Twitter Branding 101: Logo or "Face?"

I am still “cheating” on the blog. I am prepping for Trip #337 tomorrow and don’t have time to create a proper post… but lo! Salvation! — I noticed this email dialogue happening in real-time between a handful of my senior staff, and was delighted by the thoughtfulness they devoted to a nuanced marketing question, re: how corporations should depict themselves in the use Twitter handles (logo vs. face/personality). 

Intriguingly, the group never quite comes to a conclusion — as the “right” answer is, “it depends.” 

In case you are of a mind to nitpick, keep in mind that this dialogue occurred in a 7–minute time span.  The big brains around here work (and type!) fast.

ImagesThe question is posed:

“Is it a mistake for brands to use logos – rather than faces – on corp. Twitter handles?

And the dialogue begins:

“An obvious challenge of using faces is that when people leave, you have to change the face/voice. But from an engagement standpoint I’d much rather talk to a person than a logo. Should we advise clients/prospects to ditch the logos? Should we ditch our own?”
- Parry

“I think a face is weird because it’s a company/entity not a person and as you say, people leave/change.  And some logos are iconic and memorable … My son knew companies by their logos before he could read, and now he is probably a Starbucks lifer.  But I might just be the oddball here.”
- Cathy

“Personally I identify with logos as well. It’s brand recognition. I don’t like Comcast or Pfizer more because they have a face or several faces (which can be confusing in itself!) associated with their Twitter handle. People identify with meaningful content, messages and customer service. That’s my two cents.”
- Melanie

“Agree on logos having a place. You can still be personable (and a person) within that brand. Consumers need to identify with you and the company that you represent.”
- Louise

“I think it’s situational. Today larger consumer brands typically have 2 or more twitter handles (one just for customer service, one for promos, etc.). So in certain cases, a company could use a logo and a photo for different handles serving different purposes. This is good info to be aware of, and perhaps where things are moving, but for companies who handle a lot of customer service issues through Twitter, and have a big team and lots of volume, they may prefer to be ‘just a logo’ until a matter is taken off of Twitter and on to email or phone.  If someone leaves, the brand could have followers fall off but they could try to shift them over to other handles as well…

“Perhaps having an image, but not a customized name that matches it, could be an option to bring a face to the presence, but then avoid issues if a person moves on.  Another opportunity where it would make sense to use an image, as well as an individual’s name in some form, could be for a company aiming to have some consistency across web properties. So if a company blogger has become a brand fixture, using that same ‘brand’ with the Twitter handle makes sense to integrate the efforts a bit and encourage blog readers to also be Twitter followers and vice versa.”
-Elizabeth

“Last bit from me on this. I think there are gradations. Starbucks and Coke are so ubiquitous that, in their cases, it makes sense to run with logos. People will come to them no matter what; they are magnets. But smaller/lesser-known companies have to work HARD to have people engage one-to-one, and I think an impersonal logo might serve as a barrier to conversation.  Would you rather get to know a person or a banner? Which engenders more trust?”
-Parry

What about you, Dear Reader?  What’s your take? 



Posted on: January 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm By Todd Defren
24 Responses to “Twitter Branding 101: Logo or "Face?"”

 

Comments
  • Nick Martin says:

    I think it depends on what your objective is. Depending on what audience you are reaching on Twitter vs. Facebook etc., a handle’s primary objective may may be marketing, customer service, or even a recruiting.

    In the case of customer service and recruiting, you want to see the face behind the brand. However when it comes to marketing, it’s more important to make a user feel more connected to a brand as a whole, than to the person tweeting from behind a desk.

  • Jen Patton says:

    Our company (@Talk3Inc) is a relatively new start up. We are trying to make our logo more recognizable as we begin to engage 1:1 online and establish our brand values, so we use our logo.
    I don’t think it much makes sense for us to represent ourselves with the face of an employee, because of what you mentioned about people coming and going, which would detract from having a consistent presence.
    I think it is much more important to have a person readily available to actively engage with followers. If you don’t have that, it doesn’t matter what your avatar is.

