Company or person? The Twitter dilemma…

… 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:

@tdmalone companies are not people. Humans connect with people not companies. This conversation could get long #

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?

Engage them

Clever look at the new age of marketing by European agency Scholz & Friends

While it does talk about engagement and a conversation, it doesn’t mention the principles behind success in all of this. Openness, honesty, clarity, respect for the (former) audience – those in Cluetrain.

What does a social media consultant do?

This morning, my Kiwi compatriot, Simon Young (@audaciousgloop on Twitter) answered the question in the title on his own blog, predominantly in the context of explaining to people how his company, iJump, makes money.

I figure as there is growing interest in the business value of social media, I would have a lash at the same question. So, here goes nothing…

3007094100_23b26c5c8d.jpgI talk. A lot. I listen more. Two ears, one mouth used in that proportion. By doing this, I can build an understanding of my clients’ business and get across the problems they face – whether it’s collaborating internally, talking to their customers and stakeholders in the right way, or understanding how the market works in the social media world to name a few common issues.

I talk and listen some more. Strategising with my clients on building an understanding of their problems and the possible approaches they might take in addressing them is a core component of my work. From these discussions, which range from one-on-one with the CEO or mail room guy to large workshops with the entire staff, we’re able to build a list of issues to be addressed and some thinking about what we can do to address them. Sometimes it’s quick fixes we can start on tomorrow. Other times, we build a six month to one year plan.

I research and write. Lots. For myself and for my clients. Those issues that need solving? Sometimes that very issue has been tackled before. I want to know when, how, why, who did it and with what. So do my clients. I also want to know what the latest thinking and case studies on business use of social tools is. It’s my job to do that research and help my clients understand what it all means.

So, what words might be used to describe all this stuff? Innovation, change management, cultural change, mentoring, teaching, consulting.

The technology part of this equation, as Simon said in his post, is the least complex part. Understanding organisational culture, readiness for change and what motivations might bring about that change in individuals, groups and organisations are the bread and butter of my work. How do we flatten corporate structures? Encourage fast, cheap and innovative experimentation and failure? Change the management mindset from command-and-control to conversation, collaboration and community?

That’s the cool stuff. That’s the stuff I love. That’s why acidlabs is unique.

BarCamp Sydney #4 – Saturday, 15 November 2008

The (un)organisers of BarCamp Sydney have let me know that they are preparing for yet another festival of creativity to engage and excite the Australian tech and innovation community. Details below.

Date: 15 November 2008

Venue: UNSW Roundhouse

Time: 9:00AM-5:00PMpm (registration starts at 8:30AM)

Register: Do it yourself on the wiki

If you’ve never been to a BarCamp before, I highly recommend it. Make some time in your schedule. For those that have been before, I needn’t remind you how great BarCamp is. Take a look at my tag list below to see just how much of your life this might touch.

Hopefully, I’ll see you there. I’m not sure how my timetable is yet.

AoC2 – Let’s call it Shirley

That title is an obscure Sesame Street reference to the sketch in the video below.

It’s always been one of my favorites. And the message holds true today. In work and in life, we need to turn to experts or those skilled where we are not in order to achieve our best possible outcomes. It’s about having a conversation, collaborating and forming a community. Which is the very message I have sought to drive in my contribution to Age of Conversation 2: Why don’t they get it?

There’s no better time than now to take up the challenge of being the evangelist for change in your organisation. You need to enable conversation, collaboration and community. It takes some nerve, though. You have to think different and act different. You need persistence. And you need to stand up to the naysayers and the resisters, putting your reputation and maybe your job on the line as you push through and introduce something stronger and better. Something exciting and engaging.

AoC2 goes on sale at 8:00AM, Wednesday, October 29 and will be available from Lulu.

aoc2.jpg

As with last year’s first edition, proceeds go to charity and everyone has given of their time freely to make this great cooperative effort happen. Here’s the contributor list:

Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brett Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley (CK), C.B. Whittemore, Chris Brown, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Schawbel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Dave Davison, David Armano, David Berkowitz, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Douglas Hanna, Douglas Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, G.L. Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going & Kathryn Fleming, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Erik Potter, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne & Todd Cabral, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Heilpern, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, John Herrington, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Burg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kristin Gorski, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Matt Dickman, Matt J. McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Neil Perkin, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Sreeraj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, Robert Hruzek, Roberta Rosenberg, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tim Brunelle, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

That’s a lot of Shirley!

275 voices. One idea.

Last year, Age of Conversation was a highly successful experiment in crowdsourced publishing. This year, the coordinators Drew McLennan and Gavin Heaton are at it again with the second edition; Age of Conversation: Why Don’t People Get It? I’m delighted to announce that I will be a contributor to the book.

iStock_000000329152Small.pngI hope that you’ll all read the book and enjoy the conversation being had there. Not to mention it supports a great cause – all proceeds from the book go to Variety, the Children’s Charity.

This time around there will be 275 (!!!) authors and we will be each providing a small piece for a chapter of the book. The complete author list is below and as you read through, you’ll notice there are a number of well known and highly regarded bloggers and commentators:

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brent Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley, C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Doug Hanna, Doug Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, Gi Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Reginald Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Eric Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Helipern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Berg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkins, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Raj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, R.J. Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

The Age of Conversation 2008

Age of Conversation Like my friend, Jasmin Tragas, I’ve put my name forward as an author to contribute to the 2008 version of Age of Conversation.. The original version was published last year by Gavin Heaton and Drew McClellan and included input from 100 authors. It’s a great read! And supports a great cause, with 100% of proceeds going to charity.

This year’s edition will follow the same form. However, the topic is open to a vote. You can choose from:

  • Marketing Manifesto
  • Why Don’t People Get It?
  • My Marketing Tragedy (and what I learned)

I’m really looking forward to contributing to this great piece of collaborative work!