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tweet-retweet(Read time = 3-4 minutes)  One of the first investigations that marketers tackle when entering the social media game is likely to be Twitter. Near the top of the Twitter investigation will likely be re-tweets (RTs):  their value, characteristics, and strategies for gaining traction as will impact message persistence.  For those less Twitter savvy: a retweet is when someone re-posts a Twitter message that they received from somebody else. Re-tweets are usually preceded by an “RT” or “Retweeting” and then the source person’s name in an @ reply format to assign credit (akin to footnoting the original source.

So why the fuss to understand RTs? In simple terms, “authority” and the ability to sustain market messaging/buzz.  Being cited as an information source reinforces thought leadership and brand importance; gaining any level of viral messaging further impacts the marketing campaign.  But is it science… or just artful prose?

Consider the audience size:  Twitter June visitors wwide – 44.5 million (comScore). FYI, cS only counts traffic to Twitter.com; since many users instead use Twitter apps to consume/publish, Twitter’s total audience is significantly larger.  cS does provide a consistent measure, however, of Twitter growth.  Even when some research indicates that ~40% Twitter traffic is “pointless babble”  ( Pear Analytics study), the potential audience/traffic is large, indeed.

For a real-time Twitter traffic counter, GigaTweet estimates that the number of tweets recently passed the 5 Billion mark

Update 11/11: related video here; thanx Muneer.

Studies and Research

Microsoft employs social media research scientists: Here, Danah Boyd and Gilad Lotan (MS) joining with Cornell researcher Scott Golder to investigate the conversational aspects of retweeting: (draft paper on RT here) , scheduled to be published early in 2010.

Another social media research scientist, Dan Zarrella (bio here) pulls apart re-tweet trends and success analytics.  His data presentation is posted at SlideShare here.  Zarrella spent nine months analyzing ~5 million tweets and 40 million retweets.  He investigated when posts occurred, wording, link inclusion (or not), and much more. 

Briefly, some thought starters for consideration:

1.  Leave Room:  Write your original tweet shy of the 140 limit to both allow for the (RT @ Twitter User Name) addition, and avoid requiring that the pass-along author re-write your original text.  While challenging, an original character count of 115-120 should provide sufficient room to encourage a viral re-tweet.

2.  Timing matters:  4pm Friday EST!  I didn’t see that Zarrella’s data factored for content-type (ie B2B v. Consumer, etc.) but certainly the charting should give marketers pause;  A trend beginning to appear are marketers tracking their own experiences and building their own benchmarks, by industry target, as to most effective times/days for tweets and re-tweets.

Tweet-Graph

 3.  Include links:  Tweets that included additional content sources were 3x more likely to be passed along.  Interestingly, the research also noted that the shorter the URL link out, the more likely a retweet would occur.

4. Choose your words wisely:  “Please”, “retweet”, “check out”, “blog” and “new blog post” all appeared in Zarrella’s most frequently used word list.  In the least retweetable category were a number of “ing” verbs (going, watching, listening…”).  Takeaway: idle chit-chat, slang, and over sharing does little to prompt message persistence.

5. Original content:  Well, duh… original content is way more poular than news previously circulated.

6. Grammar:  Tweets that rely heavily on the  use of nouns and 3rd-person verbs (what we typically refer to as headline-style) were more likely to be retweeted

Monitor and Benchmark

The diversity in audience target segments, social media objectives and marketing goals demand that most B2B marketers establish their own benchmarks over time.  Tools are beginning to appear (think Tweetmeme, Retweet.com, etc.) but ROI for social media remains hotly debated.  By experimenting with approach, content and campaigns, individual benchmarks can evolve.  Would welcome reader insights and experiences as additions to the conversation.

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Approved(Read time = 2-3 minutes) A previous ScoopD blog post illuminated the emerging dilemma for marcom practitioners driving their companies to social media best practices; namely the appropriate role of legal approval in the social media communications process.  As often happens in today’s social media, the post opened up a whole can of virtual and viral worms.  Here, contributor Chuck Byers takes the conversation a layer deeper w/regard/to striking an appropriate balance between protection, real-time marketing and freedom of expression.

