How Many Twitter Handles?

BirdsA question that comes up quite frequently, from companies of all sizes and stripes, is “How many Twitter handles should we have?”

I first answer the question with a question of my own: “Do you have a centralized or distributed approach to Social Media engagement, i.e., is engagement handled by a core group of (typically) marketing folks, or, are a sizable proportion of employees allowed to tweet and blog?”  Because the answer to that question changes my counsel.

(Side bar: these and other approaches are discussed at length in the post, “Social Media in Corporations: Pros & Cons of Organizational Models”)

If your company has a distributed approach, i.e., if the horse has already left the barn, you’ll have a tough time consolidating things and it’s time to create (or conduct an annual review of) your Social Media Policy Guidelines.  Because really, it’s perfectly fine to have scores of your staffers on Twitter, so long as they understand that they are representatives of the corporation, which bring certain expectations of conduct.  Ya never know who will rise up from the employee pool as a Social Media star.

For those companies with a more central approach, it actually is a tougher question.  As noted in a recent post about “Social Media & The Sales Team,” marketers often come up against big-time pressure from salespeople to turn Twitter into a sales channel.  There’s often a tricky balance required: how much of the outreach is “engagement for its own sake” vs. engagement to motivate sales and “ROI?”

Luckily, it’s that issue in particular that forms the basis of my answer to the “How many Twitter handles should we have?” question.

First off, short answer: I believe 90% of companies would be best served with ONE Twitter handle.

Why diffuse your message?  If you have a centralized approach to Social Media (i.e., it’s controlled by a small group), make this handle your hub.  After all, there are no hard-and-fast rules about what you tweet about: sometimes it can be about a deal-of-the-day, sometimes industry news, sometimes it’s your own news — and in any case, ~80% of the time it ought to be retweets of other people’s cool content.

It only takes one Twitter handle to spread awesomeness.

However, if your official tweetstream is being polluted by too many deals, offers, and incentives (i.e., “sales stuff”), ultimately you’re going to turn-off people who are interested in your brand as a community member.  So, if deals and promotions are important to the company’s approach, THEN I think it’s perfectly reasonable to crank up a sales-oriented Twitter handle, to supplement the “engagement” handle vs. taking it hostage.

Keep it simple. Don’t dilute your messages nor make it hard for people to find you.  Be findable and personable and simple.  Success with this Social Media stuff is often as much about simplicity and energy as it is about strategy.

IStock_000004650418XSmallAnd with that … the blog will go into hiatus for the rest of 2010, my fellow grasshoppers.  I am off to the U.K. for the rest of the month, visiting with my wife’s warm & wacky relatives, holed up in a thatched-roof hut in the middle of a forest.  Hoping to take a few long walks in the snowy woods to think about what’s coming in 2011.

Have a GREAT holiday season!  Thank you all for your support this year!!!



Posted on: December 9, 2010 at 4:05 pm By Todd Defren
11 Responses to “How Many Twitter Handles?”

 

Comments
  • Dawn Wientjes says:

    In response to your post questions, “How many Twitter handles?” I say one or maybe a small group. Social media these days can be very crucial to a business. It can help promote a brand and companies awareness, network, advertise, positive PR, hear and fix complaints and others. The key though is to keep the consumers, or in Twitter world, “follower,” happy and interested.

    That is why I say a small group of social media pros should run the social media feeds. You want to stay consistent with your account and the content it provides to ensure that representation of your company, business or client is done properly.

    You also want people to be able to simply locate your company on a social media site and if you have more than one twitter account the consumers may get confused and opt not to follow you at all. The problem too besides consumers being confused is that if there are several accounts for one company, the content could be different on each. One user may be more active than the other and the consumer misses out of information. I think businesses and companies should focus on one streamline of social media in order to spread the messages clear and consistently with the most content for the followers.

  • patrick says:

    Todd,

    Nice post. I’ve thought about this for a while. I agree with your idea of using one centralized account. I will say though, if a company like KRAFT has one for their KRAFT products and another for Philadelphia Cream Cheese I could see how that could work. It’s a different brand and offers different things for other people.

    One approach I’ve considered before is the idea of planting seeds throughout the business and then harvesting to their twitter or SM channel of choice.

