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Corporate vs Professional Individual Twitter Accounts

I’m having a challenge. I know I’m not the only one since this is a much discussed problem among various organizations in our field. I’m pretty sure there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution but I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Our consulting organization CEPSM has a Twitter account (@cepsm); and so do nearly all of the consultants that work here. That being said, we all primarily use our individual Twitter accounts (e.g. @mikekujawski) to build community around our passion/business since individual accounts always beat corporate accounts when it comes to building and fostering professional relationships. So the question is, what is the point of using the CEPSM corporate account when we are all actively involved in two-way business engagement on the same topic via our individual professional accounts?

[Note: this does not really apply to large organizations, which likely have the resources to staff a full-time individual (or team) to manage the official corporate account 24/7. Also, let’s assume that we all understand and follow the basic rules of social media engagement , i.e. things like ethics, conflict of interest and common sense.]

Even if we each set up two accounts in a tool like TweetDeck, and have the option of specifying which account (or both) we want each tweet to be sent from (e.g. @cepsm or @mikekujawski), we still run into problems. For example, if I tweet something that has nothing to do with business (e.g my bungee jump this weekend), then I can send it through my personal channel only. One problem with this is that filtering @cepsm tweets to “corporate only/non-personal” tweets turns the @cepsm tweet stream into a dry business-only channel. One of the most effective uses of the Twitter channel from a business perspective is to bring back the “human” element and foster non-linear conversation. Even though my personal side is not necessarily reflective of everyone at CEPSM, everyone that works here can be contributing their personal tweets into the @cepsm stream as well to form a holistic aggregate persona of the CEPSM brand. This seems like a valid solution at first, however if we start sending most of our tweets via both channels, then our audience will begin to get duplicate tweets in their monitoring streams since they likely follow @cepsm as well. In my case this is quite a big problem since 80% of my personal account tweets are 100% relevant to CEPSM (i.e. have to do with strategic marketing, digital engagement, social media, etc…).

There are 3 main approaches I see to this problem, however none of them solve it 100%.

  1. Don’t have a corporate account, but rather a “Twitter List” of all corporate employees in addition to their individual accounts. RISK: No official corporate account is not good for web presence and visibility of the brand.
  2. Have a corporate account in addition to individual accounts and only use it for official news releases (with a human voice at least as opposed to corporate talk). Create a background image that lists all personal accounts of consultants that work at CEPSM.  RISK: The two-way engagement that we all actively practice in our personal accounts is not reflected in the corporate account.
  3. Have a corporate account in addition to individual accounts and send all tweets to both accounts except for tweets that have nothing to do with our industry. RISK: Some people that follow both our individual and corporate accounts will receive duplicate tweets.

What do you think, am I missing some obvious solution? Keep in mind that I am referring to organizations that do not have a dedicated resource for the company account but rather have multiple individual professional accounts. Therefore, mainly small and medium consulting firms in a specific niche industry.

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  1. Raj

    I think your idea of a infographic background is a good one, but combine that with a list and then a “best of” filter for the corporate account (retweets).

    So you as employee of company ZYX would have ZYX stamped on the background somewhere in return for having permission to tweet at work, but with the disclaimer that this is “not an official channel”. The company, in addition to having it’s own account has a list of all the people tweeting who are on the payroll. This list, visible from the Twitter website then can be used by individuals to further explore the company. The company then follows those individuals (and others as needed), retweeting the relevant personal updates and providing some dry material as well.

    Not a perfect solution, but one that is likely manageable for some small/medium business groups.

  2. Thanks Raj, your suggestion is actually very close to what we’re currently doing aside from the infographic to which we will be adding more info shortly. I also like your idea of combining the list and a “best of” re-tweet stream. Would you just create a simple re-tweet rss feed within a list, or do you have a favourite tool that does this?

    Our situation is quite unique since we all have personal consulting brands that we need to maintain for business purposes. I get where you’re coming from with stating that something is “not an official channel” , but I want to avoid discussing policies/guidelines in this particular post (which we actually develop for organizations) since I’m not really referring to a traditional organization setup of employees. Our “personal brand” channels are very much “official” business channels as well.

    Great suggestion though.

  3. Raj

    I don’t have a particular tool in mind as the curation of content is as important, if not moreso, than the amount. The catch is that there is likely no way to develop a system that will “know” what messages from the team will be worthy of moving forward to the main stream as that stream should ebb/flow/reflect what is happening in the world and how it relates to the core message.

    It does get tricky when the person is the brand and the personal elements are just as important, if not moreso than the professional ones. This is a debate that the educational technology community has been having for many years with regards to blogging, and now microblogging.

  4. I like the infographic idea on the CEPSM account. That’s definitely step one.

    I also think that having a “dry” feed-like corporate account is okay… As long as it’s not actually run just by a feed. Or on the web – to me, that comes off as being immature, social media wise). Your CEPSM account can be a compilation of RTs of the “official” stuff the staff tweets about. This will add personality AND link more interactive accounts with the corporate voice. It will also prevent followers of both from getting double tweets.

    Plus, if there’s anything particularly interesting, CEPSM still retains the ability to tweet as a “person” rather than as a feed…

    Does that make sense?

  5. Hi Mike,

    Been through the same debate myself. I do think you need to have a corporate account–if employees leave they take the audience/social capital built through that account with them.

    I’ll tell you what I do (not that it’s right way to do it, but I am satisfied with the results)

    We have a corporate account @mediamiser as well as about 80% of our staff tweeting through personal accounts (and identifying themselves as employees). First I built out a strategy for the corporate account so there’s no confusion of its purpose which is something like:

    1. provide value to the PR/communications industry — I tweet and RT relevant articles – i have specific blogs I monitor for this purpose as well.

    2. Engage customers/potential customers – mostly reactive: i.e. responding to questions and requests asked on Twitter

    3. Participate in the greater community we serve – I often use our corporate account to participate in relevant twitter chats, such as #measurePR.

    Likewise I clearly identified what my personal account is for, and while there’s some cross over, I have lots of other things to tweet about than what it is covered off by our corp. account, so it usually goes that way. (I do occasionally RT from one account to the other, but never post the same tweet via both)

    Basically I build personal relationships via my personal account, and strategic stakeholder relationships via corporate account. Sometimes the two cross over but I think it works well.

  6. Although I agree that it is important to have a human element in a corporate stream, there are some personal tweets that just don’t belong in a professional or business stream.
    I think one of the easiest ways would be to have branded individual accounts( mikeAtCEPSM) for business and then a personal account for the rest of your friends/family/life. Obviously the business would not require the personal account- that would depend on your own needs. If the only things you would ever share on twitter are business appropriate, then you have just a single stream if that fits you. I would never do that, since if I changed jobs, all of my friends and family would have to “refind” me on some new account later. I prefer to have some SM for my personal life that are not linked to my work accounts and then others that I use for business purposes- which in all intents and purposes belong to that employers.
    As an employer, I would not want someone working in SM space on my behalf in their personal accounts. Part of the value of SM are the networks built up. If that person leaves the company and all of their work network is on their personal account, I lose that important information as well.

  7. Thanks for the comments folks. All valid suggestions. We will be employing a mix of all and then re-evaluate again in a few months.

  8. Roguepuppet, in my case I don’t separate personal and professional since my professional side is a part of who I am. I guess in my case I see a difference between business (tied to a company) and professional (tied to your area of expertise that you are passionate about regardless of where you work). As my “personal -only” community platform I use Facebook. Twitter and LinkedIn are primarily for my professional contacts.

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