Social Media Strategies – Twitter Follower Relationship Management

With a significant percentage of B2C companies well established at this point on Twitter, it’s due time they take steps to better understand and take actions around their followers – Follower Relationship Management (FRM) is a method for doing so…


A recent survey found that consumers who engage with companies on social media spend 20% to 40% more with those companies than other consumers do; another survey found that consumers are 75% more likely to purchase from a brand they follow on Twitter. These facts combined with the fact that there are over 500 million active Twitter users necessitates that companies present on Twitter have a formal customer relationship management strategy in place for managing their followers. Follower Relationship Management (FRM) is a method for doing so; by engaging in FRM, companies will be able to not only understand their followers, but also take action on them.


Triggered and driven by globally ever-increasing internet / mobile internet penetration rates, Twitter has in a very short time become an indispensible communication channel for people and companies the world over. With over a half billion users tweeting around as many messages per day (on average), the power of Twitter is immense – it played an important role in the Arab Spring revolution, for example. It can and does play an important role in impacting the bottom line of companies as well, serving as a channel for many a company to provide sales and service through; more importantly, however, is the role it plays in allowing for the rapid spread of positive or negative word-of-mouth. Progressive Insurance is a prime example of a company that lost thousands of customers due to a spat with a customer on Twitter (and the subsequent firestorm of tweeting around the incident).

Despite its power, however, many a company is yet to effectively manage this channel; a recent study found that approximately two thirds of tweeters who have tweeted about a bad experience have never received a response from the offending company. Juxtapose this reality with the fact that two thirds of consumers expect a response the same day to an online complaint, it’s clear that there is a serious degree of channel mismanagement taking place.

Companies need to in a structured and ongoing manner manage this channel as if it were a traditional one, with a strategy in place that ensures effective client management across all spectrums. Just as in traditional channels customer relationship management (CRM) is practiced, so too should a similar concept be at play in the social media realm; follower relationship management (FRM) is this concept, a method for managing Twitter followers to ensure optimal customer-level actions are taken. Benefits of utilizing FRM include:

  • Learning more and gaining deeper insights of consumers and audiences through a deep interest analysis of Twitter followers
  • Improving the bottom line through grouping consumers according to their behaviors / interest patterns and addressing  potential advertising and promotion vehicles  to the right target audiences
  • Driving up follower satisfaction with more relevant and targeted tweet content aligned to the interests of different follower groups


FRM requires extensive use and analysis of social media data, to enable strategies to be developed that can be applied to followers. Three steps are required to be taken towards deploying an effective FRM practice…

1. Develop Tweet History Database: The first and most basic step towards building an FRM practice is to start recording tweets about the company, its products and services, its competitors, etc. Twitter limits the retrieval of tweets around a given subject (date and content limited; for example, only up to 1500 tweets old around a specific search term). As such, companies need to begin recording and logging all tweets that they may analyze and take action on in the future. The first insights from this data might be limited to a few major indicators (change in the number of followers, number of mentions, etc.) whereas deeper analysis (with social network analysis or text or data mining algorithms) will bring deeper insights such as identification of the influencer accounts in the follower base, monitoring the number of positive / negative mentions per product, or estimating the effect of a marketing campaign on Twitter. The resources required to set this up are minimal, with any decent size company’s IT department able to build such a database to ensure ongoing Twitter data retrieval.

2. Conduct Customer Segmentation: The next step is to conduct segmentation of Twitter followers, through identifying the varying needs, behavior, value, and relationship of each individual that is following the company Twitter page. Such segmentation can be conducted using data coming from / around three different areas:

Account Information – Information pertaining to the individual follower’s twitter account, such as:

  • Brands / celebrities followed
  • Activity (number of tweets per day / tweet regularity / tweet diversity)
  • Account tenure
  • Number of positive / neutral / negative tweets regarding the compan

Network Information – Information pertaining to the individual follower and his or her Twitter network, to understand the status, role, potential impact, etc., better, information such as:

  • The number of followers the individual has
  • The brands the followers of the individual follow
  • The number of positive / neutral / negative tweets regarding the company tweeted inside the individual follower’s network
  • The total number of followers individuals inside the given network have

Internal Information – Information pertaining to the individual that resides inside the company, such as:

  • Customer tenure
  • Customer value (revenue, profitability, etc.)
  • Customer product / service ownership
  • Customer status (active / passive)
  • Customer social network

Aside from “internal information,” the above analysis can be conducted in a relatively short amount of time in a simple manner. To match up Twitter accounts to internal customer records is a rather challenging task; it necessitates Twitter followers to identify themselves as customers, requiring the company to take some type of action to ensure this happens. Aside from self-identification that can happen through a customer care or sales support incident, a campaign will need to be conducted by the company wishing to link up internal information to Twitter accounts.