    For instance a company has one person who runs their twitter, they may offer a group of employees in each product line or different department of the company to send over 5-10 cool things they see, say or find online. It is a good way to filter the “work” throughout others in the workplace. IMO it seems that they may be a good way to keep people in the company inclined to help, get’s their 2cents out there, but also keeps fresh stuff out on the social web.

    I know the thought of a branded avatar is troublesome for brands, but PacSun has done a really good job using their branded account. Even though they have their logo as the avatar in the past, they’ve had the pictures and names of all 8 people running their one account in the background and they also changed the bio each day to show who was running the account. Made a “corporate” account a bit more personal. It was a great approach.

    Good read, I like your thoughts. Thank you for making my life less boring!

    PBJ

  • Alan Belniak says:

    One element missing (IMO) in your analysis/counsel is the kind/size of company. I work at a place where we feature eight software product families, ranging from desktop to enterprise solutions. Inside those families are other products and product extensions. A prospect/customer/user/purchaser may be totally interested in one product and have zero-point-zero interest in the other. So, yes – I agree with you to not diffuse the message. But if its lumped together on too aggregate of a level, you risk alienating some potential followers. I guess that puts me/my company in “the other 10 percent”.

    Enjoy the UK, Todd!

  • It really is a matter of looking at the kind of business we’re talking about. For a business like Dell, it makes sense to have more than one handle ’cause one can be dedicated to the “sales” process (with deals and whatnot) while another can be dedicated to a more “social” approach.
    In a business selling services, like a marketing agency, one is more than enough, ’cause it can be used in a human way anyway, as it won’t be polluted by special offers or deals (I doubt a marketing agency is going to Tweet something along the lines of “get 2 consultancies and pay one!”).
    My company is using one handle for business-related matters, especially in our tech niche, while the other is my personal account, managed by me only and used as its official “human voice”.

  • I believe this is the first time I have solidly disagreed with you Todd.

    My logic goes like this … By suggesting a company should have one account, I’m assuming that account is a logo or some other impersonal representation of the firm blurting out (your words) “the deal of the day.”

    This of course is not the most effective use of Twitter. Twitter is not B2B or B2C, it’s P2P. There should be a real face … and perhaps many faces … ideally attached to the corporate account instead of a blathering corporate mouthpiece offering coupons.

    Even a gigantic company like GE is getting this message and features smiling faces as their Twitter contacts. Rubbermaid has effectively used a group of enthusiastic employees to tweet about its Sharpie pens.

    I recently was working with a national restaurant chain who was using a corporate symbol as its singlular Twitter avatar. Of course it is difficult or impossible to build an emotional connection with a logo. The company planned to spread this down to the local level with those local accounts featuring a picture of a building. Blah!! I convinced them that the store manager should be the lead tweeter (company owns the account however). How cool would it be to follow a REAL person, a REAL neighbor on Twitter and then get to meet them face to face in the store? Finally this advice took hold and has been met with enthusiasm by both most managers and all customers. : )

    So, respectfully, I would suggest your formula should be inverted. 90% of the time a company should have multiple accounts featuring real people trained to tweet in a professional, responsible and helpful manner.

    Thanks for the thought-provoking piece Todd.

    • Todd Defren says:

      Mark, you’re essentially arguing for a distributed approach, which (as noted) I’m fine with, if that’s how the brand decides to represent itself.

      Think of my advice like this: for cos who decide a centralized SM approach makes sense, then maybe 1 (or 2) handles make sense…

  • Frank Strong says:

    This is a great post, I generally agree with the sentiment. I like your point about never knowing who might be a rising star, but on the other hand, also agree with the focus of a single handle. To borrow from financial logic: focus to build wealth, diversify to defend. Two questions for you Todd:

    1. I’ve noted some A list folks have multiple handles. Some make this clear, others do not. The purpose seems to be to provide an ability to tweet at different times, a little turbo boost in the social media engine. For example, one handle Tweets at 9 am and the other Tweets at 4 pm. What’s your take?

    2. Some folks, even among the A list, Tweet their content multiple times — i.e. — same blog post, different Twitter headlines. Good? Bad? Who cares? Would love your thoughts.



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