In 2013 we saw more and more evidence of brands starting to relax a little on social media and have some fun with their audiences. A prime and often used example of this is Tesco Mobile, who regularly shout-down people being nasty about them with (usually) funny retorts such as:

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This type of activity tends to get Tesco Mobile a lot of attention, with threads full of more quips and congratulations from on-lookers and blogs like mine bigging them up. It works for them from an engagement and branding perspective – whether it shifts mobile contracts isn’t something I can confirm, but I have a feeling it does (they’re tweets about deals etc get a lot of RTs, which obviously isn’t an indicator of guaranteed sales, but a solid one none-the-less).

Key to their success is that fact that this type of cheeky/funny approach isn’t limited to responses – their tone and content is consistent at all times, example:

Example of Tesco using a topical piece of humorous content.

Example of Tesco using a topical piece of humorous content.

Don’t jump on the band-wagon

Tesco have always been like this on Twitter, which is a big factor in their Twitter success . Take that on-board and please don’t try to shift the way you do things just to be cheeky/edgy/funny – it won’t work and you’ll likely look like you’re trying far too hard. Sure, inject some humour from time to time (if suitable for your brand) and stick up for your brand when required, but don’t try to make a huge shift just to try and come across all ‘Tesco’. Tesco Mobile’s rival, O2 has often struggled to match their verve and sharp-wit and has failed, especially in exchanges between the two:

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O2 looked silly there right? They used their (in my opinion riduculous) ‘be more dog’ campaign as part of their response and made it all too corporate and ‘salesy’. Sometimes, you just have to accept that you aren’t the coolest kid in town, and focus on having your own individual angle on your social media voice. You can look a bit daft if you all-of-a-sudden start to shift your way of communicating to one that has no precedent or real relevance. Tesco Mobile’s approach is actually a shift away from what many would consider the Tesco brand – solid, reliable and economic. It goes to show that separate areas of a business can have their own voice within an umbrella brand.

The power of a great Community Manager

I don’t know if Tesco Mobile use an agency for their community management, however that doesn’t really effect the point that I’m about to make. While community management is a varied role (and it is a valid role), one of the key attributes of a great CM is the ability to adapt their way of communicating within a number of scenarios – their tone needs to be appropriate for the interaction in question and for the brand in general. Community managers have to be master communicators, but they also need creativity, often a sense of humour, thick skins and the drive to offer superb service, insight and results. Tesco Mobile have some real gems working their Twitter account, that’s for sure.

Don’t be scared to be strong…

I believe that brands/businesses etc have the right to defend themselves when things get nasty on social media – yes, if you’ve been a very bad brand, then take it on the chin and be humble/apologise, but if people are being down-right abusive, then don’t be scared to have a word and ask them to calm down before you help them. You wouldn’t accept abuse in a face to face situation would you? Often brands and the people at the end of the social account put up with too much bile, just because someone told them that you always have to be the nice guy in social media.

In summary – be yourself on social media, or fail and look more than a bit silly.


I copied Tesco Mobile into a tweet about this post, and they responded with:

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It’s nice for them to actually take the time to respond, many brands never bother responding to praise.

Are there social media accounts that really float your boat? Have you tried to switch your tone of voice to one that doesn’t match your overall brand and benefitted from it? Prove me wrong!

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Image credits – Silly string is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/19144462@N00/ and used under creative commons, Tesco Mobile tweets are screen-grabs.

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