… or, I’d say, not so much of a dilemma really.
This question arises time and again and many opinions have been put forth. A quick search on Google can find a dozen variants on the theme or more. Given I was asked by Tim Malone to explain my position when in retweeting Andrew Barnett I said:
RT @andrewbarnett: sigh – companies should NOT be on twitter – companies should encourage their employees to be on twitter.
Tim asked me what I meant, and I responded with:
Here’s what I mean.
As a customer, consumer, stakeholder (or whatever) interested in your product, service or information, I may at some point have to, or choose to, interact with you. That is, with your organisation. But when this happens, who do I interact with?
At this point, you (the organisation) have got a couple of choices. You can present the typical nameless, faceless contact center to me – and you know how much I and all the other customers coming to you love that (and yet you persist), or you can maybe put a little sunshine in my day and let me interact with Mary from Sales, or Pete from Shipping, or Lou from Customer Support.
Even better, if you get this interaction right, Mary, Pete or Lou can actually be empowered to resolve my issue, rather than being bound up in dumbplexity (I love that word! I discovered it in Graham Winter‘s Think one team, which you should buy and read if you even remotely care about working in inspiring, meaningful businesses that are focused on their people and customers).
So how does this apply to Twitter?
Well, in my mind (and you needn’t agree) a Twitter account that is simply the name of your company (and that you use for anything more than announcements – see below) is like the contact center – a nameless, faceless, inhuman blob. I don’t like dealing with things that are inhuman. I’d much rather interact with a real person. And particularly with a real person that wants a conversation with me and that can resolve my issues.
Imagine!? Happy customers dealing with real people! Revolutionary!
There are many companies getting this right – Comcast and Frank Eliason, Telstra with Mike Hickinbotham and the BigPondTeam, Lauren Cochrane at RSPCA and anyone and everyone at Zappos with a Twitter account to name just a few.
Who are these people? Just that. People. But they’re people who want to help and are empowered to do so. There are several more examples that aren’t hard to find if you go looking.
What these people are doing, on behalf of the companies they work for, is building brand identity, adding value to the customer experience and being a real, human face with which to interact. And frankly, we humans like interacting with other humans.
On the other hand, there are Twitter accounts that represent brands that aren’t helping the brand identity and reputation much. They’re simply 140 character at a time foghorns for the companies. Or they are unresponsive. Or they look like they want to engage but don’t do much of a job at that engagement (are you reading this @KevinRuddPM?). They don’t add value. They certainly don’t feel like they’re managed by a human. They aren’t doing anyone any favors.
So, it’s not that the companies themselves shouldn’t have representatives on Twitter. They should. But those representatives should be identifiable as real humans. I don’t want to just talk to Coca-Cola, or SAP, or The Labor Party. I want to talk to a real, flesh and blood person involved with those organisations.
As ever, there are exceptions to every rule. These faceless accounts can be useful for announcements or broadcasts. So long as you make it clear that’s what the account is for. I have a secondary Twitter account, @acidlabs, that I use for just these announcements. But I made it clear when launching the account that that was what it was for.
So, if your organisation has one of those faceless accounts, either change the way it works to be backed by a real, identifiable person, or make sure it’s for broadcast and obviously so. In every other case, make sure your organisation is represented by people.
You can get some real insight into what organisations, and their people, are present on Twitter by looking at twibs. I’m there!
As ever, this is just my opinion. What do you think?