Pleased to tweet you: the people behind the Twitter machines


Businesses and organisations are using social media to build brands and improve customer service. But who are people behind the accounts?

Bite Restaurant

Anthony Remedy, @BITEdublin

When Anthony Remedy and business partner Brian Spollen opened Bite Restaurant in Dublin six months ago, Remedy – whose background was in promoting gigs, clubs and bands – knew Twitter was going to be part of their marketing plan.

He tries to keep the tweets light-hearted by, yes, pushing the restaurant’s menu, but also taking bookings and having a chatty conversation about Dublin life.

“Restaurants just talking about menus and food – it’s pretty boring,” says Remedy.

So he seasons his food tweets with his opinions, and muses on pop culture.

Nor does he see it as the alternative to the complaints department.

Disgruntled customers can still talk to the manager or waiter. “I can’t fix all of your issues. I could be in the cinema or at home on the couch.”

But Remedy finds that responding to Twitter comments and concerns has created a loyal community of followers: “Once you’re being sound, that goes a long way. Twitter is an updated version of word of mouth.”

Irish Rail

Joanne Bissett, @IrishRail

Irish Rail started a Twitter account in 2009, on a trial basis, and now has 21,000 followers. Its corporate communications executive, Joanne Bissett, is behind the account, and she finds it an effective way to reach “people on the move”.

From her office in Connolly Station, Bissett gets up-to-the-minute information from rail central control, which she translates to a “customer-friendly format” and disseminates through Twitter. In late 2010, when the country faced unprecedented snowfall over the Christmas period, Bissett said Irish Rail became convinced of Twitter as a vital communication tool.

It allows Irish Rail to inform passengers about service updates or delays, and sometimes to show how staff are working to get services back on track.

Irish Rail counts increases in followers during disruptions, but has recently gained publicity for helping to reunite lost pets with their owners, Bissett says. A few weeks ago, the Irish Rail Twitter family was able to reunite a lost pup, Hatch – who accidentally travelled to the city centre by train – with his owner in under 30 minutes.

“I like to respond to people individually,” says Bissett, although she draws the line at responding to “very colourful language” because she “wouldn’t converse with somebody in that way.

“I apologise a lot,” she says, but if Irish Rail’s Twitter account is getting a barrage of the same type of question, Bissett and her communications team “sit back and look at the message”, often issuing a blanket tweet to address repeat questions.

Pablo Picante

Colm McNamara and Tania Zorrilla, @PabloPicanteIRL

It’s not every day you hear about a Twitter account that’s written on behalf of a fictional and masked Mexican cartoon character, but that’s exactly what Colm McNamara has created for his three Pablo Picante burrito joints.

When it became clear to McNamara that burritos would be a success in Dublin, he quickly created the character Pablo Picante, a traditional Mexican luchador – or fighter – with a complex personality and a love of “spicy senoritas”.

McNamara and DIT advertising student Tania Zorrilla tweet on behalf of the strong, silent Mexican cartoon character.

Zorrilla says that when she’s tweeting on Pablo’s behalf, she “literally puts on the mask”.

Zorrilla and McNamara follow strict rules for tweeting on Pablo’s behalf: Pablo always speaks about himself in the third person, he always uses a combination of English and Spanish.

“Flattery gets him emotional, and he likes the women,” Zorrilla says.

McNamara and Zorrilla come from advertising backgrounds, and believe Twitter’s direct free contact gives the brand “a little bit of magic.”

National Library of Ireland

Carol Maddock, @NLIreland

Carol Maddock, social media co-ordinator at the National Library of Ireland, returned from London a few years ago and decided the library should take cues from galleries and museums around the world that were using social media.

Maddock uses the National Library’s Twitter account to interact with people who are using the library’s services or looking for information the library might have.

She says the account “puts a human face on the library, taking the edge off walking through the door. I talk to people as if I was introduced to someone at a do.”

The library isn’t above a bit of Twitter banter andoccasionally interacts with the other cultural institutions around Dublin’s city centre on Twitter “like arguing siblings”.

There is always a “bit of craic online”. But Maddock steers clear of politics, religion and money, much like she would offline. If there’s ever any question of the intention of the tweets, Maddock liked to include a “smiley face or a wink to let you know it’s all fun”.

Her favourite tweets are about the “marvellous stuff” hidden inside the library walls. She refers to the library as “Library Towers” and often highlights the library’s architecture through photos.

On Halloween, she shared spooky images from 1800s publications, dubbing the series “#HalloweenHowlers”. “I love what we have and what we do,” she says. “Twitter is a great way to share that.”

Professional pitfalls: When Twitter backfires

As with any powerful tool, misuse of social media has the potential for doing a lot of damage.

A few Irish businesses have got themselves into hot water on the social media front recently.

Herb Street restaurant owner Vinny Mullen found himself on the receiving end of a barrage of complaints when an off-colour remark about Olympic boxer John Joe Nevin was made from the Herb Street account, it seems that Mullen was not the author of the tweet .

Since the incident, the restaurant has put internal safeguards into place to ensure a similar incident doesn’t happen in the future.

“We’re back [on Twitter] very, very cautiously,” says Mullen. Now he makes sure tweets are only “restaurant-specific”, leaving no room for misinterpretation. He warns that “if a small business doesn’t understand the power of social media, it can be very dangerous”.

Cinnamon Cafe and Food Hall in Ranelagh learned that lesson only a few weeks ago, angering Twitter followers by getting into a heated exchange with a customer who complained online about slow service.

Following the incident, Cinnamon’s Dee Donoghue says they have designated just two users among their staff of almost 50 for their corporate Twitter account .

Donoghue says the incident, for which they apologised, provided a learning opportunity for the restaurant.

“It put us in a position where we’re making ourselves better. As a new business we’re trying to move forward all the time.” Emily Westbrooks

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