This isn’t going to be an entertaining rant on the intrusion of our legal colleagues into the creative and messaging process (although such is tempting) because the truth is this sometimes acrimonious dialog is historic and on-going.  And ultimately, I’m going to ask you to share your best practices because, quite frankly, the role of legal and marcom in corporate social media is evolving.

At the outset, let’s acknowledge that there are enormous and legitimate legal concerns.  I’m not a lawyer but it is obvious that an entity is at legal risk nearly anytime it communicates with its constituents.  It used to be that biggest worries were having a corporate officer mutter something untoward into an unsuspected open microphone or in a mistakenly “off-the-record” interview. These risks are compounded in legal’s eyes by the litigious nature of today’s society, shareholder activism, and competitive business practices. 

There are clearly additional concerns over the implications and mis-steps of the speed of information exchange and the breadth of information reach.  The worldwide web isn’t called www for nothing and the ability to injure, harm or offend spreads as wide as the ability to enhance societal justice.  Trumping all considerations is the necessary ability to catalog, store, retrieve and produce — or more importantly legally protect and defend — material that could be potentially determined to be discoverable.

That said, what is the appropriate balance between legal protection, marketing, freedom of expression and capitalizing on the spontaneity and interactivity of the social media for the social good? How do companies balance these two historically orthogonal perspectives when there appear to be a range of corporate policies and cultures at play?

At one end, there is a technology company with a very active robust social media department who designates specific individual to be their social media communicators.  These individuals are charged with using good taste, a thoughtful consideration for the power of their words and deeds, a culture that reinforces that they are the company’s representatives and that they are the trusted messenger of the company’s good will.  Within these boundaries, they are charged to maximize all facets of social media for the company good … blogs, tweets, FaceBook and even virtual reality.

At the other end, there are companies whose legal departments are insisting that they need to approve an 89-character tweet that point’s customers to the company’s latest new product announcement. 

So where is the middle ground?  As communicators we would clearly prefer the former to the latter.  But this not Utopia and not every company is going to be so liberal 

What are the best practices?  We call upon the wiki-power of the blogosphere for the answers.  Share your experiences, best practices and worst practices.  The ScoopD team hopes to gather feedback with the intent to begin dialogue leading to a sense of direction.  

And in the best spirit of social media, we will share all in what we hope will be a consensus seeking exercise.  Follow http://www.twitter.com/maddogprofessor on Twitter and let’s begin trading ideas.

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perception_vase(Read time = 2-3 minutes) As social media intrudes further into the B2B marketing, many managers, consultants and agencies are being asked by the C-suite to defend against the perception that  “social media is just for kids“.  Here’s a quick reference list prepared for just such a discussion at an ingredient brand technology company during the engagement evaluation discussion.  Replicate the approach using your own market segment, competitors and marketing partners.  A small bit of homework will provide eye-opening results.

Benchmarking the Staggering Volume

Imagine the opportunities for “accidental” traffic if content is embedded at some/any/all of these (or other) sites.  Remember, the numbers are going up daily.  Even if your target communities are exceptionally narrow, odds are these sites capture some segment of your audience base if you embed content.

 Twitter:  23 million unique visitors/day;  3 million tweets/day

YouTube:  85 million video views/day

Facebook:  300 million active users, 122 million visits/day

LinkedIn:  43 million members; 13 million daily avg visits

Blogs:  133 millin currently indexed by Technorati.

Real time info add 9/18 5am PST: thanx to Jake @Oracle’s appslab  for pointing out availability of an Oracle app for micro-blogging:  OraTweet; check it out.

Real time info add 9/17 10:30 PST:  thanx to Circle Research and findings from a survey of 100 B2B marketers.   Summary findings: 39% of B2B budgets are now allocated to new media – 15% to web development, 12% to email, 10% to online ads, 2% to social media 70% of B2B marketers plan to increase spend on social media in the next 12 months…but 57% feel they don’t know enough about this area.

