At the “Integration Panel” at last week’s Online Impact 2010 I mentioned that I use several Twitter accounts and other panelists raised the concern that this could become unmanageable – I’d like to explain the strategy a bit more completely here.
I use four Twitter accounts/”handles”:
I’ve had the @tomdog account the longest and started the other 3 accounts within the last 6 months or so. What I noticed with my followers is that if I began twittering about a specific interest I had for an extended period of time, I would lose followers. I’m a busy fellow with many interests. I run a company that provides emarketing strategy and services that include Google AdWords management, search engine optimization, custom content development, and video production among many other categories. I also write 5-7 articles about television and entertainment every week. People who started following me because they read my tweets about some SEO strategy were unfollowing me when I started tweeting about why it was a bad idea to give Jay Leno a prime time show.
With applications like TweetDeck managing 4 accounts is easy, so don’t let that keep you from creating more handles that are particular to distinct activities you engage in.
Let’s look at another really good reason why a business owner should have a separate Twitter handle for their business. Unless a business owner has no interest, desire, or plans to expand their business beyond a sole proprietorship with an employee of 1, then it would be foolish not to reserve that handle. My co-panelist, Christine Pilch, said that at the very least, in order to protect your company name, you should get that handle reserved, registered, and under your control before somebody else gets it.
Twitter Rule #1 for Businesses: Secure the Twitter handle that best identifies your company.
If you have multiple employees who understand your company’s mission, somebody helping you with marketing, or even a marketing department, you should build a Twitter strategy so that multiple people can help manage this effort thus preventing the pressure building up exclusively on yourself. In the Q&A I mentioned that Twitter has already been beta testing a “contributor” feature so that multiple authorized agents can contribute tweets to an account – here is the blog post at Twitter explaining the “contributor” feature. There are also services like CoTweet that provide even richer functionality for teams who are co-managing a brand in Twitter.
Why is this important? Because I’m convinced that the first lawsuit against an individual who has helped build a brand using their “personal” Twitter account by their employer will be upon us at any moment. Let’s say you are working at company XYZ Inc. and you are helping drive traffic to the company’s website, blogpost, shopping cart, etc. by twittering about it using your personal handle because the company hasn’t created one. You build up an audience of followers and the tweets from your account become a measurable source of web traffic, brand interest, or even revenue. When you decide to leave that job, your employer might say, “you can leave but not with that Twitter account – that list of followers is ours, those tweets were about our company and they were done on company time, that’s our intellectual property”.
Twitter Rule #1 for Employees: Don’t tweet about the company you work at unless they have their own, active, Twitter account.
Employers: do not put your employees in the above situation. The tools are there for employees to contribute to a Twitter account to build your brand. If you are a sole proprietor and you are twittering about your business in your personal account, you could be putting yourself in the same situation as above if you decide to sell your business – your Twitter account and follower list could be considered an company asset by the entity seeking to buy you out. It’s fine if you want to make your Twitter account a bargaining chip but if you do sell it as part of your company, are you ready to start from scratch on Twitter again?
Twitter Rule #2 for Businesses: Tweet regularly to the business Twitter account. At the very least, tweet links to your blog posts, news articles, and press releases from the account to show that it is active and a source of information about your business.
To protect yourself and your business, do the basics and create a Twitter business account that you post to regularly, whether manually at Twitter.com or using TweetDeck, or using CoTweet or the upcoming “contributor” function on Twitter. Retweet (RT) the @XYZInc tweets in your personal account and build that separate list of followers. Does that mean you should never twitter about business in your “personal” account – absolutely not. I see it all the time but what helps is to reference the business account in your tweets, for example, from your personal account: “I created a new customer service policy at @XYZInc that is going to put us ahead of the competition http://bit.ly/65iJ” and then at the @XYZInc account: “Our new customer service policy goes into effect today, 2 free hours of support/month: http://bit.ly/65iJ”.
Doing a little bit of planning, creating a policy on who should tweet, the tone of the tweets, how often they should tweet, and what tools and accounts should be used can prevent a lot of conflict later as people move on or take on other roles within an organization or the organization itself goes through changes. Don’t be afraid of multiple accounts!