Brands often ask how they should position their persona on social media profiles and accounts, this guide should be a helpful breakdown. This post is inspired by Michael Brito, one of Intel’s social media strategists who presented on this topic with me at Stanford a few weeks ago. There are different purposes for different needs, so my standard breakdown is designed for you to weigh out the pros and cons as you make your decision.
From Corporate to Personal: The Four Types of Twitter Profiles
1) Pure Corporate Brand
100% corporate branded with primarly corporate related content. These accounts, which are often sporting the proper brand name of a company are used often to provide corporate news, deals, and support. There is no indicator of any individuals involved. Example: Four Seasons corpoate or McAfee News feed which indicates it’s not an interactive feed. Pros: This account can be managed by a team, and less risk of an individual being co-branded with the brand, as they may leave later. Cons: This may be perceived as a just an extension of corporate PR or the corporate website with little human interaction.
2) Corporate With Persona
Estimated with about 80% corporate brand and 20% personal brand this account may be a corporate branded account, although it’s clear there’s an individual participating. Example: ComcastCares, which shows the account is run by Frank Elliason, or CiscoNews, by John Earnhardt Pros: This account maintains the face of the corporate side, yet shows a human element, building trust with the community. Cons: The account may be limiting itself as the community may come to expect and rely on the individual person to participate.
3) Employee With Corporate Association In a rough estimate this account consists of 20% corporate related content, and approximately 80% personal information. Perhaps the most common account are the thousands or maybe millions of accounts my employees that may not explicitly represent a brand –but they represent their individualism and often indicate they’re an employee of a company. Example: Take any personal account, which often indicates their name, they indicate they’re an employee, although may have disclaimers that their opinions are theirs alone. Bert Dumars of Rubbermaid. Pros: These personal accounts are often organic and are a great way to build connections with a community. Cons: Even if a disclaimer states that “these opinions only represent me, not my employer” they still are representatives of the brand.
4) Pure Personal Account
These accounts are 100% personal content and have no tie or mention of corporate or branded information. These personal accounts, either created by an individual that doesn’t want to be associated with their employer –or their employer won’t let them is void of any corporate ties. Example: There are various personal accounts, without any affiliations to brands. Pros: This account has no tie or risk to a brand. Cons: Although the risks are reduced, so are the opportunities. The chance to evangelize the brand with their community are lost.
Each Profile Type Serves A Different Purpose Which type is right for your social media endeavors? It depends on the culture and goals of the organization. Expect many brands to have several of these accounts (For example, Cisco has types 1, 2, and 3) within their social arsenal). Type 1 may be useful for sharing facts, Type 2 may be helpful for support, Type 3 may have advantages in evangelism and type 4 may be helpful for employees that have little connection to the product or customers.
Having multiple types of profiles for your brand strategy is useful, play to the strenghts of each, however it’s important to note that having internal coordination with process and policy will also help to provide a common, high-quality experience to customers.
Love to hear from you, what profile types does your company use? If you found this helpful, tweet out what kind of account you are, with this URL to this post http://bit.ly/3fZOHt
Update: July 6th, I added a 4th way, as I recently met a developer this weekend who showed me the scripts he created to quickly auto follow thousands of folks.
Companies who don’t have iconic brands with millions of adoring fans, often have to resort to other ways to get the attention of the market. This isn’t evil, nor is it uncommon, it’s just business, and was here before the web, and will be afterwards. Don’t get mad or emotional about it, let’s break it down to understand how it’s going to work, if you’re a concerned user, use this post to figure out how to beat it. If you’re a marketer, figure out what works –and throw away what doesn’t.
Breakdown: How Brands Are Buying –and Earning– Followers on Twitter
As a result, we’re seeing some of the same method applied to the web and email as to the social space. Here’s three examples (again in outline form) that I saw this week.
1) The Sweepstakes Giveaway: Moonfruit becomes a Trending Topic
Summary: This giveaway contest spurs word of mouth –results in opt-in “registration”
How they did it: Moonfruit offers website building services, and is offering a new computer to those that tweet about the contest (see their official contest page), the only way to receive a product is if you follow their account (opt-in). Of course, this means the members are subject to future messages.
This is the same as: Contests, WOM marketing, tell-a-friend.
Benefits: Rapid word of mouth about a brand driving awareness and opt-in as people follow the account, likely a percentage of followers will convert and buy the service.
Risks: This doesn’t build long term engagement with a brand, and it’s likely many will unfollow after the contest is over.
Costs: 10 Macbook Pro (13″) which is $1500 each for a total of $15,000. If the follower count retains at 10k a day (it’s day 3 today) for 10 days resulting in 100,000 followers, that’s about $.66 a follower, not including marketing efforts.
