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Mashable Article about Brands on Twitters

Continuing the discussion with companies uses of social media, here is an interesting article by Mashable titled, “Do Brands Belong on Twitter?”:

Dr. Mark Drapeau is a biological scientist, government consultant, and regular contributor to Mashable.com and other venues.Behind every Twitter account is a person. But some of these people ‘hide’ behind organizational brands, obscuring their persona and therefore reducing authenticity and transparency.

While some brands do a decent job of engaging people on Twitter, many don’t, and one could further argue that brand names and logos, as opposed to full names and user images, are not in the spirit of the Twitterverse.

People Talk to People

Twitter is about people sharing information with other people. So how do one-dimensional organizational brands fit into this mix? When you really think about it, they don’t. As an analogy, when you call customer service, a human answers the phone (eventually) and tells you their name – and you’re not talking to “Sprint” or “Dell” but rather “Steve” or “Danny.”

dunkin-donutsSo, does anyone really want to talk to @DunkinDonuts? Or would they rather talk to Bill Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin Donuts of Canton, MA, or perhaps the local franchise owner on Capitol Hill, or a disgruntled but funny summer employee punching in at 4am? People connect with people, and so I think the latter.

Twitter is still deciding how to monetize, and one possible approach would be to charge organizations a fee for using the service as a marketing tool. Most brands are not yet tweeting, but selling a premium service might increase Twitter’s profile and suddenly seem like an attractive strategy. I think this would be a mistake from the viewpoint of people who use Twitter.

Twitter may become little more than an enormous number of feeds, mainly full of nothing of interest to you. And while the system is built to be opt-in, the prospect of wading through 100 or 1000 times more junk when you do searches, companies hiring SEO consultants to put key words in front of your face, and seeing @AnimalCrackers at the top of the TwitterGrader list in my local area are unattractive byproducts of this business model. (Alternatively, brands just might not buy in at all.)

No Brands on Twitter

Thinking about what might be best for people, in my opinion Twitter should not only not charge brands for membership, but also ban them altogether. Not unlike Facebook and other sites, every account would represent a person using a real name, location, and picture.

People could still tout their businesses, hobbies, and anything else in their handle, bio, or feed, but in an environment of authenticity and therefore increased trust. Some people will game the system, to be sure; but they will often get found out through the wisdom of crowds, so what’s the point?

New users would find having only real, authentic people on Twitter more attractive. Let’s face it, not many people use Twitter yet, and a company with a trusted brand like IBM could develop a platform with a better GUI and a few more features that my parents would be far more likely to try out, perhaps initially bankrolled as a public service. Twitter is far from invulnerable.

Personalities Might Help Brands

this-space-for-rentI think that authentic and transparent personal Twitter accounts – being yourself in an uncontrived way – may indirectly and intimately influence (I3) organizational brands, because of the level of trust involved in sharing information with someone over the course of time. Many people have increased awareness of the government through talking to me and reading my Twitter feed. But I am not a public affairs professional, nor the official brand of the Department of Defense – just an informed, empowered, and hopefully interesting individual.

Having just one personal account would also streamline Twitter’s user base, structuring it in a slight but possibly meaningful way. Why try to gain ambient awareness via TwitterFeed, when each person associated with an organization is a word-of-mouth advertising device?

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About Me

I'm a twenty something entrepreneur living in San Francisco. I'm the founder of Movity.com, I've spoken at NMHC, AIM conference, Harvard Entrepreneurship Conference, and Multi-housing World, and was named one of BusinessWeek's Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under 25. I enjoy great design, all relevant and irrelevant technology, reading, and good people.