Gini Dietrich

The Best of the Least Engaged Brands on Twitter

By: Gini Dietrich | May 13, 2013 | 

The Best of the Least Engaged Brands on TwitterA couple of weeks ago, Brian Tudor tweeted DJ Waldow and me and said, “What makes an engaged brand on Twitter?”

We had a back-and-forth discussion about what it entails: Conversation, shares, retweets, and shares of others’s content.

Brian said, “Okay, then. Why does Nestivity say the 25 most engaged brands on Twitter do none of those things?”

We looked at what he was describing and found the top three most engaged brands to be Notebook of Love, Disneywords, and ESPN.

First, let’s look at the numbers:

  1. Notebook of Love: Klout score of 81 and more than four million followers.
  2. Disneywords: Klout score of 81 and more than two million followers.
  3. ESPN: Klout score of 99 and more than six million followers.

Then, for sake of understanding the engagement of each brand, we took a look at their Twitter streams.

Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 6.23.17 AM Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 6.23.40 AM Screen Shot 2013-05-13 at 6.25.30 AM





















See the problem?

Both Notebook of Love and Disney only share their content. ESPN does a little bit better by retweeting others, but there still is not a single level of engagement, in terms of conversation.

Best Engaged Brands?

What Nestivity says is engagement, however, is number of shares and retweets per post, meaning people are sharing their content, not the other way around.

When you look at it that way, you find:

  1. Notebook of Love: 1,403 engagement per post and 1,574 post volume.
  2. Disneywords: 1,000 engagement per post and 1,677 post volume.
  3. ESPN: 898 engagement per post and 566 post volume.

What that means is, for Notebook of Love, nearly 1,500 people share their content every time they post something.

That’s great! But engagement it does not make.

Best of the Least Engaged Brands

Rather than take our word for it, though, we decided to ask research extraordinaire – Tom Webster – his thoughts.

My issue with the study is it’s less about the variable (and proprietary) definition of “engagement” here, though that does make the study a bit impenetrable. The central issue, as is the case with the vast majority of these sorts of studies, is with the sample set, and how the results are reported.

In this case, the researchers chose the 100 most-followed brands on Twitter. These brands have millions of followers, which by definition makes responding to those followers a scaling nightmare. The very act of simply  following back five or 10 million followers would be a full-time job. If you think about it in that light, that these brands engage at all is pretty remarkable, and expecting a brand with 10 million followers to engage the same percentage of those followers as a brand with 5,000 followers is a misleading and unfair yardstick.

To that end, I have no doubt, even considering the likely inscrutability of their “engagement” measure, the 25 brands they chose do, in fact, engage more than the other 75 brands in that sample set. But confining the sample to the 100 most-followed brands leaves out way too many brands (certainly in the tens of thousands) to make any kind of blanket statement that these 100 brands are representative of anything. There is very likely an inverse relationship between the number of followers a brand has, and the percentage of those followers a brand does (or can) engage with.

So, the real problem with the study? The headline. These are NOT the “Top 25 most engaged brands on Twitter;” as the infographic claims–it’s  more likely they represent the best of the least engaged brands on Twitter.

And there you have it, folks. This study shows these are the best of the least engaged brands on Twitter.

The moral of the story is this…be careful what you read. Pay attention to the details. Ask a lot of questions. And use your critical thinking skills.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • This was the subject I told you margieclayman was destroying that guy on Twitter about.
    What you missed is this proves:
    How few people see each tweet
    How few people react to each tweet. Rounded down the number is zero. 1500/4,000,000 is technically zero (0.03%) . To get every one of Notebook’s followers to share/react once would take 2,667 tweets. Obviously ESN has an even worse rate than that.
    This is a great discussion and obviously very subjective to many people. But Nestivity is one of those Agencies that is Social Focused and of course will choose what best shows Social in a positive light no different than Vitrue and Likeable Media never have anything bad to say about Facebook.

