There’s nothing difficult about heading to Twitter and creating an account to represent your business. What is difficult is knowing what kind of account you want to create and the voice you’ll be using with it. That takes some thinking about. There are many different types of Twitter accounts that you can create. You need to decide what’s going to be most effective for you.
Do you want to be strongly corporate and spend most of your time talking about the business? Do you want to create a personal account where you downplay what you do and focus more on relationships? Do you want to go totally left field and tweet as a syrup bottle? Don’t laugh. People are doing it! The type of Twitter account you create will depend on your goals for using it and, to some degree, your comfort level sharing information with your audience.
Below are some of the most common account types SMB owners are using on Twitter, along with some examples of each. Which ones do you identify with?
The Totally Corporate Account
There’s a difference between being a business owner on Twitter and being a business on Twitter. When you take The Totally Corporate Account it means that you’ve decided to tweet as the company itself. There’s no employee or real personality publicly tied to the account in any way. The focus is on promoting business news, blog posts, deals and to offer customer service. It’s not on building genuine relationships with customers. Everything that is done is done from the perspective of The Company.
For example, @JetBlue uses its account to tweet about flight deals, @Starbucks talks about offers on coffee, and we all recently saw @SouthwestAir use its account to do some reputation management when they got themselves into trouble. All three accounts take a 100 percent corporate approach to talking to Twitter users. We don’t know the face(s) behind the account or have any deeper understanding of the company’s voice because of them. The account is just there to keep us up-to-date on news and handle customer service complaints as they come up.
The Corporate-led Persona Account
The Corporate-led Persona allows the business to tweet as a Corporation, but to also include a bit of personality and insight behind the person publicly running the account. Customers will be able to tie a face and a name to the account to help build a community around it. All of the tweets coming out will still be able the corporation, with the exception of a few spice of life tweets to add some flair and personality. However, it will still be very clear that the person tweeting is doing so on behalf of the company and that’s their reason for being there. It is in no way seen as a personal Twitter account.
For example, we know that @ComcastCares is Frank Eliason, @Zappos is Tony Hsieh, and @DunkinDonuts is the cheerful Dunkin Dave. They’re corporate accounts but they include branded personas working to build a community around what’s going on. When we tweet at Zappos, we know that we’re talking to Tony. It provides an outward face to the company.
The Strictly Personal Account
A personal Twitter account is one with no obvious tie to any business or corporation. The person is tweeting as themselves, for themselves. They tweet about what they’re doing and where they’re going; they tweet after hours and on the weekends. The account is there to build relationships and to gain information. We know the person works for someone but that “who” doesn’t play into their daily activity.
Lots of people choose to keep personal Twitter accounts. For example, my little brother is on Twitter. He’s a college student and has no business reason to do be there. For him, Twitter is just another social network that he can use to talk to his friends, comment on his classes or to share links about his favorite TV shows or Apple products. There’s no corporate slant there. Just him communicating with his network.
The Business/Personal Hybrid Account
A hybrid Twitter account is what I see most small business owners creating. It’s an account that mixes both the personal and professional. You can tweet about what’s going on in your industry, what blogs you’re reading and any struggles you’re facing as a person in your field. But then you use the same account to tweet about taking your kids to the movies and what you’re making for dinner. You mix both worlds, even if that means alienating some who’d rather not know about the other. However, you don’t dilute your efforts trying to grow multiple accounts.
This is the approach that I use with @lisabarone, as do many other business Twitterers. Under the Hybrid approach, we share links during the day and talk about work, and then go home to tweet about what’s on TV and what we’re doing with our families. It’s a relationship-heavy approach that mixes both the professional and the spice of life tweets.
The Character Account
Character-based accounts have the tweeter posting from the voice, perspective and insight of an object/animal/plant/whatever. Everything is done through that character and the tweeter never breaks that character. It may sound silly, but we’re actually seeing a lot more businesses take this approach as they look for a way to stand out and connect with customers. If you do it right, it’s often ingenious. If you don’t, well, you just look silly.
Some of examples of this in action? There are plenty. Aflac tweets as a the @aflackduck, the National History Museum tweets as a whale with its @nathistorywhale account, @mrsbutterworths tweets as a syrup bottle, and @ColonelTribune is the voice of the Chicago Tribune and a totally made up figure.
There’s no right way to use Twitter, just like there’s no wrong way. However, there is the right way for you and that’s what you need to determine. You may even decide to adopt multiple account types. The question to ask yourself is, what’s going to help you get your message across? Built your strategy.
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Mine is a business/personal hybrid account, but most businesses I think do Twitter best are the Corporate-led Persona Accounts. These convey the business messages but are personal enough to build meaningful relationships.
