The microblogging platform's meteoric rise makes many enterprises think they need to jump on board. However, it's not for every company; here's how to know if a Twitter presence is right for you.
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Slideshow: Businesses Take Action With Twitter
1. A specific person's voice can speak for the company. Rather than just serving as a generic mouthpiece for the company, a Twitter account is maintained by someone visible within the company. This is not merely a PR frontman, but someone intimately qualified to speak for the company and who has some perspective on it from the inside.
Aneta Hall, emerging media manager for Pitney Bowes, has said, "Twitter is for individuals rather than brands." That may simply be another way of saying that a brand is made up of individuals, and the more they're empowered to speak on behalf of the company, the better.
Having a specific person's voice can humanize things in both directions, too. As Christopher Barger of GM has pointed out, it's more difficult to say nasty things about an individual as opposed to a company. Criticism directed at a specific person tends to be that much more civil.
Sometimes a specific Twitter account represents a specific person, or a facet of a brand. The Dell Outlet Twitter account, for instance, deals exclusively with Dell Outlet announcements and news; Elise Osborn handles the questions/comments side of things for the Dell Outlet brand.
JetBlue has a single Twitter account -- @JetBlue -- but the account is not aggressively promoted to regular JetBlue customers. "We want to grow naturally with the Twitter audience," said Morgan Johnston, manager of corporate communications with JetBlue, in an exchange of tweets with the folks at Mashable.com.
2. The company wants to create conversations between individuals about their brand. Once you give people the power to speak on behalf of a given brand, conversations start -- not just talk that directly supports the brand, but talk that shows how the people behind that brand are lively and engaged folks.
My personal favorite example of this involves Vertical, a small independent publisher with a Twitter stream maintained by its marketing director, Ed Chavez. Every few months he polls his followers (mostly avid readers) for possible titles that they could license and translate from Japanese, which generates a good deal of discussion from their followers about what titles would be worth looking into. The result is a conversation that consistently draws in fresh followers and gets them talking about Vertical as a brand. And because the company is small and tightly-knit, with few layers between Chavez and his higher-ups, he has that much more leeway to speak freely.
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