 

Business Brands Are Engaging

Certainly consumer brands are early adopters, but the B21B aspects of social media networking are fast gaining traction.  The list below was pulled together for an ingredient brand technology provider and executive leadership team discussion around engagement.  Take your segment, your competitors, your alliance partners – do quick searches of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flckr, other sites to compile a quick/easy (and compelling) snapshot for management review.

Cisco: •Twitter:  CTO has ~1 million followers; multiple other accounts •Facebook:  Fan page + Group opportunities •Blogging: twelve corporate blogs. •YouTube Channel:  400+ videos posted •LinkedIn: Yes

Broadcom: •Facebook:  sponsored ads, Group opportunities •Microblogging: Twitter account. •YouTube: Company account with product demos •LinkedIn: Yes

 Hewlett-Packard: •Blogging: 55 corporate blogs. •Facebook:  Group opportunities; sponsored ads •Microblogging: Twitter account used for promotions •Twitter:  multiple enterprise accounts •LinkedIn: Yes

FreeScale •YouTube:  ~80 videos posted •Facebook: Fan Page, Group opportunities, sponsored ads •Blogging: Six corporate blogs. •Twitter accounts: yes •LinkedIn: Yes

 IBM: •Blogging: 125 corporate blogs. •Forums: developerWorks. •Microblogging: Smart SOA SocialNetwork ((S3N)) •Twitter teams. •Wikis: developerWorks. •LinkedIn: Yes

 Oracle: •Blogging: Hundreds of blogs. •Crowdsourcing: Oracle Mix. •Microblogging: 110+ employees on Twitter and other services. •Social networks: Oracle community.Twitter:  multiple accounts

Intel: •Facebook: Fan page; Group opportunities; Sponsored ads •Blogging: Corporate family of blogs. Inside Scoop   lifestyle blog. Game Faces blog. •Microblogging: Intel Developer Forum & Inspired By Education •Online video: YouTube account. •Photo sharing: Flickr photostream. •LinkedIn: Yes •Twitter:  Multiple accounts

 Texas Instruments: •YouTube:  ~2000 video instances found •Blogging: Community blogs. •Facebook:  Fan page, Group opportunities •Twitter: Multiple accounts •LinkedIn:  Yes

 Brocade •Twitter:  Formal PR Account •YouTube: CEO videos w/r/t quarterly earnings •LinkedIn:  Yes •Adaptec •Twitter:  PR account; Support account •Facebook: Fan page; sponsored ads •YouTube: ~500 video posts found •LinkedIn: Yes

Media and Industry Analyst Outlets

Do a quick review of your PR/AR outlets to determine the level of social media activity, opportunities for outreach and additional coverage possibilities with blogs and Twitter.

New York Times –Blogs: 70 blogs –Twitter: Hot news –YouTube: 1400+ videos –LinkedIn: Company profile –Facebook: Fan page, regular page

 Wall Street Journal –Blogs: 30 blogs –Twitter: Hot news –LinkedIn: Company profile –Facebook: Fan page, cross-posts with Digg

Barron’s –Blog: Technology Trader –Twitter: Hot news •Financial Times –Blogs: 20+ blogs –Twitter: Hot news –LinkedIn: Company profile

 EE Times –Blogs: 10 Blogs –Twitter: Hot news; LinkedIn: Company profile, event marketing

Technology Industry Analyst Firms

Gartner –Twitter: 70+ analysts plus corporate-level –Blogs: 75 Analyst Blogs –LinkedIn: Company page, recruiting, event marketing –YouTube: 80+ videos posted –Facebook: Fan page

Forrester –Twitter: 70+ analysts plus corporate-level –Blogs: ~25 Blogs –LinkedIn: Company page, recruiting, event marketing –YouTube: ~65 videos

IDC –Twitter: 70+ analysts plus corporate account –Blogs: –LinkedIn: Company page, recruiting, event marketing

 Enterprise Strategy Group –Twitter: President tweets, directs to additional content –Blogs: 7 Analyst Blogs –LinkedIn: Company Page

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 code vortex(Read time = 2 minutes)  Amazing how tangent conversations creep in from unexpected places.  Recently, I was in a client discussion on video production.  With talent direction, content and milestone conversations sated, the producer and I bridged into a “where best to host” (YouTube the obvious answer) and then widened to an adjacent discussion that challenged the default of hanging content only on the corporate web site.

