Marketing

#BrandsTalkTwitter - #GOT and adventures in threads with @ICRC

By Gordon Macmillan
Tuesday, 5 November 2019

In #BrandsTalkTwitter we get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how our favourite brands’ on Twitter use the platform. This week it is the turn of the team behind the International Committee of the Red Cross (@ICRC) Twitter account.

Active in over 80 countries, the @ICRC helps people affected by conflict and armed violence and promotes the laws that protect victims of war. With 2.2 million followers, the @ICRC Twitter account is its largest channel.  

1. What role does Twitter fulfil in your social media strategy?

Twitter is crucial. It’s where the diplomats, politicians, government departments, lawyers and academics are. @ICRC is our largest channel and the one we have to get right.

For us, it’s all about building trust. We need to be an authoritative source of information, but we also have to stay humane. A few years ago, we would parrot the legalistic and aloof style of communicating we were used to doing in reports or in incredibly formal settings. It just doesn’t work online. So now we’re working really hard to use @ICRC as the accessible face of this 156-year-old institution.

2. How do you handle direct messaging from consumers?

A direct message could be someone telling us we shouldn’t help women and children in north-eastern Syria, or it could be someone in north-eastern Syria asking for help. If we’re honest, we can and should be better, we’ve got a global strategy for engaging in customer service coming for next year.

3. How do you split planned activity vs tactical? 

We’re not a newsroom, but we need to stay flexible so we can react to breaking news and unfolding humanitarian situations. We have 20,000 staff across 80 countries, so we’re strongest when we’re able to comment on what we’re seeing on the ground. Of course, we plan content for anniversaries or events as well, but that’s only around 20%. 

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4. What is the most important thing to bear in mind before you Tweet?

So the first thing is to ask if there are any security or legal implications if we send this? Our neutrality and ability to help people depends on this, so anything sensitive has to be validated by people in Geneva and by the delegation.

Then we can get to the comms work of making it understandable and relatable. The majority of our audience do not have degrees in international humanitarian law, so we must be interesting, accessible and humane, as well as accurate.

We don’t always get it right. But we’re trying to use those moments to pivot and explain the issue in more detail – rather than just deleting and pretending our account isn’t run by a human. 

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But because the internet is, you know, the internet. We can’t segment our audiences completely: we’re working to make sure all of our staff are aware of the power dynamics at play when we’re Tweeting about people living in conflict zones. The dream for 2020 is to co -design our campaigns.

5. What’s your most successful Tweets? 

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Often when we talk about millions of people in desperate need, it’s overwhelming for the human brain. This brought the urgency of the humanitarian situation home.

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We’re a big fan of using emojis, but only if they add value to the story we’re trying to tell. 

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6. What gets the most engagement from your followers?

One of our big challenges is how to create content that moves us towards the informed, thoughtful conversations and away from the “war is bad” comments. The best example of this was the responses to our Game of Thrones thread: 

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People were asking us incredibly geeky questions about specific articles of the Geneva Conventions and how they applied in Westeros. We can rarely use real-life examples to illustrate violations of the rules of war, so this was an amazing opportunity to explain them via a trend.

The @TwitterUK team helped us make this choose your own adventure game, which just blew everything else we’ve done out of the water in terms of engagement. There was over 60% engagement rate on the second Tweet, and thousands of people were following it through to the end.

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For its vital work around the world, and its great use of Twitter, the @ICRC account is well-worth following.

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@gordonmacmillan

Gordon Macmillan

‎@gordonmacmillan‎

Head of Editorial, Twitter EMEA

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