Tesco and O2 have a tweet-off

What are your rules when it comes to tweeting from your corporate account? Do you empower and equip your social media team to use their judgement and present themselves and the company in the best way, or do they have a stringent set of rules/guidance to follow?

Over the past few weeks there have been lots of examples of brands taking to social media using their corporate accounts to engage directly with customers in a cheeky/friendly way. For example I wrote about O2 last week and how they were using street slang on their tweets.

Tonight a conversation took place on Twitter between Tesco and O2‘s social media teams. Did you see it? It started with a tweet from @HoldmeBackBro who said: @UKTesco I swear you and @O2 should have some banter.

Tesco and O2 have a tweet-off
Over the course of the next three and a half hours, tweets were sent from both O2 and Tesco to each other. I have captured them via Storify and you can view the whole conversation below.

What’s your take on tweeting like this? Do you like it and think it adds to the perception of the companies or think it detracts from their image? Is it harmless fun which reveals the human side to large corporations or an irresponsible use of social media? Do let me know your thoughts by commenting below, Rachel.



  1. Tim Lloyd says:

    I think it’s essential for corporate accounts to have some sense of personality, but it looks like this might have gone too far. As a customer I think I might have assumed the accounts were hacked or actually fakes. If I were a shareholder I would be questioning the value of that type of engagement.

  2. Jon Weedon says:

    I find it a bit juvenile and if I had a genuine problem with the customer care with either company I would be massively irritated to read this kind of content in my Twitter stream rather than a resolution to my own issue. There are plenty of opportunities to show off your corporate personality and be helpful and engaging without going down the rival banter route.

    Seems that Tesco agrees – unless I’m very much mistaken, the tweets above have all been removed this morning…

  3. Thanks for your comments Tim and Jon. Interesting point Tim, I wonder what the shareholders think?

    Good job I ‘storified’ it last night Jon if it’s been removed. You can see the whole transcript above or here: http://storify.com/AllthingsIC/tesco-and-o2-have-a-tweet-off I was intrigued to think they could be rivals – not a usual pairing in my mind.

  4. These comments have been shared via Twitter in response to the story above:

    @johnty_cairns – @o2 @uktesco my experience of both is poor particularly during crises… No best practice here.

    ‏@editor_gtn – not very grown up, entertaining but not grown up

    ‏@timolloyd- great example. I think @SouthernRailUK manage to strike a better balance

    ‏@CharStamper – Cringe. RT @AllthingsIC Tesco and O2 had a ‘tweet-off’ tonight. http://storify.com/AllthingsIC/tesco-and-o2-have-a-tweet-off … @O2 @UKTesco

    @andsomepeople Had to happen 😉 > RT @allthingsic: Just created a storify: Tesco and O2 had a ‘tweet-off’ tonight: http://storify.com/AllthingsIC/tesco-and-o2-have-a-tweet-off … @O2 @UKTesco

    ‏@Kirstie_CIPR – “@AllthingsIC: Just created a storify: Tesco and O2 had a ‘tweet-off’ tonight: http://storify.com/AllthingsIC/tesco-and-o2-have-a-tweet-off … @O2 @UKTesco” – haha love this!

    ‏@kpmarek – @AllthingsIC Lol. Brilliant!

    ‏@J0N1 – @AllthingsIC I think @02 and @UKTesco have been read the riot act. Yesterday’s banter has disappeared…

  5. ‏@annalowman – @AllthingsIC hmm, I’m all for brands creating a more personable face, but this is unprofessional and too distanced from the corporate brand

  6. Vicki O'Connell says:

    I totally agree with Tim and Jon. I think it’s important to have a personality but not sure this kind is appropriate for either brand! I too would be really annoyed if I had issue with either company and I could see this going on. Bearing in mind it was only a few days ago O2 were again having network issues!

    I often feel that people just assume social media can be ‘manned’ by the intern or work experience without considering the important role it plays in brand values and perceptions. Thanks for ‘storifying’ Rachel. Really interesting read.

  7. Jon Ingham says:

    Isn’t the issue that corporates can’t have personalities (apart from a few exceptions) – only their people can. Tesco can’t have a mother so it just doesn’t work.

    If these were individuals identified with their companies who were tweeting it would work better.

    But then of course even if the corporates did have personalities, this wouldn’t be it I’m sure. Which I’d suggest is the main problem with the exchange.

  8. Paul Thomas says:

    Agree with Jon. It works well when it’s individuals but as a corporate it’s hard to achieve a balance. Too reserved or too cool for school. There’s a fine line. In fact that’s the reason behind Grant Thornton’s social media policy. We sell people, so let them speak!

    My twitter heroes @londonmidland have it right. Sign in with personality, respond with personality, but ensure the information side of the feed is accurate and up to date.

  9. Thanks all for your comments.

    Vicki I think that’s certainly true – lots of companies don’t realise the impact that tweets can have and therefore don’t resource effectively.

    Paul I like your view of ‘we sell people, so let them speak’.

    Jon I – what personality do you think Tesco and O2 would have if you had to describe it?

    I think it is hard to achieve a balance between professional and personable, but they can and do go hand-in-hand. Lots of train companies being cited as social media stars today – had mentions for @londonmidland and @southernrailuk.

    Who do you think has the balance right? Rachel

  10. Tony Stewart says:

    You know, I think the issue is that it’s just not very clever. It amused me, but it’s quite a juvenile and crass exchange really – something I’m not sure either corp had in mind in portraying when they set up their social media presence.

