Most European companies think Twitter is a time waster, and many haven’t even heard of the service. British Telecom says it doesn’t have a Twitter account and doesn’t plan to open one. A spokeswoman for energy firm Total says that Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie has no idea what Twitter is. Nestle’s (other-otc: NSRGY.PK – news – people ) communications manager says using Twitter “just never came up within the group strategy.” In general, experts say Europeans don’t latch on to new social networking technologies as quickly as Americans.
I feel like the same story happens again with blogging when it started. When I launched Six Apart Europe, I contacted and worked with hundreds of large companies in Europe to help get them into corporate blogging. I have to say that it has been tough and corporate blogging never really took off in Europe the way for example Cisco or Sun Microsystems use it extensively. It exists, but it is still not really seen as something very important. Same with brand blogs that experimented (see the L’Oreal Vichy blog which was the very first brand in 2006 using it and became famous for its case study) but never really continued in a big way. Sure, many europeans corporates understand and use blogs, but not as many as in the US. Check the latest brand panel at LeWeb and listen to L’Oreal, Orange and the World Economic Forum talk about how their brands get it.
So are you surprised large corporations don’t get Twitter? Twitter is just a new form of blogging, real time blogging, so it is absolutely normal. While Melissa apparently talked to corporates who really did not like it, I think one should not generalize and truth is that most corporates have probably never heard of it and simply do not care.
My quote (thanks Melissa) was really addressing that arrogance I felt when she described someone saying that it was a time waster to even listen to what people say about your brand on Twitter:
“If European CEOs think it is a waste of time to Tweet, it is arrogant and a wrong step in their company’s strategy,” he says. “Twitter is an efficient way to get closer to your clients.”
How much do these corporations and brands pay to get focus groups and surveys on what their customers think about them? It is indeed very arrogant to say that it is a time waster to listen to what your customers say, regardless of the tool. If there is one thing they should do, is listen to what is said about their brands online. They are already almost all doing that with blogs, they will get that they need to do the same with Twitter sooner than later. I expect these “live and free focus groups” to have even more impact in video, as you can expect, as brands will realize they will “meet” their customers online face to face.
I don’t think most european companies dislike Twitter that much, they just do not get the realtime web yet, give them some time.
update: Melissa says her initial title was less controversial, it was “How to twitter for European CEOs” and was changed by her Forbes editor. Interesting, I guess that title was better to start a conversation.
update: Mike Butcher notes that Forbes changed the story title! How fun is that?