85% of Sri Lankan Brands Never Respond to @ Mentions on Twitter

Few weeks ago, I compiled a list of Sri Lankan brands on Twitter, to monitor their online activities on Twitter. My aim was to observe how effectively these brands are using Twitter as a customer engagement tool, and to spot some common mistakes made by them. Here are some of my observations. When looking at this information, it is obvious; most of these brands on Twitter are actually not quite “getting it right” to begin with.

1. Twitter on Autopilot

Most Sri Lankan brands have synchronized their Twitter account with their Facebook pages or blog RSS. Every time they post something on their Facebook page, it is updated automatically on their Twitter account as well. However, they never bother to check back for any customer reactions for these messages on Twitter. They only bother about the comments they get for the Facebook post, and simply ignore the Twitter feed. This leads to abandoning a segment of customers who are willing to participate in a conversation with their brand and they simply alienated these customers without attending to their feedback to the brand via Twitter.
They never replied to this tweet

@Realradio878 and @LitefmSriLanka (two competing radio stations) are two good examples for this bad habit. They take song requests on their Facebook page, and those messages get posted on their Twitter accounts. However they never bother to check the song requests made by Twitter followers, by tweeting @ mentioning them.

2. Only 4 brands (surveyed) responded regularly to @ mentions by followers

This makes 85% of the brands surveyed, are never responding to @ mentions on Twitter. Out of the 26 brands monitored, only 3 brands actually responded to follower @ mentions on a regular (consistent) basis. To name them; @Dialoglk ranked as the number one Sri Lankan brand to engage actively with followers by regularly responding to @ mentions, followed by @CocoVeranda who equally kept responding to @ mentions targeted at them. The third brand, which was consistently responding to tweets by followers, is @MobitelSriLanka. Mobitel started slowly, but they quickly learned the secrets of Twitter. Over last few weeks, I observed Mobitel solving some real problems of their customers; moving step forward than just replying to @ mentions. (Well done!). The fourth brand which fall into this category is @QuantumTeleShop. They started new on Twitter, but are engaging with followers better than some of the other brands who got on board before them.

In summery, this implies majority of the brands are still not ready for a conversation on Twitter. They are just here to bombard the followers with one-way marketing messages, which they are quite good at doing on TV and radio.

3. Brand ‘egoism’ on Twitter

A vast majority of brands will never tweet anything other than about themselves. This includes, constant tweeting of special offers, announcements, new product types etc. They never re-tweet valuable/relevant information from people that they follow, or never @ mention someone for a casual conversation. The tone of these tweets is never different from the tone of TV commercials or papers advertisements they publish.

Some other brands, never followed back their customers. The underlying implication is “I’m superior to you, so why should I follow you?”. For example @Otaradel @nolimitnlm @efm_colombo @vayugroup are following either 0 or less than 10 people, and if they are following someone; there’s a distant possibility of them being a customer of them (For example, Sir Richard Branson shopping at Odel [regularly] is highly unlikely).

I call this the “brand egoism” on Twitter. This is a sign that marketers behind these brands are still failing to figure out the difference between traditional media and social media channels. In traditional media, the brand holds a superior ground compared to the customers, in the communication process. We cannot talk back to a TV commercial and say “that’s bullshit!”. This one-way nature of traditional media has made brands (the marketers) believe that media is there for them to talk to the customers, and only way a customer can talk to them is by buying their stuff. Egoist brands never follow back their customers on Twitter. They never say thank you for a re-tweet. They never bother to respond to @ mentions. They simply take Twitter as yet another channel to scream out their marketing messages.Even some of those brands which appears to be doing well on Twitter, are sometimes showing these 'egoist' characteristics.

Learning point: Social media not all about boasting of you or your brand. It’s about listening to other people, and being empathetic.

4. Bulk following obsession

This is a mistake done by many individuals and brands, which I warned before. If you are blindly following other people with the hope of getting few ‘reciprocal love’, you are doing the mistake of gathering an irrelevant set of followers around your brand (spam bots, porn bots, foreigners who can never buy from you, etc). @realradio878 and @QuantumTeleShop are two examples of brands which did this mistake. Rather than following thousands of irrelevant people with the hope of them following you back, you have to execute a clear strategy to gather relevant followers around your brand.

Following 1,335 but only 95 followers. Something is wrong here!

Point: It’s not about the quantity; but all about the quality of conversation.

Is there any potential for Sri Lankan brands to make use of Twitter as a marketing tool?

This is a question, which bothers most Sri Lankan marketers. Is it big enough? 

With twitter, it’s not always about the volume. It’s about the engagement. If you can engage a right set of audience on Twitter, you will see far reaching results. Because, the ones who are on Twitter are theoretically “opinion leaders”, “connectors” or “innovators” as described in your marketing text books. You know how much an impact a “connector” can do to your brand. So why not give it a try?

You are always welcome to leave feedback on shortcomings of my observation, and suggestions to improve this methodology.

Originally posted on www.amisampath.com Like this blog? Get email updates when I post next time, or subscribe to the feed on a reader. Follow me on Twitter @Amisampath Please help improve the quality of this blog. Report any spelling or grammar mistake here


  1. Great article, very astutely observed and some valuable insights that all traditional marketers can learn from. I do agree that most brands in Sri Lanka do not understand that social media has an inherently different dynamic to the more traditional mediums they are used to. Success is very much determined by understanding the nuances of these platforms and leveraging them in ways that amplifies any company's core values and clearly communicates them to the wider market. Brands must learn from their mistakes quickly because the reality is that generation Y is less forgiving than their parents when it comes to authentic and sincere communication.

