How R/GA’s Twitter Account Became the Best Follow in Marketing
Marketers love to talk about being leaders, but on social media, brands are usually two steps behind. They’re on Twitter because everyone says they’re supposed to be there. They’re posting links and using hashtags because that’s the way it’s been. It’s safer that way.
In the same breath, though, marketers will sell you on the importance of a unique voice, of differentiating your company from all the other companies. That cognitive dissonance deserves ridicule—as does a lot of what marketers say and do.
That’s what makes the R/GA Twitter account worth following on a daily basis. R/GA isn’t afraid to take a risk or make a joke. Over the last decade, it’s slowly hit the sweet spot of brands on Twitter: able to poke fun at an industry (and itself) without being too snide, silly, or stupid.
Content isn't king?
— R/GA (@RGA) October 25, 2019
I recently spoke with the person behind the account: Chapin Clark, R/GA’s EVP and managing director of copywriting. Clark revealed why the account evolved over time, what business goals he’s trying to accomplish, and how much time he spends on Twitter.
How did the R/GA account start, and why did you decide to run it?
I took over the R/GA account in 2009. That was the early days for Twitter. Before that, our corporate communications group was owning the account. A lot of organizations didn’t quite know what to make of Twitter. The account was a bit of a dumping group for job listings, press releases, that sort of thing.
Our head of corporate communications at the time realized that we should be doing more with it. She approached me because I had been tweeting for myself for awhile. She asked if I wanted to do it as an experiment, just see how it goes. There was no pressure for a long-term commitment.
Was it any different from the voice on your personal account?
I started with a high-minded thought process. I treated it like it was an advertising news account or something. I tweeted a lot of links to articles and thought people would be interested if I commented on trends.
Over time, I realized the world didn’t need another advertising news account. There’s Adweek, Ad Age, Digiday, Business Insider. All these companies, that’s their mission, and they do it well. I wasn’t adding much.
The only real perk of managing a corporate account in addition to your personal is you can like things twice.
— R/GA (@RGA) November 12, 2019
Are there any business objectives or goals aside from social media metrics?
Not losing clients. That’s the main business goal. That was a joke.
The number one goal is just to be interesting. Whether that’s to be funny or to make an observation that resonates with other people, to stand out in some way is the goal.
For R/GA, as the voice develops, we’ve gained more readers and more people looking at the account, which has translated into a greater interest from job-seekers. Also, in conversation with some clients, I’ve heard that there was greater interest in R/GA as a partner in social media campaign work and strategy as a result of the Twitter account. It signals that the agency understands how social media works and signals we walk the walk.
A lot of the posts are sardonic and self-effacing. Where do the ideas come from?
In the agency world, there’s a lot to poke fun at. Some of it is personal. It’s that things I observed directly in meetings and talking to people. I think a lot of it is just relatable.
Twitter is like a living thing. There’s a rhythm and a flow to it.
I think there are a lot of things that happen in our day that make us think like, why do we do things that way? Or why do people keep repeating that phrase? Am I the only one who thinks that doesn’t make sense? You can get a lot of mileage just in calling those things out. Because they’re not necessarily radically original brilliant observations. It’s more just saying what people are thinking already.
Have you ever had an instance when you heard from a colleague, and they came to you like, “Hey, wait a second, are you making fun of me?”
The opposite happens. They’re laughing and enjoyed it. I try to be careful about not making anyone feel bad personally. If I’m being critical, I try to make an effort to keep things general. I could be referring to one of twenty-eight different instances. It’s something that happens frequently, so there’s a large sample size.
As Twitter has evolved, I’ve seen a number of brands adopt this kind of voice—not necessarily doing it as well as you do. Have you thought about tweaking a little of what you do as these brands hopped on the trend?
Inevitably, you spend a lot of time on Twitter, and you’re immersed in it. You see what’s happening and the trends in terms of brand voice and what’s resonating with people. I think you’re either going to make some adjustments or veer away if you feel like there’s too much sameness.
Is it perhaps indicative of a larger problem that email has folders labeled "trash," "junk," "clutter," "infected," AND "quarantine"?
— R/GA (@RGA) October 22, 2019
Whether that’s happening consciously or unconsciously, I think it’s very organic. It’s not like, “Well today we need to pivot, so from now on the posts are going to be like this.” Twitter is like a living thing. There’s a rhythm and a flow to it. Not to get too corny about, but I think you’re always taking the pulse of it. And adjusting or not adjusting as it feels right.
On that note, have you made any conscious adjustments?
That’s a good question. I would say adjustments are less in reaction to what other people are doing and more in reaction to what I’ve been doing.
There are times when I realize I’ve gone to the well enough times with a certain thing. It’s more I’m fed up with myself, so I will make a conscious decision to stop doing a certain kind of post.
"Thoughtstarter" really needs to go therapy so it can understand why it undermines itself and can't fully embrace being an "idea."
— R/GA (@RGA) November 9, 2019
Are there other corporate accounts you look to or admire?
Most of the accounts I follow are outside of the advertising and brand marketing world. I follow a lot of people in comedy, whether it’s performers or comedy writers, a lot of media people, journalists.
I spend less time looking at corporate accounts, but I think there are a lot that execute well. Like MoonPie, who I laugh it. I think if you for forgot or if you masked that it was a brand account, a lot of stuff they post you just find very funny. But then you see it’s from a brand, then a lot of people poo poo it or cynically think they can’t like it.
My general attitude—and this applies to business books—is I feel like life is too short for business books and advice. There’s so much more to the richness of life. That’s the best thing about the internet, the odd, inexplicable things that don’t feat neatly into a category. Things that make you laugh and you can’t quite explain why. That’s what keeps me interested after all this time.
How much time do you spend on Twitter per day?
Way too much. I don’t look at my screen time to track how I use my phone, because that would be horrifying. But I would say that it’s not all wasted time. I’m reading about news, current events, and things that are important to be being a well-informed citizen. It’s personal stuff like sharing things with my children, in addition to just sort of frivolous stuff or work-related stuff. So it’s a little hard just to draw a line separating all those things. But it’s definitely a lot of time every day.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.Image by iStockPhoto