Why We Wanted our Twitter Account to Be Taken Over

Freestyle Twitter activity during the 2012 OlympicsIt’s not what you think, we’ve not decided to scrap social media and go back to direct mail! We gave away our Twitter account for a day during the London 2012 Olympic Games. Why? Read on and I will explain our Twitter Takeover and why it is a great idea for community managers.

First a little back story…

The London 2012 Olympic Games is the first truly social Olympics and with our strong sporting heritage it would have been remiss of the agency not to do something in honor of the Games. It was evident early on that we would need something different from the standard daily gold-rush updates and from the “good luck such-and-such” tweets.

We decided to launch the first agency Twitter Takeover and brought in Alan Rapley, Olympic coach and medal winner at the 1996 Atlanta Games to help us out.

How the Twitter Takeover was implemented

It is important to share guidelines and policy with any commentator well in advance so they feel comfortable. The documents, of course, have to be augmented with real examples and a discussion. Beforehand, Alan was preparing his broadcast tweets and we worked with him to understand how his style would complement the voice of the current account.

In the meantime the guys back in the office were laying the groundwork for the Twitter Takeover, teasing out tweets in the days leading up to the event:



On the day of the takeover we asked Alan to begin first thing in the morning. We’d prepared a different promotional background. Alan began by tweeting a picture of his daughter’s primary school and what they were doing for the Olympics. This set a great tone, showing the personality of the commentator and showing the intimacy of the content that people could expect from the day.

Alan used much of the live Olympic action to ignite conversations with the audience as well as Olympic friends who were also on Twitter. The community could then clearly see ‘the insight’ of conversation between Olympians.

We also asked people in the office to tweet Alan with questions. This is an important part of any campaign activity—it’s the backup plan. As with all things new, a leap of faith is needed but you need to make that leap in the most secure way possible. In this case, that meant preparing people to seed content. We didn’t tell them what to say, we just asked them to pay attention and if they have anything to ask, do it through the medium of Twitter!

Freestyle Twitter background

Twitter takeover background for the event

Here are some of the tweets from the day:





Was the activity worthwhile?

Follower activity increased, as did engagement with those followers, and our content did help us branch out into new audiences.

I think the single biggest success of the day was to prove an assumption I’d long held—if you’re not an expert, don’t profess to be one!

Too often I see community managers try and learn all there is to know about a subject, or worse, try to fake it. People are different and your uniqueness comes into play with every community you manage. If you haven’t got the expertise, don’t try to be the expert (we didn’t) —instead, become the conduit for the expert to speak!

In our case, we weren’t experts in being an Olympian or a coach—but we knew we could call on an expert to interact with our community.

This is why a Twitter Takeover really works. You can bring an expert in and give them a direct line to your community, and by extension you cross pollinate ideas into the space.

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About the author

Andy Gaukrodger

SEO Strategist and community manager for @freestyleint. PHP coder, blog writer, digital advocate and social media consultant. Catch me Google+