A successful example of a company that has done this was the “sync with Twitter” campaign conducted by American Express, wherein Amex cardholders synced their Twitter accounts with their cards to automatically received savings on their card (when they tweet certain hashtags such as #AmexCoffee or #AmexBestBuy). The campaign not only managed to link up a significant number of cardholders to their Twitter accounts, but it also created a word-off mouth snowball that generates additional revenue for Amex and certain partner companies (like McDonald’s, Best Buy, and Whole Foods).

With the analysis complete, followers can now be segmented into actionable groups (with an individual possibly in several groups at once). Examples of groups that can be defined are as follows (the groups can and should be customized based on the company’s own set of circumstances):

Twitter Celebrity: Has more than x number of followers

Twit Addicts: Tweets more than x times a month

Disconnected: Has less than x number of followers or tweets

Company Friendly: Inside a network that has a high rate of individuals following companies

Competitor Friendly: Inside a network that has a high rate of individuals following competitor companies

Linked Circuit: Inside a network that has a high rate of individuals following the same companies

Loud Detractor: Has more than x number of negative tweets about the company

Company Advocate: Has more than x number of positive tweets about the company

Prestigious Ones: Has more than x number of followers, and, is above x value

Potential One: Has tweeted at least x number of times regarding the company and has been identified as definitely not a customer

Influencers: Has more than x percentage of his or her tweets retweeted

Reflectors: Retweets more than x percentage of other individuals tweets

Other segments may be defined based on relevant variables; one is sector – Avon, for example, segments its followers into four groups – beauty, fashion news & comedy, music & TV, and cutting edge beauty. They have gone as far as to develop a business plan for each of the segments, changing the way they target them; for example, by knowing that a certain segment’s individuals commonly follow a specific TV program (which is extracted from analyzing Twitter accounts), Avon customizes how it advertises to that segment (by having commercials run during that program, by using that program’s celebrities as spokespeople, by conducting product placement during that program, etc.).

3. Design & Take Action: Once the segments have been designed, the next step is to take action on those segments, aimed at driving up satisfaction rates as well as the bottom line, if possible. Some examples of actions that can taken on the various follower segments:

  • Customized Treatment: Based on the behavior and needs of various important follower segments, companies can offer customized treatments that are aligned to their specific commonalities. An example of such a customized treatment can include ensuring tweets from certain important follower segments are responded to in a prioritized manner. Microsoft is an example of company that has developed another customized treatment; they have created a different Twitter account (Microsoft Student) to serve the needs of “student technologists around the world, providing software at no charge, resources, tech news & more.” Dell is another company that does customization very well, with dozens of Dell Twitter accounts supporting numerous different follower groups – some of the accounts:


Not only did the airline generate significant revenues, it donated $50,000 to Stand Up to Cancer, as well as increased its loyalty program sign-ups by 25%.

  • Acquisition & Cross / Up-Sell Pitches: Targeting those follower groups identified as potential clients or susceptible to offers, companies can use Twitter for making direct pitches to followers. Numerous companies have already developed and use direct messaging applications to do this type of pitching, initiating the contact through Twitter, shifting to more traditional channels if the pitch is welcomed by the follower. Virgin America airlines did this recently, leading to the largest single day of sales in its history – teaming up with a charitable cause (Stand Up to Cancer), Virgin America targeted its followers with a campaign that donated a portion of the ticket sales to the charity.


  • Targeted and Cost-Effective Advertising: The specific follower groups can be advertised to in a customized manner, seeking to maximize response rates, as well as enable positive word-of-mouth in a short period of time. Creativity is the key here, with Twitter an ideal channel for conducting unique and inspired campaigns for select follower groups. Volkswagen Spain, for example, created a campaign around an online game for its Polo brand called Polowers (a mash-up of Polo and followers); followers were able to play the game through Twitter, integrating the Twitter API into the Polowers micro-site, requiring users to become followers to play.


The campaign resulted in over 150,000 tweets being made within the first hours of the contest, and increased Volkswagen’s follower base by 50%.

The above are only a few examples of the wealth of actions that can be taken. What is critical is that companies go beyond taking mass actions on all of their followers; rather, they need to target specific follower segments, designing tactics that aim to acquire, grow, and retain niche pockets of individuals. Just as below-the-line micro-segment specific actions are taken, so too should they be taken with Twitter follower groups.

What Next?

FRM is a catch-all concept around client management that companies should begin using immediately within their marketing, sales, and customer care teams, striving to build a culture wherein Twitter relationships with followers are actively managed to maximize performance. Once such a culture is in place, then and only then can a company consider itself effective in and around managing its Twitter channel. 

Tags : analytics, business intelligence, consulting, Customer Experience, customer segmentation, ecommerce, marketing, online, segmentation, strategy, twitter