Great blog post! This is the one question I couldn’t seem to get answered and this blog answered it perfectly!
Reno Web Design
Great post! I’ve struggled with what exactly to do on my Twitter account. One could consider it a hybrid… I post a lot about web design, marketing and small business. Probably will add more personal things in the future. Thanks for the great guide!
Good post Lisa.
Let me add the following: Even with the business/personal hybrid account, there are degrees of the mix. You have to think through not only what you’re trying to accomplish, but also what your audience prefers.
Keep in mind that no matter how much we like one approach versus another, there are lots of people in this world who will prefer exactly the opposite. (Even if we can’t understand why they would EVER want to follow a Twitter account with such an approach!)
Some people use Twitter primarily for business related information — like subscribing to a breaking news feed. If that’s primarily why they are following, they may be incredibly annoyed with 40 tweets a day carrying on banter with people they don’t know, and insider remarks they don’t quite “get.” It might be way too chatty for them — and irrelevant.
On the other hand, other people simply can’t abide by dry corporate Twitter accounts that consist of nothing more than sharing of links and info. They need to connect with humans — without the relationship element, they don’t see the value in following. They can’t imagine wanting to follow an account that is all about information.
So, the question for each of us to consider is:
What am I trying to accomplish?
Which type of follower do I want to attract? The information consumer, those who want a personal relationship with me, or something in between?
How does this fit with my business goals? Example: if I run a publishing business, the “breaking news” approach makes sense. If I am a professional looking to network, the relationship approach makes sense. With all degrees of variation in between….
Hmmm…never thought about this topic before. I’m the personal/hybrid account but see how these go into play.
Great article. I have contemplated this over the last few weeks and I am using mine as a hybrid account at this point. As a small business owner, I felt that it is almost a necessity, but I also have some personal friends that I am connected to on Twitter. Thanks for the defined breakouts. It definitely stimulated my thinking regarding how I will use Twitter.
i take the business/personal hybrid account
Is it cheating to have more than one twitter account used for different purposes and audiences?
Pressing Reset On Social Media – Time For Segmentation
Great way to frame the strategic options. I am working with a client this morning on identifying the business value of a Twitter account, and will use this to guide our discussion.
I think it all depends. With the business accounts people need to know how to use them. I personally think twitter has been over advertised. Its not as useful for business like other sites. Again marketing wins over the actual product.
Did I miss the ’cause’ account. Check out DRCongoLight for an example or DharmaPractice or YogaofIntention.
All the best.
Great post on how to maximize the use of twitter to represent business! I truly appreciate it. Quite a “discovery” article for me.
I like connecting with individuals. If I get to know the people behind the brand then I am more likely to be more receptive to a company.
Companies are only as good as their people so might as well get to know them and their name.
What do you think about having a separate customer service account from your corporate account?
I don’t believe, that it makes much different because of type of your Twitter Account.
One thing that I think that is also important to note is the vital need for “branding” the account. Not as important as what’s being said, however, it is important that the background and avatar really convey the “type” of account it is. I’ve seen several “Business Owner” accounts that are branded “for” the business but are simply personal tweets from a CEO etc. If you’re not graphically inclined and need help creating a background that will work, check out background sites such as http://www.TwitterGrounds.com to help you get the background that will adequately display what you want to convey with your Twitter account! Happy Tweeting!
I agree with JP Jones in that you need to make your twitter page as appealing as possible, especially if you’re a business owner. The make money online community has some sterling examples of what you can do with your twitter homepage. What you’re going to tweet that is of significant value to your audience is another matter altogether though.
I want to set up a hybrid twitter account but I’m not sure where to start. I set up a twitter account but was never asked what type of account i wanted to set up so i’m sure it’s not a hybrid… pls help.
Hi i am a textileshop owner
Does anyone know how to transfer a personal account to a business account without losing followers and tweets etc?
Thank you in advance!
I have a twitter account but now I want a account for my start-up organization. I want to use the character account like the Syrup, Mrs. Butterworth. How do I start this account and how much will it cost me? I would appreciate if someone could get back to me asap.
Hmm…of the ones you’ve listed, I think the closest I’m to is the hybrid account. As an artist, I mostly use my twitter account to be my creative self, but I also sometimes use it to promote certain things that I do, like one of my FB pages or a video I’m in or somewhere I’m performing.
Lisa you say it is easy to sign up for a Twitter account; well it seems that it is easy to sign up for a personal Twitter account but where and how do I sign up for the Totally Corporate Account? I have searched for several hours on Twitter and can’t find instructions; I have asked several people and groups and not received a response. No matter how much I search I cannot find a way to sign up for anything other than a personal account. I have even sent this question to Twitter advertising and they haven’t answered me.