How Should Companies Approach Twitter?

While chatting with some buddies in Starbucks the other day an interesting question came up. Should a company tweet as itself on Twitter (ie @carsonified) or should the Twitter account be written from a more personal perspective (ie @ryancarson)?

If the Twitter account is written from the company perspective then followers might expect certain things; updates on what the company is doing and customer support, for example. Followers may not expect to hear that @carsonified is having coffee with its buddies in Starbucks – that might throw some people and feel a bit weird.

Similarly, if you have a personal Twitter account your followers may not want to hear about what your company is up to when they’re following you because they are interested in how you think and what you do.

This conundrum leaves businesses in a sort of limbo land – not knowing how to approach Twitter. Larger companies, I think, may have a particular problem.

If, as a company founder, CEO or manger, you have employed a marketing person to market your company and products then there’s probably a reason for that. Either you don’t have the time to do it yourself, or you’re not the kind of person who would be good at it. Both valid reasons. However, if potential Twitter followers will be more interested in what you have to say, on a personal level, then isn’t the best way to use Twitter for the founder or CEO to have his or her own Twitter account?

If you don’t think that the public at large is particularly interested in you (as the founder) then you might go for a ‘company’ Twitter account where you announce news and offer support to your followers but don’t talk about personal stuff since the account is meant to be the voice of the company.

Or of course you could do a mixture of the two where you have an official company twitter account which includes news, offers and support and a bit of personal input from the team. But the founder also has a personal account which gives an insight into his or her personal world while being also peppered with company updates.

Some interesting examples

Here’s how some other companies approach the problem.

Zappos

@zappos – has 549,840 followers and is written from a personal perspective by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos but also includes some company data, including contact information.
@inside_zappos – has 2,239 followers and is the company Twitter account featuring behind the scenes photos, news and offers.

Threadless

@threadless – has 407,000 followers and is exclusively a community for t-shirt designers who love Threadless
@jeffrey – has 2,248 followers and is the personal Twitter account of Jeffery Kalmikoff, partner at Threadless.

WooThemes

@woothemes – has 1,969 followers and is a mixture of support, news and a bit of personal team stuff thrown in.
@adii – has 2,608 followers and is the personal Twitter account of Adii, founder of WooThemes, with a bit of company stuff throw in.

If you do opt to have a company Twitter account and a personal account written by the founder/CEO there seems to be an inevitable amount of duplication which I think is unavoidable.

It’s certainly a conundrum and one that I think companies on Twitter are still feeling their way around. Some options work for some companies and some for others. There’s doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong way to do it just the one that’s right for you.

What do you think? Do you have any examples of companies that use Twitter well or do something interesting with this relatively new medium?

Main image by flickr.com/photos/fchouse

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Comments

0 comments on “How Should Companies Approach Twitter?

  1. When people search for their favorite blog on Twitter, they search for the blog name and not the people who run the blog. That's reason enough for me to use my blog's (or company's) name as the twitter account.

  2. I prefer the "mixture of both" approach with a company account for news/updates/promotins, etc, and a personal staff accounts for everything else. If I follow a company the main reason I would follow would be to get updates about the company. Not to hear what the owner is doing or to get constant "interesting links".

  3. I think it depends what we are talking about when we say companies.

    A web start-up like WooThemes is a good example of when having 'personal' Twitter accounts helps. We know Adii from his blog and can therefore associate with him. He is arguably a larger brand than WooThemes itself.

    On the other hand, would it be the same if the CEO of a large, faceless company had a Twitter page?

    On the other, other hand – if Steve Jobs had a Twitter profile…

  4. We use twitter for multiple things

    Myself (@sevitzdotcom) and our COO (@jamieparkins) both have personal Twitter accounts, that have work stuff in them but are mostly personal.

    Then we have for work a @vzaar account that is the offical business account that we put announcements and interesting facts on. But one we also contact people who have Twittered about looking for a video solution and @reply them.

    Then we have a @goingonatvzaar account, that we use for status updates, deployments, functional changes and bugs. Those that follow them are normally our regular users who want to keep an eye on the system.

