Aviva’s recipe for twitter success

By Sue Winston and Hayley Sandford

In any job, winning an award for something you enjoy doing has to be the equivalent of the cherry on the cake.

In our case, that “cherry” was the CorpComms Digi Award for the Best Corporate Social Media Account, for our @avivaplc Twitter feed. The feed is designed with Aviva’s investors, business partners, and potential and existing employees in mind. In simple terms, it gives them news and insights into Aviva’s business performance, what Aviva does and what Aviva stands for.

The great thing about working in social media is that it’s social. When we were starting out, five years ago, we talked to other organisations about what they had learnt. In turn, we’re always been keen to share what we’ve learnt too, as we’ve been building our own feed.

So, bearing in mind that it is called a Twitter “feed” and in honour of the “cherry on the cake” that we’ve just received, we thought we’d continue this blog on a baking theme. Here’s our recipe for creating a tasty Twitter offering:

  • Make it look good and appetising: Try to include as many images and graphics as possible: they’re 25% more likely to be shared. For example, we’ve created a graphic jargon buster which helps to take the mystique out of financial and insurance terms. Each Wednesday is jargon-busting day – this sort of content is popular with our business partners (eg insurance brokers from Insurance 4 MotorTrade and IFAs), who often retweet it to their own followers. We also use stills from our company videos to increase awareness of our video content and to drive views on our corporate website, com, and YouTube.
  • Don’t use too many ingredients: If you try and feed your followers a taste of everything, they will quickly lose their appetites. Create a clear definition of what your feed stands for – and stick to it. At Aviva we’ve got simple, even edgy values – kill complexity, care more, never rest and create legacy. They are our yardstick; we try to ensure the majority of our content demonstrates how we are delivering against our values.
  • Not too sugary: If it’s all good news you will sounds like a corporate parrot and won’t build credibility. So we tweet news about Aviva which is positive – but also news that is less good. For example, when we announced job losses in 2012 we shared this difficult message on the feed. When we retweet media coverage, our approach is that the coverage must absolutely be accurate and fair – but it’s not a requirement for it to be purely complimentary.
  • Avoid the stodge: Humans want to engage with other humans, not faceless organisations. We have Hayley’s face and name on our profile and we make sure the tone of our replies is warm and friendly. We always put a name on our direct messages. Although it’s a corporate feed, we don’t just talk about financial stuff. We try to show the humans inside the organisation and what they are up to, with photographs of people at events, links to speeches or a film of events, and we look for opportunities to engage on the issues of the day.
  • Use fresh ingredients: Each morning we review the Twitter activity of our key influencers and relevant accounts to identify what’s ‘hot’ and what opportunities there are to take part in conversations on appropriate topics. We try to make sure we have flexibility to allow for unscheduled events – such as breaking news or unexpected government announcements.
  • Work out the best time to serve up: Find out when your followers are hungry by using Twitter’s analytics tools to see the trends in when your content is most popular (ie the day of the week and time of day) and schedule your activity to capitalise on the peaks in interest. Monitor how people respond to your content (eg retweets, shares, quoted tweets, hashtags etc) , work out which elements of your content gets the best engagement and consider doing more of that.
  • And finally, great creations take time: Creating a strong feed with good engagement levels is a long-term commitment – which means making sure you have the right resource in place to tweet regularly, monitor the feed and respond promptly. Your community manager might want to take a holiday, but your followers won’t, so you need to make sure you can continue to provide your service despite sickness, holidays and business demands.

Our own Twitter feed is a ‘work in progress’ – we are still learning every day and we’re by no means a perfect example. We’ve grown over 40% over the past year and now have over 10,100 followers, but we understand that it’s engagement levels and influence, not just numbers of followers, that count. We’re constantly looking for ways to improve – we’d welcome your thoughts or suggestions!

Sue Winston is head of communications and Hayley Sandford is the corporate digital manager at Aviva plc

Corporate digital manager at Aviva plc

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