    • Howie Goldfarb margieclayman Not to harp on things but I still maintain that the true definition of social media power/influence is based upon how many people respond to a call to action.
      Those that have a large followings have a leg up because in concept they don’t need as large a percentage of followers to respond, but that assumes that people do and will.
      Based upon empirical evidence and the Magic 8 Ball I see it as dubious and doubtful.

    • Howie Goldfarb margieclayman Just to clarify here, Nestivity isn’t an agency, but a software company that sells Twitter community so that you can turn your Twitter account into a discussion board. I hate the headline of the infographic, but Nestivity is doing some interesting stuff and is thinking about Twitter much differently than most. (disclosure: they gave me a free trial account).

      • webby2001

        JayBaer Howie Goldfarb margieclayman Yeah, it’s the headline. Essentially, they chose outliers to represent the average. But, in my business, that’s a fatal flaw. But, as I’ve often said, data produced for the purposes of content creation is inherently incurious.

        • webby2001 JayBaer Howie Goldfarb margieclayman I agree with Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes in that it is a numbers lay. But for a major brand who has to reach millions or tens of millions per day they can’t do it via Social. Social has it’s role of developing relationships with a small % of advocates or dedicated customers but for most of us our relationships with brands is very fluid and aloof. I follow quite a few brands on twitter but rarely see their posts because I get about 8000+ tweets a day in my feed. So I focus mostly on talking with people I am friends with or of interest. I assume as we have network creep with more and more connections the only way to have your tweets/facebook posts seen will be pay to play.

  • And to Tom’s point Social Media is not scalable as a 2 way comm platform. I have blogged about this. It isn’t even scalable as a one way platform because you can’t reach the millions a day the big brands need to reach. But I have estimated if a brand with 1 million followers on twitter got contacted by each one in a day they would probably need 5,000 employees to personally respond. On a heavy Tweet day even Chobani has a hard time doing this but they at least favorite every mention to let you know it was seen so they can focus on customer service when needed.

    • Howie Goldfarb If me, my brand had 1 million followers and each of them would send me a quarter, I would consider that a success. Of course, it would have to be cash because otherwise my wife would get her hands on it. 
      So, what do you do to make it ‘successful’ and quantifiable?

      • bdorman264 I think us Dukes and Dutchess’s of King Social (who are btw more credible than Ninjas and Gurus) just feel brands should be social vs just promoting themselves. XBox btw is the biggest tweeter and has responded to millions of help requests for their games. But they stick just to customer service.
         L-U should be tweeted about Insurance, maybe show case what you have insured (like the Kremlin building) and talk actuary tables with ordinary folks…maybe throw in a favorite recipe or two or maybe highlight the rockstar life you lead. Have conversations about that. Hey maybe even share a hilarious Geico commercial just for kicks.

  • Nothing makes me crazier than a brand Twitter page with NO engagement. Tweeting your own content day after day is not engagement. The odd retweet is NOT engagement. I have reached out to brands on Twitter and head crickets. And when that happens, I generally find a more favourable and engaged brand. 😉

    • Lara Wellman

      belllindsay I totally agree.  Though I just don’t see how applying what works to a company like Disney is of any help to most businesses.  Disney doesn’t need to engage for people to want to see what they say.

      • Lara Wellman belllindsay Lara, I think you’re getting at what I am starting to think — you have to analyze based on target market and goal in order to come up with a real “best.”  And these brands are definitely not like most. (Although I have no idea what Notebook of Love is.) 
        I appreciate Tom Webster’s perspective in the post, and I like the distinctions drawn above about what engagement means. It seems like the definition might vary a bit with, again, target market and goal. And number of twitter followers, perhaps?

        And Howie Goldfarb I’m loving your perspectives today as well, you beast! You worked in Chobani again, natch!