  • I like the idea of a logo for the main account. We all know that there are people using the Twitter accounts. Their faces not being the avatar doesn’t change that. The logo makes the account look official, not just an employee who decided to start tweeting. Especially if you’ve tweeted a complaint and they respond.

  • Lisa Du says:

    Logo Image for business brand and Face Image for personal use or personal branding.

  • Chelsea says:

    We use our logo. Although I tweet for the co. I’m not the “face” of the company. It has more brand value to build the company’s reputation online than my personal reputation.

    That said, I think it can work both ways. Corporate culture and the degree of transparency they are comfortable with should drive the decision.

  • Christopher says:

    So many variables to consider. Are you a one man show or a team? Are you the recognized face of the brand already? Are you an expert in a specific area related to your brand? Do you speak at conferences regularly? Do people know you or your products/services better. The list goes on..

    One way to test the waters would be to do both. Categorize what kinds of info you will give on each profile and see who people are gravitating towards.

  • Alexis says:

    Coming from a local community nonprofit, we don’t use faces as the Twitter handle because the face of the person behind the account does not match the face of who we serve. Specifically – I am a twenty-something, Mexican woman who manages the social media accounts of a nonprofit that serves primarily older, gay white men living with HIV. Even though the messaging and voice match, the faces don’t. If I was about 20 years older and a gay man, I would totally use my face, and for most companies and organizations it works. But for others, it just doesn’t.

  • Alan belniak says:

    Olivier Blanchard (The Brand Builder) offers an extensive take on this topic: http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com/2009/04/23/the-art-of-the-corporate-avatar/ (I’m not for or against it; I’m aware of it because I recently read it myself).

  • Jamie Gorman says:

    Great discussion! This is the first topic I cover when teaching or setting up social media for students and clients. And, the end answer is that “it depends” (whew, I’m not alone in avoiding the question). It’s easy for people like me and other professional service businesses because it is our personal expertise that has value. For my small businesses who are retailers, etc… I recommend using the logo for the official company page or twitter account. The reason is that if they can establish a brand that is not directly associated to them personally it will increase the long term value of their business.
    Thanks for starting this discussion. It also goes to show that you shouldn’t write anything in an email that you don’t want posted to the world!
    Thanks,

  • Abby says:

    My company actually uses a screenshot of our home page as our Twitter and Facebook profile pictures. We are a web design and development studio, so this approach allows us to show who we are AND what we do. Because we are a small business we know and accept that our logo is not a widely branded image people immediately relate to. We always try to let our work speak for itself, so I think the screenshot is a good solution in our case.

  • Adine Deford says:

    In our case, we split the difference. We have the “team’s” photos along with the company logo. While we have strong brand recognition within our niche, we are not widely known beyond our market. So people who know us will recognize our logo, but others seem to prefer interacting with the people. http://twitter.com/Exari . It’s worked well for us.

  • I actually use a logo for my company’s Twitter account, while I use my face for my personal/business account. It’s more natural to me, even though I use the company account in very “human” ways, it’s still better to have a logo identify one, it would feel odd to me to have a face there, not for the “people leaving” problem, but just ’cause it would feel like the company was made of a single person.

  • Angela Giles says:

    This is a very useful article, especially for those who are still newbies in internet marketing. For someone like us who have been in and out of this business we already have some ideas on what works and what doesn’t, but still, having read this article reminds me of the things I needed to keep in mind to keep moving forward in this business.
    -Angela Giles
    Social Media and Publicity DIVA

    ***Yes, I’m giving away the 3rd edition of my Twitter Blueprint for FREE! No strings attached. http://ow.ly/3EwwG

  • Kasey S says:

    There’s a difference between a brand having a “face” and a brand having a “voice.” I think people confuse these two. A brand can have a voice and be human without having a “face.” It’s the personalization of each interaction that creates value and a personable voice for a brand. No one cares what the person they are talking to looks like. They just want to be heard and feel appreciated.