My take: A natural extension of other marketing forms to Twitter. The giveaway prize matches well with the type of clientele the brand wants, and it’s certainly generating a high degree of discussion for at least 10 days. This really isn’t a new model, and we should expect more brands to offer these types of sweepstakes, however to make it better, the tweets should be more inline with the brand promise, such as asking the followers to tweet about “what website they love, or would build”
Summary: Service called uSocial offers brand cost per action (CPA) advertising resulting in customer match
How they do it: uSocial matches brands with suggest followers that have similar affinities, keywords, or profile information, BBC has the story. It looks like they will find matches, and suggest to twitter users that you follow that brand, (likely through an automated spammy system) till the reserve is met.
This is the same as: What’s new is old again. This is very similar to direct marketers buying email lists of prospects that have similar demographic or affinity information. Martin agrees. Kevin Marks makes a good point that it’s not like email, as you can’t make folks follow them on Twitter. I suggest it’s the same, as you can’t get a user to open a spammy email.
Benefits: They promise lots of followers within a few days, a very low cost.
Risks: Brand damage. If the market finds out (it should be easy) that a brand isn’t earning their followers, they risk backlash and people unfollowing, or even worse, unfollowing.
Costs: The lowest package (there are others) is $87 for 1000 followers–it breaks down to 8 cents a follower. If you buy the 100,000 follower package it drops down to 3 cents a follower.
Results: I’ve not heard if this works, I’m sure someone will report back to me.
My Take: Use as a last resort: If it looks to good to be true, it probaly is. The uSocial site looks like a ‘get rich quick’ site, the design comes across really spammy themselves. It’s likely brands that do buy this will likely act in a similar way, and I wouldn’t expect followers to stick around if they behave in a similar way. It’s likely a brand that goes for the quick hit doesn’t have a long term strategy to interact with their public market, and will use Twitter as a distribution point. However, brands that do have a community strategy, and have developed relationships using Twitter, could certainly benefit from the increased awareness to likely prospects –the only risk is that it may come across as spammy as uSocial makes recommendations.
3) Product Discounts or Specials: Dell Offers Followers Specials
Summary: Some brands are generating followers by providing special deals to followers.
How they do it: For some time, Dell is offering reduced priced or refurbed products on their Dell Outlets Twitter account.
This is the same as: signing up for emails to receive discounts.
Benefits: A low cost channel to sell products to an opt-in crowd, avoiding excess inventory.
Risks: Can’t think of any, leave a comment if you have one.
Costs: Inexpensive. It appears there is a community manager responding and answering questions, so the cost of this part time employee, or contractor, must be accounted for.
Results: Dell has made the claims they’ve generated over $3 million in revenues from this single account. Of course, that’s a drop in the bucket for this tech giant.
My Take: Replicate. This is a great use of using the medium to obtain more interested followers that are requesting to be customers. The downside is that not every company has products to offer on a discount, nor the brand appeal. Brands should find ways to offer special deals to this highly viral community, offsetting the costs by weighing in the benefits of WOM and press coverage.
4) Auto Following Scripts and Services: Get followed by following
Summary: A variety of services have been released that will find followers for your account to follow, then do an auto-follow script that will add them. The hope is that many of them will auto follow you back, out of courtesy, in order to increase follower amount. The downside? It can look spammy, and many who return the follow are often bots.
How they do it: Similar to the Usocial service, they find followers (sorted by keyword, geo, name, etc) and start to follow. There’s a limit to how many Twitter will let a script auto follow per day. After a few days, the Twitter account will be following thousands of other accounts, and the hope is that many will follow in return.
This is the same as: Cross linking and link farms. Websites a few years ago would share cross links in hoping of increasing their page rank –soon Google caught on to this and started to regulate. A whole industry of ‘link farms’ emerged, however some of the sites involved with this were penalized by Google.
Benefits: Cheap way to get lots of followers.
Risks: Brand damage by being somewhat spammish, and many of the return followers are likely bots just returning the follow. As a result, the returns for this may not be mixed: some new followers may be your target market, although not all will be the ideal individual.
Costs: I’ve heard of package that can add a few thousand followers for around $25-$100, it’s just a simple script to run.
Results: You will get lots of followers if you follow others –although you’ll have to live with the risks
My Take: Easy come, easy go. While many popular twitter users go on a rampage to follow as many people as they can, I find the slow organic way of letting the right folks opt-in is the a better long term strategy. The Twitter founders Biz and Ev told me first hand they frown on people who do mass follows, at some point we should expect Twitter to clamp down on this behavior, just as Google did with link gaming.
