The Face (or lack thereof) Behind the Tweets

Empty WorkstationI recently attended and presented at the Social Media Conference presented by the Connecticut Valley Chapter of PRSA .  Among the topics discussed at the conference was who should be the voice behind corporate tweets, the company itself or a company representative?

Several attendees expressed that hectic schedules often prohibit upper management from taking on the role of tweeting for their brand.  This led me to question if these should be the people tweeting or if a generic account representing the brand was adequate.

A Case for Human Interaction

Would you rather learn about a company from an insider/brand ambassador or from a source simply known as ‘the company?’

Starbucks has Brad as the voice of its tweets.  Brad is personable, informative and works to build relationships with customers via Twitter.  He has in excess of 450k followers.

Express has Lisa as the voice of its tweets.  At last check, Lisa had in excess of 10k followers.  She’s the company’s CMO, has a distinctive brand voice and engages directly with consumers.

As evidenced by their volumes of followers, Lisa and Brad epitomize the power of relationship building.  They offer consumers a level of comfort that wouldn’t be achieved from interacting with a corporate Twitter account that lacked a personal voice.

The question is, since Lisa and Brad are real people, what happens if they leave the company?  Does the brand have to start from scratch with a new Twitter account?  Would consumers transfer their loyalty to the new brand ambassador?  If so, at what rate?

These are good questions — if only I knew the answers!

A Case for the Brand Itself

Brands have one uniform voice.  They don’t have to recreate their Twitter handle when an employee leaves or risk one employee’s voice or personality turning off potential consumers.  But can a brand build relationships as effectively as the Lisas or Brads of the Twitterverse?

Are statements like ‘we launched a new service’ as compelling as a brand ambassador cheering for the new service?

Dove Chocolates has a Twitter handle that represents the brand itself as opposed to a brand ambassador.  At last check, the account had in excess of 2k followers, considerably less than Lisa or Brad.  The account still retweeted and @ replied followers, offered brand facts and company news, but the follower count indicates it was not as well received.

So, what determines the success of a corporate Twitter handle?  Is it solely the voice behind it?

From a management perspective, the brand itself is more practical to maintain – but is it a viable route?

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  • jeffespo

    While Starbucks and Express are two unique cases, I also wonder if they have one master account that they channel everything through similar to Comcast.

    There is also a number of benefits to keeping the handle brand specific (I run my company's and also have my own handle). The first is that it never becomes personal. I am sure as the CMO, Lisa could get attacked if the brand did some questionable marketing (like GAP's recent ads) as I am sure comcastbill has received as well. There is also a benefit of staffing and having customers liking one voice over the other. When I am out of the office, other members of the PR team monitor the account and can seamlessly fit into the flow, because of the branded account

    A face/name might make the brand less faceless, but does it really lend to credibility. With unlimitless account handles, anyone could make up a Starbucks account and cybersquat, comment and interact – which can hurt the individual credibility plus your option of following the personality is valid as well.

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  • KreeBeau

    I've heard this debate recently too in a PRSA course and it got me thinking – would a brand have a better following if you knew who was behind their company Twitter handle.

    As the lead person who tweets for my company – I have found that my personal Twitter has more followers because I use my own tone … and quirks … to put a spin on story I am commenting on, as opposed to my brand tweets tend to have a professional tone to them that might not evoke a response.

    Now I wish I could find the happy medium … suggestions WELCOME!

  • jeffespo

    There is no saying that you can't add your tone to the brand's page. I often work in things that I would say on @jeffespo on my corporate account in the interactions with our customers.

  • monfineis

    Hey, nice article. You should include links to Brad and Lisa's Twitter handles…in fact their hyperlinks lead to a dead page.

    Cheers!

  • Hi Monfineis –

    Thanks. Links fixed.

  • clairecelsi

    I vote for having a real person behind the tweets. If the person leaves the company, change the name in the profile and introduce the new person. People leave, people die. Get over it. People want to talk to people.

  • Courtney Standerfer

    This also brings up the question of whether the “voice” behind the company is a real person.

    Obviously, if Lisa is the CMO then she exists, but do we know if Brad is real or just a name Starbucks uses to make the said account more personable.

    I'm not opposed to the idea, if having a “mascot” if you will engages your consumers more and helps build trust and better relationships, why not?

    A good example is @JiffyJeffLA, a Southern California Jiffy Lube account. “Jeff” is pictured as a cartoon character and pseudo-mascot for the brand, and it really adds character to Jiffy Lube's tweets.

  • Richard

    I don't think the number of followers is particularly indicative of the success or failure of a brand on Twitter. Obviously certain brands attract more followers regardless of whether the Twitter identity is generic or person-specific. I represent a healthcare company. We do not offer a specific branded product. Also, people don't WANT our products, but rather NEED the products we offer. It is far easier to engage an audience that likes your products or brands. No one gets excited about necessities like water, electricity, or healthcare supplies.

  • Ashley

    I'm wondering if you can do both…create a personal relationship with your followers, without having one name or person associated with it. So still use the “we” but be sure to connect with people on a personal level, not just spew corporate news to them. That way, if the person does leave, you can easily transition. Thoughts?

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  • SodexoCareers

    This was also discussed at the Social Recruiting Summit in NY on Monday. At Sodexo (where I tweet under SodexoCareers) and most of our 50+ recruiters are also tweeting we have exit strategies because we feel being personal and transparent is important for our use of Twitter and other social networking sites to recruit candidates. We have in fact already had to implement and luckily the transition went well. It also does not hurt to incentivize the employees to be agreeable.

  • monfineis

    Hey, nice article. You should include links to Brad and Lisa's Twitter handles…in fact their hyperlinks lead to a dead page.

    Cheers!

  • Hi Monfineis –

    Thanks. Links fixed.

  • clairecelsi

    I vote for having a real person behind the tweets. If the person leaves the company, change the name in the profile and introduce the new person. People leave, people die. Get over it. People want to talk to people.

  • Courtney Standerfer

    This also brings up the question of whether the “voice” behind the company is a real person.

    Obviously, if Lisa is the CMO then she exists, but do we know if Brad is real or just a name Starbucks uses to make the said account more personable.

    I'm not opposed to the idea, if having a “mascot” if you will engages your consumers more and helps build trust and better relationships, why not?

    A good example is @JiffyJeffLA, a Southern California Jiffy Lube account. “Jeff” is pictured as a cartoon character and pseudo-mascot for the brand, and it really adds character to Jiffy Lube's tweets.

  • Richard

    I don't think the number of followers is particularly indicative of the success or failure of a brand on Twitter. Obviously certain brands attract more followers regardless of whether the Twitter identity is generic or person-specific. I represent a healthcare company. We do not offer a specific branded product. Also, people don't WANT our products, but rather NEED the products we offer. It is far easier to engage an audience that likes your products or brands. No one gets excited about necessities like water, electricity, or healthcare supplies.

  • Ashley

    I'm wondering if you can do both…create a personal relationship with your followers, without having one name or person associated with it. So still use the “we” but be sure to connect with people on a personal level, not just spew corporate news to them. That way, if the person does leave, you can easily transition. Thoughts?

  • SodexoCareers

    This was also discussed at the Social Recruiting Summit in NY on Monday. At Sodexo (where I tweet under SodexoCareers) and most of our 50+ recruiters are also tweeting we have exit strategies because we feel being personal and transparent is important for our use of Twitter and other social networking sites to recruit candidates. We have in fact already had to implement and luckily the transition went well. It also does not hurt to incentivize the employees to be agreeable.