        • dwaynealicie Lara Wellman belllindsay LOL In 2010 I wrote a post comparing major brands and why Social isn’t a C-Suite concern relating how they get paid in stock options and a global/National Brand won’t have the earnings needle moved to pay them a bonus. For example a brand like McDonalds that serves 26million + meals a day and has 3 billion potential customers is not impacted by 1000 people liking a Facebook post. And they must reach 10’s of millions per day. I just think Social Media Agencies/Personal Brands forget to tell Brands we don’t talk about them that much or care about most of them with social media. Oh wait they don’t forget because they make money not telling them!

        • Howie Goldfarb dwaynealicie Lara Wellman belllindsay Interesting. You’re really giving me something to think about here.

          As you’ve already said here as well, everything also depends on the direction big brands want to take social in — customer service? advertising? etc. The strategy would differ for each. Chobani focuses on customer service. Seems the Disney quotations one is a brand awareness/advertising vehicle.
          And then there is the direction that seems ignored or invalidated in the the above case … community-building, which, to me, is that magical amalgamation of all the marketing functions plus “special sauce.”  Trying to think of a big brand that successfully builds community … like you said, doesn’t immediately seem scalable.

    • bobledrew

      belllindsay When you say “head crickets”, do you mean tinnitus, or that their CMOs are more like praying mantises?

  • ginidietrich I did finally get a response to my comment on the post at Mashable, but the responder just sent me to another infographic, still not really answering the question: “What is definition you used for engagement?” Thanks for sharing my question with the world.

    • briantudor ginidietrich Brian the Mashable terms of commenting are as follows:
      If you have glowing praise for the article and agree with everything said please comment.
      If you disagree with the article or have issues with content or possibly omitting critical points that might make the thesis proved untrue…please email the editor.
      Since I am a rule breaker they banned me!

      • Howie Goldfarb good to know, thanks for the tips on pro-mashable commenting! Now I know why I don’t ever get any real responses to my comments. But to be honest, since they redesigned the site I don’t visit as much.

  • JasKeller1

    While they aren’t successful in terms of engagement on Twitter, I think the argument stands that they are successful on Twitter. That said, I am a fan of engagement too; building relationships seems a lot more valuable than building a reader base. 
    What do you think these three examples would look like if they built in engagement as part of their strategy? How would it shift their use of Twitter? And how would they navigate their voice on Twitter when engaging in specific conversations? 
    …these are questions I am really curious about – I think there are a lot of different opinions here.

    • JasKeller1 I agree with that. Where I have the issue is around the word “engagement.” When we’re counseling clients, we talk about different goals. It’s hard to say they have to participate in the conversation to have an engaged brand when studies like this show that’s not true.

    • JasKeller1 And in answer to your questions…this could be a good blogging series. It would be fun to do a he said/she said and both of us answer them. Hmmmm…..

      • JasKeller1

        ginidietrich Yay! I love to cause debate, and I think this one would be a dandy. 🙂

  • jureklepic

    ginidietrich is Brian said bellow, the study fail for one simple reason, the researcher Dr. Natalie fail to explain how she define engagement for the study, the time considered and last but not least she forgets to disclove that she seats on the board of infinigraph that she used for analyzing the stats, which makes all even more suspicious what the intent of the study was.

    • jureklepic Yeah…I think my issue is around the word “engagement.” Perhaps it should have been presented as the most valuable or the most shareable or something like that.

  • Tom’s comments are bang on. When I tell clients to look at other brands, I always emphasize that they should examine brands that are similar – in size, industry, and even location if that’s crucial. It does them no good for any small business to compare itself to Disney because there are too many factors that make them different. Can they learn from the any other brand? For sure, but they have to be able to apply what they’ve learned appropriately.

    • Karen_C_Wilson AND if a client’s goal is to engage, this study doesn’t help. I can already hear the debate. It’d make me want to bang my head on the desk.

      • ginidietrich Ugh…you’re making me feel like doing a little head-banging now. I try to *convince* most of them they need to engage, so this will just reinforce set-it-and-forget-it mindsets.

