Friday, December 12, 2008

Twitter: love having the brands, but I don’t have to know the person behind the brand

A very provocative post on Mashable today in which Mark Drapeau shares his thoughts about brands on Twitter. Mark thinks that brands should not be on Twitter, but that people ‘hide’ behind organizational brands, obscuring their persona and therefore reducing authenticity and transparency. Yes, it’s a subject that has been discussed many times. I’ve written about brands on Twitter and best practices many times. And of course, there was the survey that Peter Sorgenfrei and I ran in which 240 Twitter users were asked to give their perceptions on brands. Once again, three key points:

  • Not surprisingly, most users (89%) agree that brands should engage their customers on Twitter.The majority also have a better impression of brands that use Twitter for customer service (81%).
  • Proper usage of Twitter however, is paramount as almost 90% of users would frown upon poor or inappropriate brand use of Twitter.
  • The power of a relationship is extremely strong on Twitter. 60% of respondents would recommend a company based on their presence on Twitter and 80% of Twitter users will reward those brands they have key relationships by being more willing to purchase from them.
  • And you can find over 50 brands using Twitter on a Social Media Marketing wiki that Peter Kim is curating.

    Over 70 people have commented on Mashable today and the predominant opinion is that we like our brands on Twitter. Since Twitter is an opt-in community, I can choose to follow whoever or whatever brand I want. I was particularly impressed with Pete Blackshaw’s (author of Angry Customers tell 3000) comment, paraphrased here, Part of what’s drawn brands to Twitter has been the very enthusiastic reception of Twitterites (tens of thousands of them) who have been preaching company and brand “engagement” and “responsiveness” and “participation.” If anything, the Twitter crowd has flirted with righteousness in encouraging brands to participate.

    Christine Perkett of Perkett PR says in her Mashable comment,

    I think this is an interesting debate and - like anything - comes down to personal preference. That’s why I actually love Twitter - I can choose to follow, unfollow or even just save a certain brand’s “Tweet” that I want to remember.

    Obviously as a marketer - and one of the brands on Twitter (in addition to the numerous clients that we’ve helped kick start on Twitter) - I am a fan of such. However, I think more specifically, I am a fan of brands doing it right. And by that I mean - engaging and being personable as you suggest. Not just using Twitter as an RSS feed. Not just blasting your own news/agenda. Combining industry insights with opinions and news and, when warranted, even humor. And, identifying who is behind the corporate handle.

    Felix Leander of Burson-Marsteller, also gives a similar perspective on his excellent PR/ Social media blog.

    Does anyone disagree that brands should be on Twitter, but there is certainly a right way on how to do it? How would you help a brand to understand Twitter and do it right?

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    Mark Drapeau said...

    Thanks for writing this. I think you have my thoughts slightly wrong. I'm all for brands being on Twitter. But I think each account should have a person associated with it, publically. Pete Cashmore is a good example. So, he is touting Mashable, but we know he's a real person, and precisely who he is so that we can figure that into any comments he might make. I like Dunkin Donuts - but who am I talking to?

    Also, I am sure that many of the geek, nerds, pr mavens, and market researchers currently on Twitter love brands. Probably 85% of them get paid by and promote brands. I want to see the poll of people who DON'T use Twitter to see what they think about millions of brand bots pushing messages out. Maybe, the results would be different.

    Warren said...


    Thanks for clarifying your point of view. I think we both agree that brands need to be authentic and transparent to be able to engage with their customers and strengthen their relationships. However, I really don't feel the need to know the identity of the person representing the brand. I also agree that using Twitter as a one way vehicle to just push an advertising message is not desired nor an effective tactic. And I think Twitter users would vote on that by avoiding that brand.



    Ari Herzog said...

    Are you implying, Warren, that if @XYZ sent you a message on Twitter, whether or not in response to something you previously said, and tweeted in first person, you would not want to know the person behind the first person?

    If a brand tweets in first person, I'd like to know the name of the person behind it. Leave titles out if need be. Just a name. A first name is fine, not unlike my calling said company's toll-free hotline to report a strange artichoke odor.

    If a corporate website's media contacts page includes names of people, I'd like to see similar on Twitter...which I argue is yet another media contact medium.

    TheWench said...


    I'd like to see if I can use Twitter to *build* a brand, and I wasn't going to put my name on this second account unless it actually looks like it might go somewhere. I kind of miss the anonymity of the old web, back in the good old days before people felt the need to put their own photos next to every forum and blog post. I guess the introvert in me is reluctant to put myself out there like that. But then I'm not the PR person for Dunkin Donuts. :P

    You gave me something to think about, thanks!

    Warren said...

    @ariherzog I guess it would depend on the relationship that I had with the brand. If I was using Twitter for customer service issues or to learn about promotions, then I don't think the name on the other side of the Twitter account is essential. Howeer, if I was regularly conversing with a brand, knowing about the individual would extend/strengthen the relationship.

    @adsensewench Yes, social media requires a whole new sense of transparency that many of us are not accustomed to sharing. Thanks for your impressions.

    MarketRMan said...
    This comment has been removed by the author.
    Ronald Coyle said...

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. I do agree with Mark Drapeau after reading further into this. Brands should be on Twitter, but they should have a person tied to them. And in the instance that a person is speaking to "@Dunkin Donuts", I hope the brand does more than simply post one-way messages. I like interacting with other people and brands online. We are participating in "social" communities afterall.

    Matt Hames said...

    I think there's a dangerous notion of having people talk on behalf of a brand. People take on different tones. A brand's tone is important to the overall sense of the brand.

    Look, every interaction is a micro-interaction. If the brand is Dunkin Donuts, the people working there dress the same to give an overall impression. The brand can't control the manner in which each customer is treated, but it can take steps to educate the staff on the right way.

    now, imagine that you walk into a dunkin donuts and the people are allowed to simply be themselves. To dress as they wish. The overall brand impact would be disconcerting.

    Is an individual Twitter feed the same thing as letting Dunkin Donuts employees dress how they wish? No, but it's another example of letting the brand go.

    Again, I'm not pretending to know that one thing is better than the other. That a personality (like the Dell thing) is worse than a Twitter feed that's the brand. But I can think of many bad things that could happen if you give it to an individual, whereas, if you give it to a brand, the only bad ting I can think of is will people follow?

    Rachel Levy said...

    I think brands should be on Twitter as brands AND as people (separate accounts). That way, they can use the appropriate brand voice, and communicate brand messages with one account. And be a human, talking about personal as well as business, with their personal brand. Hubspot is an example of this, and I believe, does it well. (@bostonmarketer)