Olivier Blanchard (@thebrandbuilder on Twitter) recently wrote a very well-reasoned and delightfully detailed post on how companies can and should manage their various Twitter accounts.
It’s a great post, with an insane amount of useful information and advice packed into it. Here it is again.
My concerns with companies on Twitter are twofold:
- I want to know you are authorized to represent your company
- I want to know who I’m talking to at all times
It’s a hard thing, trying to balance the transparency and human touch that Twitter demands with the formality and structure that most businesses require.
But: You are not a logo. You are a person tweeting on behalf of an organization. All you really need to do is be clear about who the organization is and who the person is, and represent both entities — yourself and your company — with complete integrity.
Olivier argues for the use of organizational titles in most of a company’s Twitter account names, as in (in the case of company ABC) @ABC_HR for the company’s HR department, @ABC_IT for the IT department, etc.
I like how Zappos handles the account-name dilemma. Most employees of the company use the company name (Zappos), followed by an underscore, then the employee’s first name, or a variation on their own name that is unique within the company. The result is Twitter account names like @zappos_alfred and @zappos_fred. In some cases, the account name is simply the name of the department, such as @zappos_service.
This is basically what Olivier is recommending, I think. Use department names in Twitter handles for ease of customer service, to make it very easy for customers to find the people who can answer your question. At the same time, allow employees to create a company-based Twitter account, to put a human face on the organization, and use the account-name protocol of @company-name-person-name for these accounts. I like it.
The only thing that I would add is that I still want to know the name of the person tweeting, even — especially — if that person is just working a shift at the customer service desk. Southwest Air does a good job with this, by having each person who staffs the impersonally named @southwestair account introduce themselves by first name at the beginning of the shift.
I really always want a name to go along with the account. If the account is maintained by a number of different people, I want to see those people’s names on the Twitter background of the account page. Again, Southwest Air does an excellent job of this. On their Twitter homepage, you’ll find both the names of those who tweet under that account and the personal Twitter accounts of those people, so you can follow them as individuals as well.
I also like what Olivier recommends for avatars. He suggests a decent compromise between the logo/person dilemma, by suggesting that companies design a simple branded frame for company Twitter accounts, and then incorporate the person’s headshot into that frame.
If you must use your company logo alone as your Twitter avatar, you should at least customize it in some way for Twitter, and balance the impersonality of that by putting your picture on the account’s homepage, as well as your name.
Balance is Key
As I said at the beginning, it’s all about balancing the personal and the corporate. I know you’re there to fulfill a business function, and that you’re representing your company in a formal way. But you’re a person. The whole reason why I go on Twitter to seek assistance instead of calling a 1-800 number is to make a more direct, more human form of contact with somebody at that faceless organization of yours. That is why I use Twitter.
If you’re not willing to let your employees be human on Twitter, you should probably just stick with the 1-800 number and be done with it.
On the other hand, you do need to protect your brand, your reputation, and your investment in social media. And you need to make it easy for us to find you by your corporate name. So by all means, use your corporate name in your account handles, and use your logo in your avatars and your landing pages. But if your avatar and/or handle consists of only a logo or company name, please compensate for that by giving us more human information on the landing page.
All I’m looking for is a first name. A photo would be nice, too.
How does that sound to you?