  • webby2001

    I’ll just say this: I appreciate all of the comments you have about how Nestivity is, or is not, defining engagement. However, I think focusing on that issue misses the real problem with this study. I have NO doubt that, of the 100 brands the Nestivity study looked at, the 25 brands they named engage the most. You can quibble about the definition of engagement, but I bet no matter how you slice the numbers, the 25 brands they named are undoubtedly better than the other 75.
    The issue is *the sample.* Could you extrapolate how the average investor behaves in the market from the activities of the 100 richest investors? Nope. What this study looked at were the outliers, plain and simple. The study just did not do *the work* to really make this applicable to the vast majority of brands. So it’s probably best, I’m afraid, to consign this particular study to obscurity.

    • webby2001 Which is precisely why we asked you to weigh in…we were focused on why they’re not engaged brands and I wanted to get your expert opinion, based on the validity of the study.

      • ginidietrichwebby2001 as i have said usually these studies are self serving in some way. 3 years back I bashed mashable/facebook/nielsen for a horrible study and then Bob Hoffman just said it better.

      • webby2001

        ginidietrich webby2001 And by “you,” I meant all the commenters here–to be clear.

        • webby2001 Ahhhhh!

        • webby2001

          ginidietrich webby2001 Yeah, I realized after I wrote that that you didn’t have access to the voices in my head.

        • webby2001 LOL! What I would give to have access to the voices in your head.

  • markfidelman

    I too covered the Nestivity study and agree with Jure – Natalie should have explained engagement better here.
    But I don’t understand Tom’s comments about these brands being the least engaged. He seems to be guessing and using an opinion without doing the research. I’m not sure that adds much more value here.
    I also don’t see an opinion of how to measure engagement (and a definition) – I only see arrows being shot at the research without an opinion of how to do it more accurately. Someone please take a crack at it.
    I also disagree slightly with RT’s not being a measure of engagement – because they are. Clearly, if content is being RT’d that typically means the content was read and someone took the time to tell the brand they liked or disagreed with the content. Additionally, if like me you add comments in your RT’s – discussions ensue either on Twitter or on the page that the tweet is linking.  Yes, it’s not a perfect measure of engagement – but Twitter doesn’t make it easy to track conversations and measure conversational engagement.
    Anyway, it’s an interesting discussion. I believe most organizations would love to have as high engagement (or whatever you call it) as the top 25 brands in their research.

    • webby2001

      markfidelman I’m not a guesser. Again, this study has chosen 100 clear *outliers* (the brands with the most followers) and drawn more far reaching conclusions that are unsupported by the data.

    • markfidelman I think it would have been better to call it the most shareable brands on Twitter or something similar. When we hear “engagement,” we want to see the brands having a two-way conversation. These are all one-way and that does not engagement make.

  • photo chris

    I agree that the title of the study is off. But what it really leaves me questioning, and I realize I could be shot for saying this, so I’m “suiting up,”  is the “value” of “engagement.” (ducking as bullets whiz by) As a marketing professional who also handles PR for a company (not a firm), I have to say I would take  those numbers,  shout, “hooray!” and pour myself a drink for a job well done. Those people who are re-tweeting and following LOVE those brands and are brand ambassadors. They’re spreading the good word. They’re likely converting in sales of some sort. Call it engagement or don’t, but I call it success.

    • photo chris I’m glad you suited up because I wrote today about what it means when a community is engaged and there is a two-way conversation happening. I think these brands are amazing because they’re producing content that is SHAREABLE, but that does not make them engaged.

      • photo chris

        ginidietrich photo chrisLOL- I know, I JUST read (and LOVED and totally agreed with!) it. So perhaps how I should have stated this is, what I’m questioning is the value of the word “engaged” as well as how brands/firms/individuals define success across the different social media channels.  
         A blog, to me, SHOULD be engaging. It should share useful information that is well written and helpful to the target audience.  If people are sharing your info and asking questions, and you’re establishing yourself as an authority, then you have success.
         We just don’t see/use/experience twitter that way. So when an example of 1500 re-tweets per post gets thrown out there, and is pointed to as an example of being “poorly engaged”  I   have to say, “Who cares?” because those re-tweets and follows mean that people love you, and yes, they  have your back

  • lisakwiese

    Gini- I love reading the things you write. Such an insightful slant. Working in agency inbound marketing, my team is always focused on engagement level and quality posts. The most important part of this blog was the last paragraph. Ask a lot of questions and use critical thinking skills.

