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cake_bigRead time = 2-3 minutes) So… Twitter is now part of your B2B marketing initiatives.  You’ve figured out the basics of measurement and monitoring your competition … made an uneasy peace w/the folx from Legal.  The next challenge to having your cake and eating it too, will likely be “multiple account management” as the Twitter passion spreads.

Multiple accounts?  You bet. We see easily seven layers and 5+ accounts as practical for even smaller businesses, more possibly – depending on the granularity of sub-brands, geographies and the like.  Not all layers need to be used, but all should be thought about.  The typical starting point is three not one, yup – three (including two that you may not first think about but that have serious branding consequences).  But that gets ahead of the story.

Drivers are the perceived need for audience community segmentation strategies…  message volume… and/or native language requirements, among others.  What should be balanced is multiple account need v. management complexity, a particularly difficult line to walk given that Twitter tools remain very fluid with functionality still evolving.

“Multiple accounts, or not…” becomes prominent very quickly.  More to the point is probably “how many accounts” rather than “multiple or not”. Let’s examine the possibilities:

Layering as a Twitter Account Strategy

  1.  At the Top:  Investor Relations.  I call this the “corporate” account. Unique content resides here w/r/t financial reports, earnings calls, acquisitions, etc.  Tweets will be carefully reviewed and approved.  Feds are actively considering regulation that permits social media in satisfying disclosure requirements (blog on the topic). In the beginning, one layer may host the IR/PR/AR and Marketing tweet content.
  2. Business Division: Marketing Messages.  This cut, or the one following (sub-brands/products) are usually the first fragmentation that proactively occurs.  Could be a geography cut (US v. Japan), or wanting to distinguish between the investment community (communicated using the top, corporate account) and the business trade community;  or, could be separation of several business trade segments (think:  automotive v. marine v. energy v. agriculture)
  3. Sub-brand Segmentation: Product/Technology Messages.  It may be that certain product brands or technologies have wide community followings.  As such, there is an opportunity to develop vertical Twitter follower channels very narrowly, suggestive of old-media vertical trade publications. 
  4. Branded Individuals: Official: Spokespersons.  Trained and trusted.  Branded and blessed as an official spokesperson at some level.  Naming convention: twitter.com/(company name)(personal name).  Clearly a personal account but equally clear that the person is associated w/the company or brand.  From this level come the more spontaneous, conversational tweets; from this level, much of the relationship building.
  5. Branded Individuals: Not Spokespersons.  Same Twitter account convention, gives the appearance of official spokesperson, but not blessed. Employees, alums, etc. who elect to have business identity as part of their Twitter account name.  Could take the for of: twitter.com/(company name)Bill… or twitter.com/(product brand)/Sara.  The risk here is that a personal account by virtue of the naming convention is seen as an official spokesperson when in fact the employee may not be one.
  6. Accidental Branding: Employees.  This, I feel, is the layer of most risk – both for the employee and to the company itself.  At this level, employees call out company branding as part of profiles, background graphics, professional resumes, etc.  As such, the employee stands a great chance of being found during a brand-driven web search.  Unguarded comments, picture tagging, etc. may therefore be associated with the company, inadvertently.
  7. Unbranded: Employees – Exactly as it says,  employees but those who have not, in any way, linked themselves to the company or any of its associated brands.  Here, there might actually be opportunity lost, ie w/out a branding link, the company might loose positive halo-effect garnered by a well-known engineer or cutting-edge graphic designer or prominent business marketing manager.

 Easily, a single company can quickly emass 5-10 accounts when you consider the corporate top level, let’s say two divisions, three brands and six spokespersons.

It begs the question, what tools exist to better manage multiple Twitter accounts.  Would love to hear reader suggestions.  Among those gaining ink are:  Co-Tweet,  Splitweet, Buddymedia, Hootsuite and  (but that’s a story for another blog post, down the road).
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