 

With great delight, my producer friend, an acknowledged social media advocate herself (thanx Spooner!) with both business and academic credentials, argued for an external “content embed” strategy using third-party hosting sites.  Essentially, dropping assets onto third-party, content-specific sites which brought added traffic value beyond just the hosting itself; making it easy to share and find (think SEO).  Assets would then be served into a promotional site (think Facebook Fan Page, corporate blog site, or the like)

Indirectly, bookmarking sites like Delicious and Digg serve a similar virtualized function.  While not content hosts per se, these sites provide audience communities and search capabilities, therefore additional traffic possibilities.  But that’s a slight tangent. 

Hoping that the debate stimulates some thinking and challenges the default solution of “everything on the company site”.

The set-up:  An upcoming product launch would be augmented by social media outreach and promotion: some traditional content (collateral, whitepapers, etc.), some rich-media new content (video clips, anecdotal short case study write-ups, a podcast or two).

The marketing goal:  Integrate a company domain splash page with social media promotional networks such as: Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn while taking advantage of content-specialty sites such as YouTube;  do so as simply as possible with a delivery/management process as near to a “post once, deliver to many” model;  capture robust metrics.

At issue:  where best to (practically) hang (embed) the content:  centralized w/in the company’s own domain on the splash page itself (what are the pros/cons) v. using third-party sites such as:  YouTube,  SlideShare, Docstoc , Vimeo,  Scribd, Flckr, issuu, whitepapers.org .  Which, if any, work, will depend on your audience and goal. Notable web strategist Jeremiah Owyang discusses the concept of embeddable content/give the love away in a blog post here.

Some “pros” for the third party approach:  added audience reach into communities loyal to the hosting site itself, visitors likely never to visit the company domain main website; also, by posting on sites that allow content to be re-purposed (embedded by others, elsewhere) the viral spread widens.  BEWARE:  many third-party sites include “ownership” clauses for posting to their sites.

Cons:  No single third-party site seems to be a logical aggregation point:  ie, videos would go to YouTube, podcasts to iTunes, slideware to SlideShare, etc.  Management complexity, multiple metric sources to integrate.

Biggest “pro” for the HIY approach:  internal web team can own it, optimize it, marketing can be hands off (at least in the ideal world <grin>).

Cons: Internal web teams can be very inefficient and/or have tool delivery systems less than current best practice models.  Integration of various media delivery systems inside a band aided, enterprise web architecture.

The solution remains an active discussion.  Feel free to weigh-in with thoughtful prose or quirky advice. While the resolution is not quite the beast of Trek-Piccard proportion, in our own small way, we’re Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, eyes open…  end of day, HIY + third-party site content embeds is probably not a bad solution.
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squarepeg_roundhole sm(Read time = 3 minutes) Forget  for a moment, the promises of “messaging in the stream”… of “conversational marketing”… and/or the rush for “knitting together a branding fabric”….  At a practical level,  early, B2B pros need to be able to discuss social media up the management chain using old-school terminology like: reach and impressions… like: messaging persistance, quality and velocity.

This is one conversation that helps gets social media initiatives approved… and funded.

But where do you find benchmarks… tools for consistent measurement?  And what of Twitter’s “fuzzy math”?  Ah the joys (and risks) of this new, social media space.  The recent Harvard study (6/09) is worth the read…  Separately, I did find one reach/impression benchmark for Twitter.  It suggests that Twitter reach calculations should be in the 10-12%:   of a follower list;  CTR  1-4%  I can’t vouch for the research or conclusions, but it’s a starting point.  Big brand companies may be able to spent the budget and time evolving their own benchmark standards.  Dell has documented Twitter as a sales channelP&G has done interesting test to demonstrate the Twitter reach… Most B2B marketers, however, will need to rely on traditional measurement terms/comparisons to argue for and evaluate social media performance.