    We also have an internal protected account that we use for things like new signups and other internal system updates that allows us as a team to get better notifications than emails.

    What I find interesting is who follows the official vzaar twitter account. We get lots of people who are following 2000-10000 people. These are more businesses in the online sales sector, most of whom I feel are just trying to get you to follow them back. I personal don't like this, but am letting it run for a while before I make a decision. Whilst I block these kinds of people on my personal account, I assume it mostly doesn't actively hurt our official work profile.

    I do think as more businesses use Twitter the volume of "dead value followers" will increase. i.e. followers who follow you but don't read what their followers say.

    How can anyone follow more than 200-300 people properly? I don't think it's possible for most people.

  5. We use twitter for multiple things

    Myself (@sevitzdotcom) and our COO (@jamieparkins) both have personal Twitter accounts, that have work stuff in them but are mostly personal.

    Then we have for work a @vzaar account that is the offical business account that we put announcements and interesting facts on. But one we also contact people who have Twittered about looking for a video solution and @reply them.

    Then we have a @goingonatvzaar account, that we use for status updates, deployments, functional changes and bugs. Those that follow them are normally our regular users who want to keep an eye on the system.

    We also have an internal protected account that we use for things like new signups and other internal system updates that allows us as a team to get better notifications than emails.

    What I find interesting is who follows the official vzaar twitter account. We get lots of people who are following 2000-10000 people. These are more businesses in the online sales sector, most of whom I feel are just trying to get you to follow them back. I personal don't like this, but am letting it run for a while before I make a decision. Whilst I block these kinds of people on my personal account, I assume it mostly doesn't actively hurt our official work profile.

    I do think as more businesses use Twitter the volume of "dead value followers" will increase. i.e. followers who follow you but don't read what their followers say.

    How can anyone follow more than 200-300 people properly? I don't think it's possible for most people.

  6. I think that we should not abuse twitter by just simply promoting and promoting businesses but as well do our best to share something that is very helpful and useful for everyone. Something that would benefit followers.:-)

  7. I suffer from schizotwitter – I keep a company tweet and a personal tweet and find that I'm always a bit formal on the company one – "I say do you know that we are at this event" whereas my personal tweet, even though I often go into subject areas which are company related is much more direct. So I think my personal tweeting has helped with some of my company placement – although it's the company one that I promote. In retrospect had I been more confident I would have kept them one and the same but there's just that nagging thing that I don't want my customers to hear me rant about football.

  8. We are a small company, and only about 8 months old. We use twitter as @dotdarren and @dotjames.These are a hybrid of our work and personal twitter, we dont have time to have two. Our tweets are fed to our blog, and we havent found this as a problem, we are trying to base our business from a more personal angle, our clients know what we are like, there is no facade to be kept, so if I twitter that I have gone out for a beer with someone, we see this as a bonus that our clients cna see it, it gives our clients a sense of reality over who is doing their work.
    Our updates are a mixture of dot related news, and personal stuff.
    It wasnt that long ago that you wouldnt dare turn up at work in Jeans and a T- Shirt, but now it is common practice, it removes the barrier between yourself and client on a face to face level, Twitter is just a tool that can remove the formal front sometimes a website can give off.

    Now obviously we are very small, and who knows where we will be in a few years, but at the moment, we love the fact that we have this connection with clients.

  9. I think it is important to have both, afterall, the question when a person leaves a company is who owns the followers? If the person running a company's only twitter page moves to a new company, would they take the followers? If it is their twitter page then they are more than allowed to. If it is an @companyname then obviously not.

    I also wouldn't want one person to have so much power, effectively speaking for the company unless it was the person at the top.

  10. I think it is important to have both, afterall, the question when a person leaves a company is who owns the followers? If the person running a company's only twitter page moves to a new company, would they take the followers? If it is their twitter page then they are more than allowed to. If it is an @companyname then obviously not.

    I also wouldn't want one person to have so much power, effectively speaking for the company unless it was the person at the top.

