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Planning your Twitter strategy: ownership and responsibility

by Caleb Woodbridge - SEO Consultant

Continuing a series of blog posts on Facebook and Twitter for online marketing... 

Questions to ask 

Before you send your first Tweet, or even before you sign up, you need to think about how exactly your company is going to use Twitter. Here are some questions you should ask yourself in planning how to use Twitter:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What do you want to get out of Twitter?
  • Who exactly is going to be responsible for updating Twitter?
  • How often will you update Twitter?
  • How does this fit into your broader strategies for marketing, PR, customer service, and so on?
  • Will you have a single account for the company, or are individuals or departments also going to have a Twitter? Who will own and be responsible for each account?

In this post, I’m going to focus on the last question, that of ownership and responsibility.

How many accounts?

On this last question, in most cases, having the one account for the company will be the easiest and best solution. For us, that’s “@orantec”, where we tweet about web design and SEO and follow people in the same industry. It’s a way of connecting more than a way of (directly) getting business. It’s just the one account, which keeps things clean and simple.

One strategy some businesses use is to give employees individual company accounts – for example, we could create an account @CalebOrantec specifically for work-related Tweets. This has the advantage that people prefer to follow other people rather than companies or brands. The point of social media is to be social – it’s all about people, so individual accounts can be a more natural way to connect.

Twitter ownership struggles

But this can sometimes lead to awkward issues over who owns the account – if the employee moves on, do they take the account with them or does it revert to the company? This has proved a tricky issue among journalists and other workers who have a very public presence.

For example, Noah Kravitz, a contributor to PhoneDog mobile technology site for four years, tweeted as @PhoneDog_Noah and gained 17,000 followers. When he left the company, he changed his ID to @noahkravitz and went on to gain 5,000 more followers. PhoneDog sued him, saying that his Twitter followers are a customer list worth $340,000. In the end, Noah Kravitz won a six-figure settlement.

It’s a very new area, and conventions and legal regulation are still evolving. You need to establish the purpose and ownership of accounts from the start to avoid conflict down the line.

Departmental accounts

Larger companies many want to have more than one account for different activities. Large newspapers often have accounts for different sections of their papers, for example, while Google has accounts for different products. If your company involves a lot of customer support, then it might make sense to have a separate account for that. But unless you’re a particularly large organisation, this probably won’t be needed.

Personal accounts

If you’re not already on Twitter personally yourself, setting up your business account might also be a good time to get in on it individually! If you use it personally, you'll get a better feel for what's engaging and interesting to individuals than if you only maintain a business account.

What about existing personal accounts, especially of employees? I am on Twitter personally. I was on Twitter before starting at Orantec, and my opinions expressed there are entirely my own - but I am aware that Twitter is a public forum, so a certain level of professional behaviour is necessary.

There have been several cases of people getting in trouble at work for things they’ve posted online, especially in cases of criticism of their employers. A written social media policy might be helpful in avoiding these situations. The Washington Post’s staff social media guidelines say: ‘When using social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc for reporting or for our personal lives, we must protect our professional integrity and remember: Washington Post journalists are always Washington Post journalists.’

On the other hand, social networks are largely informal. It’s not in anyone’s interest for employers to take on the job of policing your employees’ online behaviour outside of work! Encouraging thoughtful responsibility is better than laying down rules. Get people to think about their privacy settings, and what’s visible publically and what’s limited to their friends. A bit of common sense goes a long way.

Recommendations

So what would I suggest, in summary?

  • For most companies, having a single Twitter account “@CompanyName” is simplest, but it can be harder to get people to follow a company rather than an individual
  • If you set up employee accounts “@Employee_Company”, establish at the outset what they are for and who owns them
  • You might want to have different accounts for different departments or purposes, but remember Occam’s Razor – don’t multiply entities unnecessarily!
  • Designate who has responsibility for keeping your Twitter account updated
  • Encourage staff to be thoughtful and responsible in their use of their own social media accounts

Check back soon for more on getting the most out of Twitter!

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