    • lisakwiese Let me ask you a question because of the things that have been raised in the comments here…. because you work in inbound marketing and likely have several clients, how do you define engagement?

      • lisakwiese

        ginidietrich I hate to be so niche but engagement is not universal and this, of course, depends on your purpose behind social media- PR, marketing, awareness, etc. Engagement is knowing you’re answering the questions of your target audience (B2B). Engagement is getting feedback, provoking conversation and offering up content that matters to your target audience (B2C). Yes, we’d all like engagement to turn into higher sales purchases but the truth is, engagement via social media is a bookmark, a placeholder if you will. Prior to social media, engagement was done by the sales team (B2B). Now that social media is the new landscape for direct brand engagement, those “touches” for which the sales team was responsible, now fall in the hands of a blog comment reply or 140 characters. 
         How do you define engagement? I think I could probably use this as a blog topic to expand more. This is such a loaded topic. Thanks for the reply!

        • lisakwiese This is great! We determine engagement as a two-way conversation. Are you opening up a discussion and allowing for feedback and conversation? Are you participating in the conversation? If so, you’re engaging. If not, you’re just created shareable content.

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  • markfidelman

    All, seems like we should schedule a debate on the issue. There’s certainly enough interest? Anyone want to go head to head with me first?

    • markfidelman In a comment below, JasKeller1 asked a few questions that would make a really good blogging series. Going head-to-head with you on this would be totally fun…even if we had to play devil’s advocate to do it. Perhaps we do both?

      • markfidelman

        ginidietrich markfidelman JasKeller1 I’ll do both. We can do a Google Hangout or Q&A?

  • Cole Hartman

    May i propose for consideration: the difference between a brand being ‘engaged’ (people engaging with it) versus a brand being ‘engaging’ (the brand engaging with people)
    So the essay’s conclusion is off, I think… these brands are engaged, but not engaging.  Consumers engage with them, voraciously. 
    As a side note, perhaps by not engaging back, the brands achieve a strategic win:  Notebook remains a voyeuristic (1-way) experience for users, and for Disney, they avoid any social snafus…
    I did not see this point mentioned, sorry if I repeated

    • Cole Hartman Yeah…I think the issue is in the word “engaged.” These brands are not engaged. Sure, people are engaging with them, but they are not engaged. Perhaps it should have been the most shareable brands on Twitter.

  • rdopping

    You are always bending my head. Never fluff, for heavens sake. The best of the least? How can such a claim be made when the industry of engagement is unregulated and any study or brand or researcher can define engagement in any semantic way they choose?
    I think your buddy Tom is onto something here but I only think that because engagement is this. Me talking to you and you making fun of me.

    • rdopping THAT is precisely engagement. I’m using that definition from now on. What is engagement? Ralph talking to me and me making fun of him.

      • rdopping

        ginidietrich Glad to be of service.

    • photo chris

      rdopping “…engagement is unregulated and any study or brand or researcher can define engagement in any semantic way they choose?” Exactly!

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  • rustyspeidel

    It ought to be based on percentage of engagement. What percentage of those 2MM followers did something with that content? If we did that, they’d be toast.

    • rustyspeidel Those numbers are the engagement per post and post volume numbers. So, with Notebook of Love, it’s less than a percent per post. Now I want to go see what ours is like. Hmmmm…

  • Some of these brands are real facilitators, though. Think ESPN. They may have very little actual engagement, but each of their tweets have the potential to spawn lively debates amongst a bunch of social circles as they get retweeted…and then debated WITHIN those small social circles.
    I definitely agree with the comment in the stream about these being the Most Shareable Brands on Twitter.

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