  11. In my mind, t's a matter of how you're branding yourself & your company (and how closely you want the comments you make on Twitter to affect that brand). I run a small creative shop of between 1 and 3 people at times, so "me" is practically equal to "the company".

    I keep @imagedistillery tweets informal, but appropriate and purposeful (just as my business usually operates), tweeting about anything that I feel helps paint a picture of my company & my industry.

    I also keep a personal account that I gear toward friends and family… I'm much less concerned with how Tweets might be interpreted, worry less about giving context, I Tweet about my kids and the goings on at home, and use this for any communication I don't necessarily want associated with my company (personal conversations with friends, eg.)

    This system, I feel, strikes the best balance between my business use of Twitter as a tool for branding / outreach, and my own personal "What's up in the life of Jason?" use for those closest to me.

    What I don't like is when bigger companies use Twitter only for formal company / product announcements…. I look for a little personality or a "peek behind the curtain" when I follow another company's Tweets. I think companies that offer their followers the feeling that they're seeing just a little bit more than the company is comfortable sharing with the public … that they're in a sort of "insider's circle"… those companies are using Twitter to build a relationship with their followers that's deeper than a blog RSS feed.

  12. I think it is important to have both, afterall, the question when a person leaves a company is who owns the followers? If the person running a company's only twitter page moves to a new company, would they take the followers? If it is their twitter page then they are more than allowed to. If it is an @companyname then obviously not.

    I also wouldn't want one person to have so much power, effectively speaking for the company unless it was the person at the top.

  13. I am setting up my company right now and I already have a twitter account for myself ( @fran6 ). I am planning to use a twitter account for my company to give business news, things that are just related to the business of the company. I may retweet some on my personal account but I think it has to be separate. Talking about blogs is different. A blog is not a company. A lot of people associate a person to a blog so having a twitter account with the name of the blog can be more personal. For a company xou won't do it just because it would not be professional !!

  14. Interesting how you use an internal account for the team – I like that.

    I agree – the 'dead value followers' are becoming a problem on Twitter.

  15. It seems that although companies want to be "On twitter", they don't want to take that opportunity to fully engage with their customers. E.g. they're down the broadcast end of the "Broadcast<—->Engage" spectrum.

    Just two examples from today:
    http://twitter.com/Ebuyerdotcom/status/1762912477
    http://twitter.com/jceeditor/status/1763462290

    I generally see corporate twitter IDs as a sign of a broadcast / minimal engagement mentality – a personalised ID tends to more open and approachable – there are exceptions of course:

    http://twitter.com/grazedotcom/statuses/163174080

    Yes – they acknowledge that they can't deal with it on twitter, but the engagement continues, and isn't just rebuffed.

    So I think the real questions isn't whether you want a corporate or personal ID, but how much do you want to engage with your customers.

  16. It seems that although companies want to be "On twitter", they don't want to take that opportunity to fully engage with their customers. E.g. they're down the broadcast end of the "Broadcast<—->Engage" spectrum.

    Just two examples from today:
    http://twitter.com/Ebuyerdotcom/status/1762912477
    http://twitter.com/jceeditor/status/1763462290

    I generally see corporate twitter IDs as a sign of a broadcast / minimal engagement mentality – a personalised ID tends to more open and approachable – there are exceptions of course:

    http://twitter.com/grazedotcom/statuses/163174080

    Yes – they acknowledge that they can't deal with it on twitter, but the engagement continues, and isn't just rebuffed.

    So I think the real questions isn't whether you want a corporate or personal ID, but how much do you want to engage with your customers.

  17. @Lee
    Very good points on what companies think of doing versus actually doing.

    Before any company thinks about twitter, they need to research their industry and see why they should be using it. A goal, even if its a simple sentence, would be a nice first step towards using any of the social networking tools(we all know it, but some dont… these are just tools). Instead of traditional media saying its cool, so you have to use it; have a goal in mind to why you want to use it.

    I'd like to add that personally, I would not follow a straight company name unless it has proven to be someone who has personality running the account. If its going to be a company name, that company needs to explain who is being represented on that account to make it more personal, which, theoretically, would make the person more engaging.

