Can Twitter really suck the life out of a brand?

I don’t know the answer to this question. My intuition tells me no and that Twitter doesn’t have that much power; but my alternate personality keeps tapping me on the shoulder in disagreement. And to clarify, maybe I should rephrase this question to be “Can Twitter really suck the life out of a brand, if a brand chooses not to participate?”

I read about it all time in Twitter and on various social media blogs; how big brands and corporate America continue to #fail at social media. There are hundreds of Monday morning quarterbacks that try and poke holes at various strategies, programs and corporate blogs; and then give their unsolicited feedback on what they (the brand) should have done. Funny thing is … that these same folks would jump at the opportunity to work for and/or consult with the very organizations they criticize, duh.

Some people want brands on twitter. Some don’t and some are not sure. And then there are random peeps who bitch about a product or service, expecting the brand’s Twitter account to start following them and treat them like some celebrity customer because they use twitter and have thousands of followers. I say whatever to that and I will save my point of view for a different post.

We all remember the Amazon fiasco a few weeks ago (if not, read more here: #amazonfail) where they were just about crucified on twitter for I am not even sure what; but apparently they didn’t “join the conversation” fast enough to appease the twitter crowd. Point is, with all the heat, criticism, re-tweets and conversations on twitter, I wonder if it really moved the needle at all. I would be anxious to find out what Amazon’s 2nd quarter earnings are to understand what, if any, the impact really was. My intuition says — probably no impact at all.

Then there was this crazy concept that Domino’s Pizza somehow suffered from not having a Twitter account (they do now). The suffering was actually caused by two dumb a$$ employees who did very nasty things to some food before boxing it up for a customer; and then doing the unthinkable – posting it to YouTube. And to make things even worse, the girl in the video is a registered sex offender. That in itself was the true #fail; which demonstrated the incompetence of the local franchise owner more so than Dominos corporate. It had nothing to do with twitter, in my opinion.

Even if twitter accounted for 10% of the entire social universe, my intuition would still say no. To this day, Walmart continues to be scrutinized and used as a case study in conferences and academia on “what not to do” in social media from those who still preach the basics of authenticity and transparency. Yet, last I heard their sales are still up and in the billions even within the current state of the economy.

I love Twitter. I am addicted to it and I have made some really good friends over the last two years participating in meaningful discussions. I have learned a lot; and I have tried to share just as much. I even get a decent number of re-tweets and click throughs from links that I post (yes, I track it). But, despite twitter’s growth and penetration into the mainstream, I just don’t think it has the power or influence to cause significant damage to brand, if the brand chooses not to particpate. Truth is, it’s the people that will suck the life out of a brand, not twitter, especially if the product sucks or just doesn’t solve a problem.

Last thing. I personally believe that every company/brand, regardless of the size, should have some level of presence in twitter; and be a part of a larger strategy that includes customer outreach and engagement.

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About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Greg

    No I don’t think you can hurt your image too much by not being on twitter AS LONG AS you are somewhere joining the conversation.  If you ignore social media entirely I think it can hurt you but not one facet of it.  Whether you ignore blogging, facebook, or twitter won’t matter as long as you are active in one of them.

    And the bigger brands will never be truly affected by social media.  At least negatively.  But they can surely help their cause by becoming active in the conversations.

  • Michael Brito

    Greg — you are right. the bigger the brand, the less affected they would be. I should have annotated that in the post. 

    “And the bigger brands will never be truly affected by social media.  At least negatively.  But they can surely help their cause by becoming active in the conversations.”

    Completely agree. It’s more of an opportunity cost of not participating.

  • Becky Carroll

    Twitter is certainly creating a lot of waves – in certain circles. When we take a step back and look at the rest of the world, many still don’t know about it (although I am sure that is changing rapidly with Oprah now on there).
    I love Twitter, as it is a great way to connect up with friends, colleagues, and my favorite brands. Do I wish certain brands were on Twitter? Yes, mostly because I just wish they were listening. I think it is OK for a brand not to be on Twitter if they are listening to the conversation somewhere and are responding to their customers in the way that works best for them. Completely ignoring the conversation – that could suck the life out of a brand!

    Thank you for the post, Michael – you rock!

  • Christine Perkett


    Thanks for the link in your post. I appreciate it. As a marketer I do like to see brands on Twitter – afterall, I have helped many get on there – but I want them to do it right. And that means engaging and conversing – not streaming news. I want them to interact with the community and make their brand more personable – emotionally connecting in a way that they never could before.

    But that takes guts, wits and time. And some companies don’t want to invest any of that.

    Christine Perkett

  • LA_Law

    I feel as mentioned in a previous comment that twitter should be used by companies to interact with it’s customers and I know Zappos is a great example of that. As far as draining a brand I think it has played a a huge role in increase big brands already such as dell. When done right twitter can be so valuable.

  • TechnologyStolen

    I don’t think any brand needs so much twitter presence. But customer these day, would like their voices and opinion to be directly heard, and doesn’t want to take 5 to 7 days for their customer complaints to be heard and dealt with.

    prompt action is very much needed, this is where twitter chip -in and provide that much needed function. It is an advantage for the brand who has twitter presence

  • Jack Zufelt

    A brand won’t fail because of a lack of a Twitter presence, but it could succeed on Twitter exposure alone. It doesn’t hurt not to be on Twitter, but it’s not helping any either.

  • online marketing

    I think that with every social media app you first need to establish your objectives. there is no point using Twitter if you have no idea what you want to achieve from using it. Its good to keep up with the trends but you also need to use them to your companies advantage.