Racheal Lee
Nov 5, 2013

Content on Twitter: Irrelevant/hilarious or formal/boring?

Malindo Air's Twitter account has surged in popularity of late with posts drawing expressions of affection and delight from its followers. Only problem? The airline's account has been hacked and the poster isn't from the brand.

Content on Twitter: Irrelevant/hilarious or formal/boring?

Prior to the hacker's intrusion (the account was hacked twice in a week), Malindo's Twitter account was responsive and friendly to customer queries but stayed strictly corporate in tone and content. The hacker, however, embarked on flights of fancy that included unicorns and bring-your-own-plane promotions (see screengrabs below).

These posts drew enthusiastically approving responses from Malindo's followers: “I love u malindo air”, “I adore you, whoever you are” and “should keep this tweet guy. He/She is hilarious”.

So positive have the responses been that Malindo has been accused of running a PR stunt. An accusation the company has emphatically denied. The rogue tweets have since been deleted from the airline's feed. 

While amusing, the incident highlights a serious problem for brands. While many are now on social media, most are not speaking the language, choosing instead to use the medium as yet another customer-care line or advertising channel. Should brands consider abandoning corporate-ese for fun?

Tesco Mobile, for example, chose a few months ago to give up being formal and has taken on an irreverent, often funny, snarky tone, which has paid off for the telco. One of its Tweets has even been retweeted 11,000 times and its follower count now stands at 41,335 and rising. It's also been named the world's chattiest corporate twitter account.

However, industry players stressed that even if engagement rates are high, if the tone of voice adopted by the channel doesn't tie back to the personality and value of the brand, it won't add business value. Still, it doesn't hurt to be friendly. The key fundamentals for brands on social media is to be conversational rather than broadcast and to not sound like someone else, said Neil Hudspeth, chief digital officer, Asia Pacific, at Leo Burnett.

Brands need to befriend people, rather than adopt a ‘supplier’ mentality, Hudspeth noted. “One must applaud brands that wish to engage and befriend people socially, add value to their lives and put a smile on their faces, but as in any business engagement, just make sure one is always prepared fully.”

Finding the brand's own tone of voice is crucial, advised Ryan Lim, founder and business director of Blugrapes. Blindly adopting a style just to increase the engagement rate does the brand no justice, he said. 

“Just remember that the tone used needs to be relatable, friendly and open for discussions,” he added. “Corporate communication tones are currently still very formal and being a little aloof. However, there is still no reason for any brand to take things to extremes and be condescending.”

One way for a brand to 'find its voice' is to truly understand its target audience and what they care about, said Hudspeth. By learning the business or brand landscape in which their consumers operate, brands will find the right content-engagement strategy. 
While Malindo may have learnt something valuable from the experience, no brand truly wants to be hacked. But even the best security practices can be overcome by a determined individual. A brand's best insurance perhaps is therefore the rapport it builds with its followers, who may rise to its defense when hackers attack. 

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