Don’t Blame Twitter — Case Study: STRABAG SE

Austrian based STRABAG SE, one of the largest construction companies in Europe with 73,600 employees and annual revenue of € 12.B (both as of fiscal 2010), posted this update on Twitter after 18 months of use —>

In an email to IR Web Report (whose article inspired this blog entry), spokesperson Paula Rhys of STRABAG’s investor relations team said: “We do not see any benefit in using this social media tool for the time being. Stakeholders did not discuss actively with us on Twitter despite our efforts to ask questions.

Now, regular readers of this blog or my Twitter stream know that a recurring theme of mine is that companies need to place the responsibility for its social media initiative in the hands of a social media professional. A quick review of this move by STRABAG underscores this requirement.

The Facts
STRABAG created their Twitter account on August 5, 2009 and issued its first tweet two days later (“Largest construction company in CEE

  • It has issued 146 tweets over the 575 days from inception to the date of this entry (~4/week)
  • It follows 524 people, is followed by 527 and appears on 32 Twitter lists
  • Its bio info is exactly the same as its first tweet (see above)
  • Its profile provides a link to its home page: http://www.strabag.com

The Analysis (aka Why They Were Doomed to Twitter #Fail)
First, let me say that the mistakes STRABAG made are not uncommon when companies apply traditional marketing and communications strategies towards leveraging social media. I do not mean to assign blame to its communications and marketing teams — it’s not their fault — they were simply operating the way they were trained. But, Twitter, and indeed all social media, is a different animal. Here’s what they did wrong:

Failing to keep the “social” in social media
Social media helps companies increase engagement, but what does that mean? Simply put, it is the feeling of connection your customer has to your company, product or brand. Merely using social media as an additional distribution point for news, marketing or PR fails to deepen engagement and indeed can turn away customers and potential customers.

  • In 146 tweets spread over 18 months, STRABAG only @replied to users 10 times (and two of those were to the same user) — and all but one during the narrow three-month period of summer, 2010. That is not sufficient to build that company/customer connection.
  • In those 146 tweets, STRABAG retweeted others precisely 0 times – again, not socially engaging.

Failing to Understand How to Twitter Works

  • Twitter allows you a narrow space to fill out your bio – 160 characters. STRABAG used only 35, leaving a whopping (for Twitter) 125 characters unused, a wasted opportunity.
  • Many tweets begin with the company name, an unnecessary redundancy that likewise wastes 11 characters, or 8% of each tweet’s precious real estate.
  • Failure to use any form of link shortener; inefficient and contrary to accepted Twitter use.

Imposing Barriers to Participation

  • Failing to activate hyperlinks in tweets by leaving off the necessary http:// prefix.
  • The listed home page URL points to a German language web page. Understandable for an Austrian based company, but as the most common language in Europe, and the one used most for business transactions, is English, the link should point to the English translation page.
  • Web site does not provide for deep linking to specific pages allowing for only listing the home page URL, likely the single biggest hurdle to conveying value.

Solution: Hire a Social Media Professional
The encouraging thing that STRABAG did was disclose their intention to continue to monitor their brand on Twitter even though thy have ceased issuing tweets. If a company only did one thing on social media, it should be to listen to what their customers are saying about them wherever they are saying it. As such, STRABAG’s Twitter moratorium should not be taken as a rejection of the network, or of social media in general.

But, maximizing the potential benefits of social media for any organization requires a specific skill set, best provided by a social media professional with a proven track record. Keep marketing working on marketing, and PR/public affairs working on the message.

Let a social media pro integrate the two into a cohesive social media initiative.

About Ron Casalotti
I am part of that lucky generation that started out when watching TV meant choosing from three networks, three independents and PBS. Now, I work in new media for businesses and organizations - but these thoughts are my own.

2 Responses to Don’t Blame Twitter — Case Study: STRABAG SE

  1. Ed Wohlfahrt says:

    this is probably the best blogpost on the topic of twitter-strategy I’ve ever read! Kind regards from carinthia, where the strabag headquater is located!

    Like

    • Danke schön, Ed.I appreciate hearing from someone close to the action. The good news is, with just a little more understanding and guidance, social media can still benefit Strabag and increase their social media satisfaction. The only fatal social media strategy is to not be in it.

      Like

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