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Naming and shaming: the top 50 retailers on Twitter

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Based on Retail Week’s Top 50 UK retailers from 2009, I’ve put together a list of how Britain’s top 50 retailers use Twitter.

I’ve had fun looking at this data, it’s really opened my eyes to a few things that I didn’t know about the Top 50 UK retailers, and especially their usage of Twitter.

The Stats and my insights

Out of the top 50 UK retailers that I looked at, here are some headline stats:

  • 40 out 50 retailers (80 per cent) have official Twitter accounts for their businesses
  • Only 35 per cent of retailers promote their Twitter presence as a link or call to action on their website homepage
  • Only 20 per cent of retailers have over 3,000 Twitter followers

The Top 50 Retailers on Twitter

  1. Tesco – @Tescostores – Only two tweets, abandoned since April 2009. Interesting to note: Tesco also has @Tesco_Diets, @tescomobile (also abandoned since June 2009); and @tescoentertain, @clothingattesco, @TescoFootball, @tescofood, @tescoonline, @TescoWines (also abandoned since December 2009). It’s surprising that Tesco has tried a number of Twitter accounts and not followed through with them.
  2. Sainsbury’s – @sainsburys – The official company Twitter profile of the supermarket chain, focusing on consumer engagement. They also have @jsainsbury, another official profile for Sainsbury’s, which focuses on corporate issues.
  3. Asda – @asda – The official Twitter profile for the supermarket chain. Fairly active, good engagement and conversations are going on with fellow followers. High number of @mentions suggests that Asda is getting their Twitter account right.
  4. Morrisons – No current Twitter profile for one of the most popular UK supermarkets. If Tesco, Asda & Sainsbury’s can see the reasoning behind social media, surely Morrisons should be on there as well.
  5. Marks & Spencers – @marksandspencer – the official company Twitter profile. Good to see M&S promoting products directly through Twitter, they are also engaging in conversations with their followers. M&S has a strong following count at 9,968 followers.
  6. Alliance Boots – Unofficial I think, but there is @AllianceBoots. this account has protected it tweets. I’m sure this is just someone squatting on the name. It doesn’t look like an official company account.
  7. John Lewis Partnership – For a brand so successful in the UK both offline and online, it is quite unbelievable why John Lewis isn’t on Twitter yet. Their online store is doing extremely well (sales have more than doubled since launching an online clothes store), so being on Twitter wouldn’t harm their brand at all.
  8. Home Retail Group (Argos/Homebase) – @Argos_Online, no account for Homebase. Argos has successfully increased its online sales of late with its “buy online” and “collect in store” service. It’s good to see Argos following through on Twitter. Plenty of tweets on their products and offers, not much engagement with followers as far as I can see, though.
  9. Co-operative Group – @TheCooperative is the Co-operative corporate Twitter account.
  10. DSG International (Currys, Dixons and PC World) – @dixonsonline – the official Dixons account for ordering goods and products online. No account for PC World, and following the huge success of Dell’s Outlet Twitter account, this is a missed opportunity. PC World should be marketing/selling its PCs and computer hardware via Twitter. 
  11. Kingfisher (B&Q & Screwfix) – @bandq, a very nice branded Twitter account. Like Asda, one of the better designed examples. There is decent engagement happening on their Twitter account, but only a small number of followers. @Screwfixdotcom, again great to see them promoting products through tweets. Kingfisher have got these accounts running well and a good use of social media.
  12. Somerfield – No Twitter account for Somerfield as of yet.
  13. Next – @nextofficial, of course Next are on Twitter. As one of the UK’s largest retailers for clothing both online and offline, it’s no surprise that Next are here. Interestingly, they use a Twitter application called Socialoomph to post to their Twitter account. Lots of tweets about their content and promoting links to direct product pages. Their Twitter profile account links to their Facebook fan page, which is interesting, I’d have thought that they’d point them directly to the Next online website! Next is also using Twitter as a customer service channel, I have seen some responses to customer tweets giving customer support phone numbers.
  14. Spar (UK) – No UK Twitter account at this time.
  15. Iceland Foods – @IcelandFoods. Inactive account at present.
  16. Aldi Stores – @Aldi_StoresUK, un-used account which could be unofficial, but they do have official accounts for Australia and Germany. See @ALDIAustralia and @aldi_de
  17. Arcadia Group (Burtons, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Topshop and others) – @Topshop_tweets, @Burton_Menswear, @_MissSelfridge_ (strange Twitter username choice using an underscore twice. They would of been better with @MissSelfridgeUK or @MissSelfridgeTweets.)
  18. Debenhams – @DebenhamsRetail, there seems to be a lot of activity going on with their Twitter account and it’s one of the more interesting ones that I’ve looked at.  They also have guest tweeters, which is a very interesting concept and one of only brands here to undertake that good idea!
  19. Lidl – Accounts for both Ireland and Northen Ireland @lidl_ireland, @lidl_nireland. I couldn’t find the UK one… it’s strange how they have an Ireland account but not the UK. Both these accounts only have a small amount of followers.
  20. Woolworths – @team_woolies this is the official UK Twitter account. You would expect Woolworths to be on Twitter, especially after their core business moved solely online.
  21. HMV Media Group – @hmv_getcloser is the UK Twitter account. I like the Twitter background on this account, nice use of the logo. HMV seems to embracing Twitter, actively engaging with its audience.
  22. Comet – @cometdeals and @cometauctions. The former offers Comet’s latest deals and competitions, with a good level of engagement.
  23. The Carphone Warehouse Group – @carphoneware. The biography says it’s run by members of the brand and the multi-channel team. There is also a decidated customer service account @cpwcares.
  24. Shop Direct Group (Littlewoods) – @LittlewoodsDeal, I know that Littlewoods has re-invented itself online. The head of marketing, Hilary Littlewoods, is also on Twitter: @Littlewoods_Hil.
  25. Costcutter – @mycostcutter, I’m surprised to see Costcutter on Twitter. A very low amount of followers and looks like their following is made up of quite a few fake and spam accounts. This one needs work.
  26. Lloyds Pharmacy – @Lloydspharmacy is the official account.
  27. Primark – @Primarkjobs and @PrimarkReading, both of which focus on jobs at Primark. I couldn’t find one promoting products and this looks like another missed opportunity.
  28. Londis – No official Twitter account.
  29. Wilkinson – No official current Twitter account.
  30. Game Group – @Gamedigital, run by their online team at their head office. A Facebook fan page link is also made clear in the profile biography. Massive potential on Twitter for the games industry and they’re really getting it right. Both Playstation and Microsoft have also been using Twitter very successfully. Game have a large amount of followers and their Twitter content looks great. Lots of @replies to customers and fellow Twitter users.
  31. WHSmith – @WHSmithcouk and @W_H_Smith (not sure if this one is official). Awful Twitter profile design, ghastly colour schemes and poor background designs.
  32. Ikea – @ikealiving is the official Twitter account. Ikea have been using social media quite effectively recently. I read about this excellent viral piece of advertising on Facebook they did.
  33. Superdrug Stores – @superdrugloves, I need to point out the great Twitter background and design on this one. It’s that extra bit of effort that makes an account look more professional and trustworthy. This really is important to get right.
  34. TK Maxx – @tkmaxx_uk, of course as a clothing retailer it’s a must to be on Twitter, especially when all the competition is too.
  35. Matalan – @Matalan looks like the Matalan account started, but then gave up all too easily. Their last tweet was on the 3rd of August 2009.
  36. Sports Direct International – @sportsdirectuk great idea offering unique Twitter discount codes, unfortunately though Sports Direct hasn’t grown its account to marketable numbers yet.
  37. Wickes – @WICKESDIY, I don’t understand why their Twitter username is in all caps. It’s good to see Wickes on Twitter, and it seems that they have a decent following.
  38. New Look – New Look has its official UK Twitter account, @NewLookFashion, and @NewLook_Careers for careers. Both accounts have a strong following and are mentioned in a number of Twitter lists. This is a sign of authority.
  39. BHS Group – I couldn’t find a Twitter account, although they do sell online from their website. No sign of any promotion of social media profiles on their website either.
  40. Halfords Group – @Halfords_uk there is great execution here, and with a nice Twitter page design. Note that they also promote their YouTube and Facebook fan pages in the background design.
  41. Amazon.co.uk – @amazon and @amazonmp3, you’d expect one of the world’s largest online retailers to be on Twitter, and it is. Amazon have been using Twitter successfully for a while now.
  42. Netto – @netto_news is the official account, using Mascot Scottie the Dog as its main “tweeter”. Netto offers customers news about what’s in store, mostly.
  43. Bargain Booze -@BargainBooze (note: doesn’t look too official). If it is, what were you thinking with that background design? Oh dear!
  44. Specsavers – @SpecsaversUK‘s Twitter account promotes its competition, “Have you got specs appeal?”, the Specsavers competition for the “Spectacle Wearer of the Year 2010” award. Specsavers’ Twitter account links to a microsite for this competition. Did this really need it’s own Twitter account? It’s a good idea, but it needs a bit more promotion as there are currently only 70 followers on the Twitter account.
  45. Martin (Forbuoys) McColl – No current Twitter account that I could find.
  46. Thresher Group (Wine Rack, Threshers) – Couldn’t find any Twitter accounts.
  47. House of Fraser – @hotathof, promoting Facebook updates, products and offers. Links directly to products, which is good to see.
  48. N Brown Group (JD Williams) – No Twitter account.
  49. Peacock group – Bonmarche, Peacocks – @peacocks_tweets. Suprisingly no Twitter account for their Bonmarche clothing brand, especially when they retail online and have an e-commerce store. Bonmarche really should be cross promoting products on Twitter.
  50. River Island Clothing – @RIVER_ISLAND, River Island have been using social media effectively in their e-mails and have built a good Twitter following.

