Twitter hits 10 billion - but FTSE 100 slow to catch on

Ten billion 'tweets' - but not many from our biggest listed firms. Are the FTSE missing a trick?

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Twitter is apparently due to twop twen billion tweets twoday, so we’re twold – but according to Virgin Media Business (that's @vmbusiness to you), only 16 of the UK’s biggest 100 listed companies are using the micro-blogging site to talk to their customers. If you believe Twitter’s claim that about one in five tweets refer to a product or brand, it might be that the rest are missing a trick: after all, if so many people are on Twitter talking about you, it probably makes sense to try and get involved with the conversation…

According to Twitter, users are now posting 50m tweets per day, equivalent to 600 per second (to give you a sense of its growth, it was only doing 5,000 a day in 2007). That might be relatively small fry compared with the likes of YouTube (1bn videos per day) and Facebook (8bn minutes on site per day). But it’s still a lot of noise. And significantly, as far as businesses are concerned, Twitter’s Sean Garrett said last month that there are 25,000 tweets referring to specific brands every 5 minutes; indeed, one in five tweets now apparently contains some kind of product or brand reference.

Given the sheer volume of nonsense spouted on the site (you can tweet that again - Ed), this sounds a bit high to us. And you might argue that since Twitter’s ultimate aim is to monetise the site, and this might well facilitate that process, it would say that. Nonetheless, it’s presumably true that FTSE 100 firms are being talked about by Twitterers – yet just one in six is bothering to utilise it as a customer service channel. Plenty have been through the motions – 57% have an account of some sort – but three-quarters don’t use it to respond to customer enquiries or complaints. Virgin’s Phil Stewart reckons this is ‘no better than opening a contact centre and not picking up the phone’.

Clearly social media poses risks for big companies (as Virgin Atlantic found recently, when it had to sack 13 staff for calling passengers ‘chavs’ on Facebook). The immediacy of Twitter makes it much harder to control your brand image, so you’re relying heavily on the calibre of your customer service people. But if people are talking about your brand online already, why miss out on the chance to influence the conversation? You might even turn some disgruntled customers into advocates - while learning what Stephen Fry is having for lunch at the same time.

In today's bulletin:

Sorrell bemoans 'brutal' year as WPP profits plunge
Sell the Acropolis and some of your islands, Germans tell Greeks
VT Group opens books to Babcock's £1.3bn bid
Twitter hits 10 billion - but FTSE 100 slow to catch on
The Sharp End: Don't call me a bouncer

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