At a recent conference, I heard a highly-respected (and respectable) PR professional argue that Twitter accounts should always-always-be a real person with a real-person avatar. Logo accounts, he said, shold be avoided.
It's not the first time I've heard this argument. In Shel Israel's book, "Twitterville," Department of Defense consultant Mark Drapeau is quoted (from a Mashable.com post) saying, "Twitter is about people sharing information with other people. So how do one-dimensional organizational brands fit into the mix? When you think about it, they don't." Drapeau concluded: "Ban them altogether."
Drapeau told Israel that real people are behind Twitter accounts and using a logo account is a means of hiding "behind organizational brands, obscuring their persona and therefore reducing authenticity and transparency."
As more and more speakers adopt this point of view, it becomes important to consider a variety of factors when establishing a work-related presence on Twitter. Chief among these is the reason people would want to follow the account.
Consider the Dell Outlet, which offers deals on refurbished, scratched, dented and previously ordered new Dell products. Twitter is the primary channel through which the Outlet announces its deals, as in the example below:
The argument by those rejecting logo accounts is that this is inauthentic and lacks the human touch that makes Twitter what it is-people sharing information with people, as Drapeau puts it. I would argue that, in this case, nobody cares about the person behind the account. Dell is a trusted brand (that is, nobody risks being ripped off if they decide to buy), so credibility isn't an issue. The only reason anybody would opt to follow the Outlet (more than 1.5 million people do) is to get the word about great deals.
Besides, if anybody needs to interact with the person behind the account, they can find that information on the account page. Should Elise move to a new job at Dell, whoever takes her place can simply update the account information with new contact details; nobody has to figure out that they have to follow somebody new if they want to keep getting deal notifications.
Dell has a numaber of logo accounts-Dell Home Offers, for instance-but also has an army of employees with individual accounts, including my friends RichardAtDell and LionelAtDell. With these accounts, Dell is able to establish personal connections that can be invaluable. When I asked Richard Binhammer (RichardAtDell) what happens if somebody moves to a new job, he replied that the employee simply notifies all his followers of the new Dell contact they should reach out to; he'd also forward queries to the new Dell person in that position.
Another example comes from The Ford Motor Company. Not too long ago, The folks behind the Welt Branding blog decided to test the speed with which companies responded to queries to their Twitter accounts. One of those receiving a query was Ford social media chief Scott Monty, who was asked, "What's your favorite year for Mustang?" Ford made the list of organization that didn't respond, but Scott did respond to the blog post with this comment:
Interesting experiment. But for Ford, maybe you should have tried @Ford instead of just me, as we have a team of people staffing the corporate account. If you saw my tweet earlier in the day of November 19, you wouldn't have been surprised of a lack of response:
"Coming off a redeye to attend an all-day strategic planning session. Boy, am I ready for the weekend."
To expect a single individual to handle every single tweet that comes at them is a little misguided. I do the best that I can on any given day, but even then, I can't always answer every single comment or mention. As I go back to look for your original tweet, I can't find it because Twitter has so many @ replies to archive for me.
Global Digital Communications
Ford Motor Company
Scott raises an excellent point. If you need help from a company in a hurry, reaching out to one individual may not be the best avenue. That individual could be on vacation, on a plane, fast asleep or otherwise inaccessible. But someone is probably monitoring the company's logo account 24/7.
For the record, here are some of the logo accounts I follow with great satisfaction for the information I get from them and no sense that the information would be of greater value if a person's name and picture were attached to it:
From upper left:
- CNN-Among other definitions, Twitter has been described as a news feed; it's nothing new to hear that people get their news from sources like Twitter and Facebook, dramatically reducing the need to maintain an RSS reader. CNN's Twitter feed simply delivers news headlines to me, along with a link to the full story. Attaching a name or face to the account would be entirely superfluous. If I wanted to follow an individual CNN personality, like Anderson Cooper or Barbara Starr, that option is available.
- Social Media Club-I follow many of the Social Media Club's leaders, but this feed gives me event and activity information in a nutshell.
- Contra Costa Times-This account delivers breaking news from my local newspaper. Again, I don't care even a little about who's sending the news, as long as I know about the accident on the freeway or the robbery at my local bank.
- Claycord.com-This is one of those blogs that covers a hyper-local area-just Concord, where I live, and the adjoining community of Clayton. It delivers a lot of breaking news that's just too local for the Contra Costa Times to bother with, but it's useful for me. As for the author of the tweets? Irrelevant.
- TechMeme-Techmeme is an automated news tracker, a curation effort that delivers current technology news ranked based on an algorithm aided by human editorial judgment. All I want is the news, since this isn't being delivered by the human being who wrote the article anyway.
- IABC-This is another instance in which I follow a lot of IABC people-staff, leadership and members. But the account dedicated to the association itself provides me with news updates and leads to communication-related information that would not be enhanced by the addition of a name or face. IABC is authoritative and credible in its own right.
- PRSA-See IABC above.
- U.S. Department of Labor-What can I say? I'm a labor statistics junkie. I love getting the links to the press releases outlining the new data the DOL has uncovered or the time-sensitive stats they're releasing. What do I want from the DOL? As Sergeant Friday would have said, "Just the facts."
- Encyclopaedia Britannica-The tidits related to events that happened on this day in history, today's birthdays and other knowledge and trivia is entertaining and diverting without being linked to a Britannica representative.
And this is just a small sampling of the logo accounts that satisfy my needs-and, presumably, those of the account owners-without a name and face. Before you succumb to the kumbaya hype of how personal Twitter is, keep in mind that one of the reasons Twitter has succeeded is that its adaptable to so many different purposes. How you configure your company accounts should be a matter of strategic planning that includes knowing whom you want to reach and what they want.