    Either way a company chooses to represent itself, the old saying "Garbage in = Garbage Out" still holds true here. How much time one spends crafting his/her/ or company tweets is directly related to what the outcome will be.

  18. At 9miles Media, we all have both our own personal twitter accounts, and an @9miles account which now has 24,718 followers.

    All of our twitter accounts combined have 70,114 followers.

  19. In GENERAL:

    I think the line between Business & Social Media is blured when it comes to businesses claiming relationships are important to them, but really, it's more about the transaction and how many they can turn in a quarter.

    I also feel that we as a society have failed at humane aspect working in large businesses, if relationships were truly important then why the gap between developing loyalty and results?

  20. I preferred to follow both aspects. Since people not just rely on what and how your company is doing but they probably check and evaluate the company's founder to assure quality insurance and to know that it is legal.

    arborist Minneapolis

  21. I preferred to follow both aspects. Since people not just rely on what and how your company is doing but they probably check and evaluate the company's founder to assure quality insurance and to know that it is legal.

    arborist Minneapolis

  22. I preferred to follow both aspects. Since people not just rely on what and how your company is doing but they probably check and evaluate the company's founder to assure quality insurance and to know that it is legal.

    arborist Minneapolis

  23. I preferred to follow both aspects. Since people not just rely on what and how your company is doing but they probably check and evaluate the company's founder to assure quality insurance and to know that it is legal.

    arborist Minneapolis

  24. Another aspect of "how companies use Twitter" is to think of the Public Sector, and Local Authority organisations throughout the UK.

    I currently work as a Web Development manager of a local authority and – because "communication" is dealt with by a separate section of the organisation, even acquiring the right to promote the potential use of Twitter is difficult.

    In my experience, those with the expertise and knowledge find it difficult to have their voices heard in local authorities.

  25. It's a bit hard to decide what's right, specially if you're an NGO. But if there's a journalist or someone from communications dpt. who can give an hand, things can run a lot smoother. Of course there's always the "use it as feed approach", but it's not good enough, there is so much more than can be done. Check @ots_oet

    Cheers

  26. I always feel that Twitter is at its best as a personal communication medium. If I see posts there from a company it just says to me OK they are doing this to promote business and for no other reason and I tend to avoid this type of Tweet.I much prefer that the company representative be he the CEO or someone else should use a personal Twitter account to give news of the company.Articles

  27. I always feel that Twitter is at its best as a personal communication medium. If I see posts there from a company it just says to me OK they are doing this to promote business and for no other reason and I tend to avoid this type of Tweet.I much prefer that the company representative be he the CEO or someone else should use a personal Twitter account to give news of the company.Articles

  28. I use twitter for business and personal and the question I always keep coming back to is quality or quantity..is it better to have 100 followers matter or 10,000 followers who communicate sporadically…it's a quandry

  29. I use twitter but more for personal reasons so much for business .. maybe I will try to use it for that reason in the future.

  30. I believe Twitter is just a short fad and will quickly be a blip on the radar screen of the internet. It's so 90's, only being able to type less that 200 characters??

  31. Yeah it was a small change using WGET and the API I hard coded in as an experiment.

    But it creates a nice office atmosphere with a "whoop whoop" every time we get a new paying user.

  32. I totally agree too. You'll notice I only follow 90 people on my personal account, @JoelDrapper. I don't have much control over how the @9miles account is used.

  33. To use Lee's Broadcast <———> Engage spectrum (well put!) following thousands and hoping for an auto-follow back seems like an excellent way to increase your broadcast base in raw numbers, but the opposite of what one needs to do to truly engage with those followers in any meaningful way.

    Regardless of the actual scale of the numbers, I've always been drawn to people/companies whose followers outweigh their followed by at least a factor of 2… that, to me, says "value offerer" instead of "follow collector".

  34. I agree with you Brian, I also use my blog's name on Twitter. And as Ryan said in this post, I try to write updates about the blog, not really on a personal level, but I might consider a mixture of both in my future tweets.