valentine’s Day orders and was forced to contend with a large amount of customer complaints.

It temporarily suspended the funny tweets and instead used its Twitter feed to direct personalised responses to disappointed customers, as well as broadcasting updates. 

In a recent interview CEO Will Wynne told us that Twitter proved to be a really useful tool for rectifying the situation.

When people know why something has happened and how it is being resolved, they are happier to give you time to fix it, rather than demanding an immediate response.

Five bad

Stead and Simpson

Assuming this is a genuine account, it’s dreadfully dull to the extent of being pointless. Shoe retailer Stead and Simpson tweets once every few days and simply pushes out boring marketing messages.

As far as I can tell it has never actually responded to another user and as a result it has just 108 followers.

Diet Coke

Coca-Cola’s main Twitter feed is excellent and does a decent job of responding to @mentions, so it’s surprising that the Diet Coke feed is so dull.

It’s mainly used for tweeting marketing messages, asking questions, and spouting inspirational quotes, and never really responds to more than about five other users per day.

Diet Coke has a clearly defined audience and could easily use Twitter to communicate with its customers and increase brand loyalty, however it prefers instead to use it primarily as a broadcast tool.

As a comparison, the Nike Running feed gives training and product advice to hundreds of people per day, so there’s no reason why Diet Coke couldn’t offer fashion and lifestyle tips in keeping with its brand positioning.

Ikea UK

In general Ikea has an excellent social strategy, although its UK teams leave a lot to be desired. In fact the UK appears to be one of the few markets in which the retailer doesn’t have an active Twitter feed, though there have been several short-lived attempts.

For example, the Ikea stores in Warrington and Nottingham established feeds a few years ago but quickly abandoned the experiment and the accounts now lie dormant.

Similarly, I noted a few weeks ago that the UK press office tweeted five times in 2011 but then lay silent for several years, though in fairness that account has now been deleted.

However the retailer should really kill these feeds, as it doesn’t reflect well on the brand to have a number of failed social accounts lying dormant.

Kellogg’s

Despite being a well-known global brand none of Kellogg’s Twitter feeds has managed to attract more than a few thousands followers.

Even the Pop-Tarts feed is only followed by 6,100 people while the corresponding Facebook page has almost 5m fans, which is likely a reflection of the fact that the feeds are generally quite uninteresting.

Pop-Tarts tweets a few marketing messages and responses each day, while Krave mainly retweets people that have mentioned the brand in between quirky product-related tweets.

The Kellogg’s US feed is probably the most dull as its tweet include mentions of spring cleaning and tax returns though it does also respond to occasional customer service queries, as does the UK feed.