    Had it been a bit smarter – the country presence and business age comparisons touched on something that could have been fun and yet still professional – then I think this could have been a great exchange.

    But then again, it’s street language, innit! Us comms types probably just feel un-included 😉

  11. Cerys says:

    I think your missing the point here.

    Both brands are looking to go from liked to loved in their respective markets and this sort of engagement is exactly what both of their brands future customers are looking for.

    A brand which has personalitity and is not afraid to show it.

    You need to think more about the lifetime value that this sort of engagement will create for such brands rather than those who sit tight and say nothing.

    This example should be celebrated rather belittled by ‘professionals’ that are living in the world of the traditional communications paradigm.

    o2 and Tesco are well ahead of the game in terms of Social Media and this engagement style is working wonders for both.

    The reaction in the comments above in my opinion says more about your own views of engagment than the brands highlighted themselves.

  12. Stuart Bruce says:

    This doesn’t work for me at all. Having a personality is important in social media, but it’s important to understand what that means. A company will never be a person, but it can communicate in a way that reflects values – that becomes its personality.

    Unfortunately, this exchange just looks juvenile and if anything shows a ‘negative’ personality for both participants. It would put me off dealing with either company.

  13. Paul Thomas says:

    Surely the point, if there’s one to make, is that we all want different things from the brands we interact with.

    Is this likely to turn me onto O2 or Tesco, no, but it will attract a demographic and will alienate others.

    Corporate accounts run into criticism because they can’t be personality driven with any consistency when the potential audience is split between the public, shareholders, press and other audiences listening in.

  14. Jon Weedon says:

    @cerys I’m sure you have a point about some of us living in the world of the traditional communications paradigm. However, if this engagement style is working wonders for O2 and Tesco, why have both companies removed all of the ‘offending’ tweets?

  15. TankAdams09 says:

    Dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.

    I hate to an unimaginable level corporations that have a presence on Social Media and show absolutely no human interaction, they simply use it as another means to bombard us with advertisements, manufactured statements, and worst of all unimaginative promotions like “Follow and RT this to get a year’s supply of [insert product]”.

    Any brand or organisation that uses Twitter or Facebook to engage with their customers is on the right the path, actual human answers to questions or concerns is the first step to being attractive as an organisation to me. After this a next step is to start bringing in content related articles that you have a link to, points of interest, a real for me to follow you, rather than just contact you when I am annoyed. Once you got a hang on this start bringing in inoffensive humour, make me chuckle, RT something comical that I may also like to share.

    Doing all the above keeps your accounts active and current, establishing an identify within Social Media that your account is not just an afterthought but a real asset to engage with the people you’re trying to sell to etc.

    Only then should you dip your toe into actual banter. @bbcthree and @bbccomedy in my opinion do this really well, although they can hide behind their shows identities at times and have the advantage of being light hearted and comical forms of entertainment, they still connect with other tweeters in a human jovial way that make an actual effort to tweet them and therefore helping them spread their message.

    Tesco and O2 failed this time, but I’d rather see this type of nonsense which might make me grin even for a second then the drivel of heartless dull advertising often spewed into social media by unaware ill-informed old fashioned marketers that haven’t caught up with how powerful these tools can be.

  16. Thank you all for your insightful comments and opinions.

    Stuart I think your comment around personality developing out of how it communicates it values is spot on.

    TankAdams09 – human answers are indeed key and I think it’s the balance that was mentioned earlier that is crucial – between being personable and professional. I can’t imagine people talking like that on the phone for example. Will check out the accounts you mentioned as I’m interested to see the different personalities being reflected via the tweets.

    Paul – I take your point about the audience, you’re right in that the accounts are trying to be many things to many people.

    Another example of companies using social media well has emerged today in the form of the Bodyform response to a Facebook message: http://stevenmurgatroyd.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/social-media-when-done-right-its-a-beautiful-thing/

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts here, Rachel

  17. Tony Stewart says:

    Indeed – the Bodyform response is witty, intelligent and fun, without having to be crass. This is how it’s done 🙂

  18. I think it is quite entertaining! And I applaud them for trying something different and new. Regardless of whether it prompted the intended response (sounds like it didn’t if they have taken it down already!)it is a tough balance to strike as many have commented above and trying out new ideas is always a risk.

  19. Angela Cummings says:

    I’m all for brands having a personality and being approachable, and some do it really well. I think this might be going a bit far and although amusing to see the two brands banter with each other this didn’t really work for me.

  20. Lorna Cassidy says:

    I agree with the comments that it’s banter gone too far for such ‘respected’ brands, though I did chuckle at parts. A bit of humour, yes – but was it relevant? Probably not, no.

  21. Bit of an odd one really. Although nothing really offensive was said I can imagine how this would have annoyed me if it was in my Twitter stream. To me it just highlights how important it is to have a social media policy and ensure that people who are communicating in the public domain – whether as a spokesperson in the media, blog or twitter have engaged brains. You are representing your company when you post or comment.

  22. Thanks all for your comments. A mixed bag in terms of being ‘for’ or ‘against’ the approach.

    @Paul I like your sentence about having ‘engaged brains’

    @Lorna and @Angela it sounds like lots of people feel the same as you – that it’s a step too far, but amusing nonetheless

    @Ali I think you’re right on the striking balance quest


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