  • Mark Wilson says:

    I’d say that a brand/logo is appropriate where a team is representing the public face of a company via social media; however many companies also have individuals who represent them (often indirectly) and those accounts should very definitely show people.

    So, for example: @Fujitsu_UK should be a logo – it’s a team account, representing a brand (the samewould be said for @Microsoft, @EMCConsultingUK, etc.). But @smithdavidm or @markwilsonit are real people who work for such an organisation and to use a logo would be inappropriate (other examples would be @MichelleFlynn or @KerryAtDell).

    That way we can give people the choice – engage with the “official” account, or engage with real people who won’t just tweet the corporate message.

  • Todd – For us (@PRNewswire) it’s the logo for the profile image, but photos in the background image of myself and the three other team members that help me make sure we take care of all questions and share quality content that fits our Twitter editorial guidelines.

    I think in the beginning, nearly three years ago, people seemed hesitant to “talk” to a logo (although some seemed to think it was rather fun to see a company come to life with a voice). Now people are very comfortable with it, but they know who’s behind our logo. We make it very clear, always have. Even our DMs let people know they are talking to with the use of initials.

    Personally I don’t like logos or non-human images (like cats and dogs) on Twitter accounts when there is no transparency about the person behind it. Every corporate account deserves at least a bio that is transparent about who the voice is.

    Vicky

  • Ryan Barton says:

    People recognize logos, very rarely the people behind the logo.

    Isn’t that what we what ultimately — easy, quick, consistent recognition?

    I understand the desire to put a face to the brand, but specific to Twitter, can’t that be done by leveraging the Twitter background design and still maintain the brand’s visual legacy?

    It’s an interesting gap between using faces instead of logos when it comes to small businesses versus Fortune businesses.

    The Fortune company puts replaces its long-time logo with a no-name-face in hopes to create a more personal connection. Meanwhile, the small business owner puts his face on Twitter in place of his logo and comes off like a stuffy, arrogant, ass.

    In a time where we’re seeing big companies change their logos on a whim, there’s something to be said for consistency.

  • I was going to reply to Melanie’s comment above until I read Parry’s comments on the issue. I connect with large brands (like Starbucks) on Twitter because well, I happen to love Starbucks. Would I connect with say Bueno’s Cafe on Twitter if they had just a logo? Probably not. I don’t friend logos. For me, I can almost always associate a logo with spam (perhaps it’s because in my niche, Real Estate, I see Agents Tweeting nothing but listings, no engagement).

    If it’s a small, no-name company, I want to connect with the person behind the company first. If it’s a Twitter account run by multiple people, Tweet something like:

    “@Ribeezie We’re looking into your request now, thanks for being patient! ^RB”

    Notice the initials at the end to signify who the message is from. You know who does this well: http://twitter.com/mediatemple Note their profile image and names/initials.

    On our company Twitter Account, we used to have the face of the CEO when we first started. We’ve since grown (in employees and customers) and the Twitter account is moderated by myself, our IDX Department and our Programming Team. We’ve reverted back to the company logo but only because we’ve grown (somewhat substantially in market share). People recognize us, and well, they also kinda know that it’s me (@Ribeezie) tweeting from the account.

    If I’m a young company, barely starting to grow my brand and presence online, I wouldn’t start with the logo. I’d start with the face and engage my audience (one by one). Rick Calvert (co-Founder of Blogworld) uses a combination face/logo on his twitter handle: http://twitter.com/blogworld

    Just some thoughts from me to you… Happy Monday!

  • I think the last comment summarizes it well Todd. It’s situational. Sure the big brands will be followed because they’re big brands. They can pontificate and bellow and people will listen. But if your goal is to engage, best practices, as pointed out in the link, generally point to a person. It’s hard to build a relationship with a logo.



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