And don’t forget “Twitter Fuzzy Math” (nice blog post here). Please point out others, if you know of any resources/links.

Until such time as “new media” channels like Twitter, Facebook, et al are able to establish industry-blessed benchmark media standards, I fear much of the fuss and buzz will stay experimental to the larger B2B community, at least.   Useful, certainly… but more novelty than moving to mainstream, strategic outbound solution level.

Some baseline definitions:

  •  Reach = the total number of people “in the audience” for your message; reach refers to the size of the unduplicated audience.  Multiple exposure of a message to an individual does not increase reach.
  • Frequency = the number of times an individual is exposed to your message w/in a particular medium.  Frequency can be increased by message repetition, regardless of creative type.
  • Impressions: Essentially, the # of ad repetitions x the total placement source circulation.  For B2B clients, usually marketers quickly move past simple impressions to some more meaningful measure regarding conversion:  direct sales, asset downloads, lead generation, and the like.
  • Relevancy = how relevant your ad/message is to an individual at the time and in the context of exposure. If content is “king”, relevancy is “queen”.  And remember, relevancy for an individual changes over time, based on need and behavioral context.  Relevancy most drives response.

Why it’s important.  High-volume follow lists are all the rage – until you start to understand the Twitterverse of bots, spammers, porn peddlers  auto-follows and the fast-buck wanna-be’s that bloat circulation lists to laughable propostions.  Peak just one click under the follower count to see how quickly “circulation” falls apart.  If the target community isn’t well represented in the follow list, who cares how large the list is.  Three recent examples of a Twitter list scrub  reported to the Scoopdog team turned up an average 35+% fat when subjected to a subscriber audit (one was actually 60% junk).

Twitter tools for seeing/understanding reach and impressions

As a starting point for the rest of us, here’s a list of Reach/Impression/Velocity tools that can start you down the path, even if it’s only to compare one flight of tweets to your next… or to track the value ad social media coverage brings to the traditional news release drop without even a single tweet (yes, others will read your PR and very likely recirculate it w/out you’re even knowing.

Tweet Reach – A  favorite starting poiint. Very simple, quick/easy.  Reach and impressions presented in traditional media language. Key is in selecting the appropriate keywords for the search analytics.  For one narrow-niche client we took two keywords from a traditional news release headline and used the tool to track 40+ tweets/re-tweets adding 47,000 reach to the messaging platform – all w/out the client doing a single tweet themselves.

Twinfluence v2.6:  Anaother well worth using if only that the tool provides a quick calculation of your followers’ followers (only one I’ve found that does that).  Measures the combined influence of you and your followers. Some social network statistics as a bonus: reach, velocity and social capital.  Attempts to take into account “influence”, ie that some followers have more influence than others.  CAUTION:  the sign-up defaults to a permission to tweet your influence score.

*   Twitalyzer – Compare your tweets to another user’s tweets (think comparing yours with your competitors over same period, etc.) Charting capability.  Useful, if only to gain social media advocates a bit of leverage up the internal ladder when discussing social media marketing.  A presentor at the #140 conference (video presentation here)

TweetStats:  Hour-by-hour and for any 24-hour period, track up to three keywords (think competitors) w/g/t click volume.  Useful if, for example, there’s news being dropped during the same time period and/or an event/tradeshow and you want to compare message volume/activity around keywords or companies.

Twitter Analyzer: Google Analytics for Twitter users.  More than 50 statistical measures displayed with graphics and maps.  Among the views:  Reach, Subject Matter, Follower Growth, Follower Density Map, Follower Activity, Sharing capability.  Primarily a tool for Twitter users to analyze themselves or their friends.

Tweet Effect:  Provides information to you on how many followers you’ve gained/lost in the last X hours + (more importantly) which tweets might have helped you gain or lose followers.