Twitter client usage 

Out of the retailers that used Twitter, I looked at their activity on how they posted to Twitter and what apps/clients they used. The results were quite surprising to me. (Note: I calculated these figures by looking at their 20 most recent Tweets and by counting the usage of different applications.)

  • 41 per cent of retailers choose not use a Twitter client – professional or otherwise – to update and manage their Twitter account. Instead, they use Twitter’s own web-based interface to update profiles
  • 16 per cent use the following applications: Tweet Connect, Twitter for iPhone, Twitter for Blackberry, Twitter Tools, Seismic, Twuffer and Social Oommph
  • Two per cent update their Twitter profiles using a mobile device

I can’t believe that most of these retailers choose not to use a Twitter client, especially when there are such brilliant ones available for free. I can also make a good assumption that many of the 41 per cent that use Twitter’s own interface don’t track and measure their activity as best they could.

As entrepreneurs, you should be using professional Twitter clients, as they have the right tools for measuring your engagement and how popular a link that you’ve shared is. It also makes managing Twitter much easier. There is still a long way to go before those responsible for managing and maintaining these profiles understand how to use the technology correctly. You, however, can improve your Twitter strategy today.

Illiya Vjestica is the founder of Smardog Digital, an online marketing consultancy firm based in Leeds. You can read his excellent online marketing blog here.

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