We are having an interesting internal debate at Schwartz about the value of Twitter brands. Specifically, whether Twitter accounts that are identified as a brand are better than Twitter accounts that are identified as a person.
I follow numerous people on Twitter, but I also follow many companies. When a company I am following issues a press release, I receive a tweet with a short note about the news and a link. I follow co-workers and reporters, as well as executives at the companies I represent, who are people. I receive a whole host of assorted posts from them, including industry news, details on in-progress projects, and thoughts about their hobbies.
From a consumer perspective, which is better? Is it better to associate a tweet directly to a brand, or is it better to associate the tweet to a personality, which is then associated with a brand?
I often warn companies that it costs twice as much to promote two brands versus one. It's why I like companies with product names that are similar to their company names (Google, anyone?). However, the Twitter feeds connected to people are far more attractive to me, and I am very likely to associate them to the brands of their companies.
Consider Scott Monty, who directs social media efforts for Ford. He once responded to a tweet of mine about bailout money for the car companies, and he noted that Ford had not asked for federal money. Instantly, I associated his Twitter account to Ford, and I noted that Ford is the car company that doesn't need federal funds. Future tweets from Scott (who I now follow) reinforce my association of his Twitter account to Ford. His tweets make more of an impression because they are coming from him, and not some amorphous Ford brand.
I saw an interview of Scott from the South By Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, conducted by Cambridge, Mass.-based Hubspot. In it, he states, "Be authentic. People don't want to talk to brands. They want to talk to other people."
At the same time, another Twitter corporate success story represents the opposite approach. A team of Comcast employees monitor Twitter on an ongoing basis, and the Twitter account @comcastcares is well known and well regarded (and well covered by the media). In the case of Comcast, they have created a positive feeling for their Twitter account despite the fact it's branded as Comcast. (To try it out, tweet the next time you have a problem with your cable, and see how quickly @comcastcares responds).
Given both case studies, one can see arguments for either approach. So I am left with personal experience. And I like to follow people more than I like to follow companies.
Perhaps there's some wisdom in a conversation I had earlier today with my colleague Davida Dinerman.
"Social media is about people," she said. In business, people and personal relationships are vital. We're all human and value human interactions, and social media is another conduit for those interactions. The answer to my Twitter branding quandary might be that simple.
Posted by Ross Levanto on March 26, 2009 at 12:51 PM