As always, data is just data.  Without marketplace perspective, human analytics factoring in target audience community, anecdotal experiences and dialogue – the numbers are just numbers.  But… gaining social media information in the context of traditional media evaluation terms makes the conversaton easier at the baseline.

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interaction(Read time = ~2 minutes) Twitter is (has become) the newest, shiny outbound toy.  Marketing wants a piece… so does the PR team… and Marcom, AR/IR… and don’t forget all those content experts.  One of the most important requirements to grow a meaningful B2B Twitter follower list, is cadence… having a consistent/regular content flow.  Frequency is one key to drivingfollowers, but it’s a frustrating aspect for many companies starting up a Twitter strategy.  One solution: multiple users tweeting from a single account where the collective blends into an orchestrated voice around a central focus.

All well and good, but how to retain some reasonable management of the process?  Here’s a look at five tools aimed at solving this practical business issue, as well as two “brute strength” approaches.  Hoping others will weigh-in with solutions I’ve not yet undiscovered.

Six Alternatives for Business Teams to Twitter Collaboration

Co-Tweet:   In public beta. Their promotional tagline:  “How business does Twitter”.  Great promise, but the practical delivery still lacks some essentials.  Tweet copy, once scheduled, cannot be edited (gotta delete then re-enter if you want to change anything); no real collaboration possible (ie can’t edit copy between users); Good future scheduling; easy set-up with both admin and user designations. Friendly but still lacking features.

Hootsuite: Trying to be “one size fits all”:  analytics package + multi-user management package.  Tweet scheduling feature (a “pending” column) w/editing.  Co-tweeting from a single account: yes via the “add editors” function;  groups/sorting.  Stats BUT ONLY if you use Hootsuite’s own embedded URL shortener. Personally, I like analytic options from other tools better.  Not (for me) as intuitive as Co-Tweet but a larger feature set.

Twitter Account w/Shared Password.  Low tech solution and probably still, one of the most practical.  Set up a Gmail (or other) email address so no need to burden your regular business email account.  Set up a generic Twitter account and then just share sign-on/password to the designated group of users.  Add-on apps can be found for scheduling, etc.  Not exactly eloquent and requires some trust and manual management processes, but it works.

Twitter Groups:  Twitter does not provide any group feature, but third-party solutions have filled this void.  For purposes here, a group could be created (almost like a blog site) and then tweets could originate from the group setting via a single Twitter account.  Content, editing, etc. occurs w/in the group setting, virtual to Twitter itself.  The other obvious application would be to use the group function as a means for audience community segmentation (but that’s another blog post/discussion all together). Some group tools include: TweetWorks, TwitTangle and Twingr.  One other interesting approach:  use twhirl and its Friendfeed support for “rooms” then a Twitter feed out from FriendFeed.

Tweetfunnel  (Real-tiime update 9/9:  Tweetfunnel folx just advised that they’ve added support for BudURL and saved searches) Public beta version free for the testing. “The Twitter Tool for Team Tweeting” (catchy).   Uses a “publisher/contributor” model for editorial control. Features:  approve and post, scheduling, editing, assignments, tracking of bit.ly URLs, feedback forums;  What’s not currently integrated:  RSS feeds, shortened URLs other than bit.ly, brand mentions/keyword watch.  Useful FAQ and a blog for conversation.

EasyTweet:   Paid service so I haven’t spent the $$ to test/try.  From their homepage, promises:  tracking, SMS alerts, scheduling, RSS tracking, multiple account management. From the site blog, you can get to a promo video/tour.  The blog also provides some deeper insights into features/functionality. No free trial that I saw.

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Personally, I think the tools aren’t yet fully prime-time ready for enterprise use.  Beta means beta but this is one solution that’s critical to enable B2B adoption.  Maybe I’ve missed the one tool that’s the magic bullet – if so, please clue me in and share.  Add this to the “business must have” list, along w/practical/meaningful metrics, valuation models (what’s a Facebook friend worth), and an account layering strategy.

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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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