Hope this breakdown is helpful, it’s important to look under the covers and analyze. Of course, I’ve not discussed the organic way of brands providing helpful content, interacting, or supporting customers, but that’s been written to death by the many social media bloggers.
After chatting with Loic today of Seesmic, we discussed what brands may want from Twitter. It’s true, I’m getting more client calls from the world’s top brands about how to use tools like Twitter as a collective team. Based upon my discussions with them, here’s what I see are some key needs in:
What Brands Want In a Twitter Client:
Ability to quickly scan what is being said about the brand, products, services, employees and competitors. Although difficult expect sentiment tools to appear that help brands with thousands of mentions manage the discussion.
Ability to understand who is saying what, and understand their influence.
Want more business case studies, I’ve read the proof of Twiterville by Shel Israel, it’s loaded with business case studies and written in a great story telling format, it’s going to be a desktop reference for me once it publishes.
Although it’s Sunday, I’m on way up to San Francisco to the Twtrcon conference on the closing debate panel, where I’ll be arguing a contrarian position in Kara Swisher’s panel, I’ll make the case that Twitter doesn’t matter: instead we should focus on trends, and that Twitter is overhyped, I said the same thing at my 140TC keynote last week, Joe has the details. Should be fun.
Are you managing a corporate Twitter account? Leave a comment
Enough from me, what features to corporations want in Twitter clients, please leave your thoughts and needs below.
If this post was helpful, please copy and paste this into Twitter:
What Brands Want From A Twitter Client http://bit.ly/FWd7T
This by no means represents all brands, but just some brands, perhaps those that are a bit more sophisticated.
Last Friday I had a conversation with a manufacturing firm that had some relativily sophisticated questions about how they will prepare their plan around Twitter. This was a nice break from the “why does Twitter matter” questions I usually get, as they were thinking through a plan.
Here’s some of the excellent questions this organization, and a handful of others brands are starting to ask:
Should we create multiple accounts for different divisions? How should we name them? How should the content be different?
Is it ok to just tweet out news on our main corporate account? Or should we be conversational?
How do we get our corporate reps (sales, product teams) to use this tool, and be conversational?
Should we follow folks? If so, what’s the protocol? Should we only follow folks that follow us? We don’t want to appear like ‘big brother’
What are the tools to use to manage multiple authors/tweeters?
How can we find other examples of B2B twitter examples?
How should we brand our Twitter backgrounds images?
Ok, that was more than 8, but I grouped them into related questions. It was refreshing to hear this much thought being put into their conversational efforts, this was actually a manufacturing firm, not a high tech company and certainly not a young startup out of southpark in SF. In general, the level of interest has gone up about Twitter since late Q4 2008 from my clients, and recently, we’ve been getting more questions about the topic.
What questions are you hearing from brands that are approacing Twitter? I gauge the level of sophitication of a brand by which of these five questions they’re trying to answer, just change out ‘social media’ to ‘twitter’ to gauge.
Are you at an agency or at a brand? What questions are you hearing about Twitter?
Another revolt could be at hand as I’ve recently learned that some Twitter users are putting in affiliate links in their Tweets (some are not disclosed), thereby recommending products (like to Amazon) resulting in them generating a cut of revenue if the product is purchased. I know if someone buys a Kindle based on your affiliate link, that person can generate $35, not bad for a simple link.
Of course, it comes down to intent, which ultimately drives trust, and may result in followers clicking, ignoring, unfollowing someone they feel taken advantage of. Perhaps in the worst case, followers could report a twitter user using affiliate links as spam.
How to make it work
Affiliate links aren’t anything new, we’ve seen them on blog siderolls for years, so it comes down to a few requirements if people are going to make them work:
1) Make sure it lines up editorially with your personal brand, promoting a product that people don’t associate you with will raise eyebrows.
2) Disclose it’s an affiliate link, perhaps with a hashtag #affilliatelink.
3) Be sincere about your recommendation. If you truly love that product you’re promoting, perhaps write a review on a blog first, explaining why.
4) Be fully transparent before people follow you: Create a link from your Twitter profile page that is up front about how you use Twitter, and explain your intentions when it comes to product recommendations and affiliate links.
5) Updated: If you’re linking from your Twitter account to an affiliate, you can disclose on that destination page, Shawn Collins, an affiliate marketer puts disclosure on his blog posts.
Hope these guidelines are helpful, we know for certain that affiliate links are common across the web, it’ll be interesting to see how people monetize Twitter, just as they did with blogs.