  2. It is natural that Sri Lankan companies think engaging with customers online is useless in SL, as Internet is not really widespread in Sri Lanka, and even a small amount of people with Internet access are using social media (The average Internet usage of SL public is almost limited to downloading music videos and killing-time in forums, I guess. Though they use, Facebook, it is not the "right" way.). But who says they should reach millions of customers online? Companies should learn to treat the handful of stomers they find, in a welcoming way.

  3. Good post.
    btw the 'Branson' that Otara is following is the wrong account. The person who created the Otara account simply selected the 'suggested following' and didn't come back to Twitter after that.

    Truth be told, Twitter is only catching up with SL brands so a bit of patience is required. Guess the 'tipping point' is needed for mass usage from the SL brands. I see that tipping point being the internet penetration of SL.

  4. Thanks everyone for the comments and feedback. I expect for more :-)

    From your comments, I gather a common point that, low internet penetration is a reason for Sri Lankan brands not taking new media channels too serious. I believe, this is the first mistake they are making.

    As I mentioned in my post, the ones who are already connected to the internet, and then to Facebook and Twitter are the ones who have the most influence on rest of the community. These are the people who use their brains the most, before making a purchase decision. Others look up to these people for advice about making purchases. I’m not boasting of myself, but during last two weeks only, I have advised several of my friends on which brands to consider when buying a laptop, and my sister on which brands to look when she’s planning to buy a low cost brand new car. Be it mobile phones, TV sets, DVD players, Internet connection, or may be a mobile phone connection; a vast majority of “socially active” individuals on Twitter and Facebook are passing opinions to the offline world. So, it’s ridiculous to judge the reach of social media, only by looking at the internet penetration figures. The other point is; internet penetration in Sri Lanka can only grow more. It will never come down. So, why wait until it grow, if there is no doubt that it is going to grow?

    As @budhajeewa mentioned; most brands believe it’s all about ‘reaching millions’. But more than reaching ‘millions’, you can reach several hundreds (or thousands) of socially active people, who can start a ‘social epidemic’ around your brand.

    @Gihan was right! There is a ‘tipping point’ for everything, and the sad thing to see is; most brands give up their online branding efforts so easily, before reaching their ‘tipping point’. In few years time, they will regret for either giving it up, or for not starting it at the right time.

  5. @Amitha: Oh yes. People who put social media to the right use almost always have the good influence in the real world. Thats fact is something these companies should make use of.

  6. I do honestly believe that a new breed of entrepreneurial talent in Sri Lanka, the up and coming thought leaders for the new generation will set the standard for online engagement, and show the incumbents how to do things properly. The old establishment are going to have their respective industry verticals rumbled, whether they like it or not, and ultimately it's up to them if they want to embrace change and ride the wave, or remain sedentary and be overtaken. No one will be safe, that's for sure. I think there's another reason for the lack of engagement, and that's a lack of understanding. I think an assessment of the current strategies being employed by the handful of brands that are active in the space suggests that most of them are paying mere lip service to what they perceive to be 'cool' or 'trendy' services, so they feel it will engender brand loyalty merely be saying to their installed customer base (and prospectives) 'Hey we're on Facebook' etc.. But the reality is that a realization on the part of the customer that the brands don't have a clearly thought out strategy will be far more detrimental than no strategy at all, and I think more education and awareness is needed to stem the tide.

  7. Thee @MobitelSriLanka story - http://twi.tt/pic/ecS

  8. This is good applied research that questions ourselves on how we run businesses, organizations.
    Sri Lanka by contrast to India is a Facebook nation. Twitter is yet to pop up. But my feeling is, it will come up for good. Great to see you guys are doing workshops to fire up the excitement !

  9. Yes Isura, I expect more and more Sri Lankan brands to open themselves to this reality and join in the conversation, rather than keep on broadcasting one-way messages. After this post, I've seen many Sri Lankan brands started engaging more on Twitter. For example, I've rated @CocoVeranda as no 2 best brand on Twitter, after @Dialoglk. But as of today, Coco has improved a lot and they are by far the best example for a "peopleized" brand in Sri Lanka.

  10. Good activism. Like your passion. :)

  11. Based on Rohans theory "brands in Sri Lanka do not understand that social media has an inherently different dynamic to the more traditional mediums they are used to". I don't understand how one can specifically define "understanding the social media" (FYI some corporate companies in the UK are spending millions in researching this area). Ok, lets forget about Facebook of Tiwitter just for a sec, because these are just couple of band-wagons every one jumps onto now-a-days, like you and me for instance, because these platforms didn't come from our fathers testicles for sure. It's just a "De facto" following a simple standard without or contrary to a regulation with "everyone does, why not me" attitude. Think outside the box, for some, entire Internet is marketing platform from a corporate point of view, for you and me, just Twitter and Facebook :). It simply doesn't matter whether you're reaching a buying customer or not, as long as your goal is to advertise the existence of your brand to a global wide audience and that's the mentality of Sri Lankan companies right now. Lets not forget, some companies have their own strategies set for their own personal or financial gains, end of the day they reserve the right to respond or ignore you.

  12. Don know what every ones on about?. Create a couple of profiles on the Internet and you lot a self proclaimed master of the "Social media". LOL, get a life, get out of your bedrooms, go help you daddy on the paddy ;), make your parents proud

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  15. @Anonymous

    Quote "end of the day they reserve the right to respond or ignore you"

    If you are a brand manager, may god bless your brand and your boss with this type of an attitude.

    Note: Rest of the anonymous comments (which I reasonably believe is by the same person) was deleted, as they were immature personal attacks on some of the other commentators on this thread.


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