Mashable says brands don’t belong on Twitter

December 15, 2008

Mashable sparked an interesting debate on Friday when Dr Mark Drapeau made the bold statement that Twitter should ban brands from the site.  In the post “Do Brands Belong on Twitter”, Drapeau stated that:

Thinking about what might be best for people, in my opinion Twitter should not only not charge brands for membership, but also ban them altogether. Not unlike Facebook and other sites, every account would represent a person using a real name, location, and picture.

Drapeau explains his stance by arguing that a brand must have a person behind it:

Twitter is about people sharing information with other people. So how do one-dimensional organizational brands fit into this mix? When you really think about it, they don’t. As an analogy, when you call customer service, a human answers the phone (eventually) and tells you their name – and you’re not talking to “Sprint” or “Dell” but rather “Steve” or “Danny.”

Now while I completely disagree with that statement that Twitter should “ban brands altogether”, I do see the rationale that Twitter is about sharing information with other people.  I actually think the brands doing Social Media right are the ones that base their strategy off of this simple point.  If you just throw up your brand logo on Twitter (or any Social Media platform) and expect to have a conversation with consumers, you are doing it all wrong.  You are just trying to act the easy way out with one-way communication.

Brands belong in Social Media, but you need to humanize the brand

On the same day that Mashable said brands should be banned, the folks at iMedia highlighted “How to be a Twitter All-Star.”  Focused on brands like Flying Dog Brewery, Zappos and Southwest Airlines, the article proves the point that brands can enjoy great success on Twitter or any other Social Media platform.  But doing so requires them to humanize the brand by putting a person behind the logo.  And requires them to work with a different set of rules.

Christi Day, the Social Media face for Southwest Airlines, explained their approach as follows:

“Twitter empowers us to be authentic.  Getting real means being empowered, engaged and prepared. It is necessary to have the person in the Twitter role equipped to handle news management, customer communications, to be able to write compelling tweets and be willing to be engaged at all times.”

Let’s face it, this isn’t the type of marketing approach that most Brand Managers are use to.  But Twitter is just the latest technology to force us to think about change in our jobs.  If you haven’t sat down and thought about the impact of Social Media on your brand (and your career), maybe it is time you did.

NOTE:  Michael Brito from Intel joined in on the discussion with a great post on why brands do belong on Twitter.

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How Should Brand Managers Think About Twitter?

June 25, 2008

I have been meaning to write about Twitter for awhile now, but every time I got around to it, the site seemed to be experiencing either extreme fandom (like around SXSW) or extreme hatred (with all the site outages).  Well it seems like things have calmed down a bit at the moment so I was finally about to put my thoughts together.

Let’s start with a little Twitter 101

Now first, if you haven’t heard about Twitter yet, David Armano provides my favorite summaries with the two below graphics about the service (click for larger images):

Now with Twitter 101 out of the way, the real question is why should you as a Brand Manager care about Twitter.  I’ll be the first to admit that I held off embracing Twitter for awhile.  I just couldn’t see the value of a service that was about listening to updates on what my friends were doing.  But I ever since I caved in a couple of months ago, I have been a true Twitter fan and advocate for why it matters for marketers.

Twitter is about conversations

For me, I have found Twitter to have three big values for marketers.  They are: 1.) Customer Service/Community Management, 2.) Consumer Research, and 3.) Personal Learning.

Customer Service/Community Management:

Some of the smartest people in the industry are talking about why Customer Service is the new marketing and I couldn’t agree more.  After all, as the title of Blackshaw’s new book says “Satisfied Customers Tell 3 Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.”  What is great about Twitter is that it can put this customer service in the hands of the Brand Manager without you having to go through your Customer Service Department.  Zappos is an amazing example of this as their CEO and almost 200 other employees are on Twitter, monitoring the community around the brand.  The powerful of this is that consumers know they can engage directly with management AND employees can actively monitor any mentions of the brand.  This can create some remarkable customer service stories, all because of using Twitter to directly connect with people.  Brands like Jet Blue, and H&R Block understand this…so have you checked if your brand’s Twitter name is available?

Consumer Research:

The power of monitoring conversations is the consumer research that you can find in the every day conversations.  Sometimes this will lead to Customer Service/Community Management opportunities like the above.  But just as often, the conversations will be able to serve as your own mini-focus groups.  Through a site like Summize, you can plug in your brand name and get alerts whenever a person mentions it in Twitter.  Likewise, if your Twitter brand has enough followers, you can start using it for proactive consumer research, asking polls and questions of the audience to help influence your decision.  You could instantly tap into the collective wisdom of your biggest brand fans to help influence decisions.  Talk about cultivating a powerful relationship with your users.

Personal Learning:

Finally, Twitter creates an amazing personal learning opportunity for marketers and brand managers.  Every day we are nose to the grindstone in delivering the business.  We are running from meeting to meeting, worrying about shipping the next case or getting a qualified copy score.  This unfortunately can leave little time for personal learning besides the occassional reading of BrandWeek or AdAge.  There are tons of conferences we would love to go to but little time and travel budget holds us back.  The beauty of Twitter is that these don’t need to be barriers to your personal learning any longer.   Through hashtags you can monitor anyone on Twitter who is talking about a conference, be it SXSW, Mix08 or TED.  Or some innovative conferences (like Chicago New Media Summit) are even creating their own Twitter profiles.  This allows you to monitor the entire conversation around a conference from the comfort of your office.  This is how I experienced the Resource Interactive iCitizen conference this past May and it was truly great.  You are able to listen to the conversations, find out which speeches were worthwhile and then download the presentations on  Talk about convenience of personal learning on your own time.

So those are my three reasons why Twitter should matter to a Brand Manager today.  What do you think?  What would you add to the list?

Building Brands Through Community

May 12, 2008

Brian Morrissey over at Ad Week wrote a great article on “Building Brand Through Community.”  In it he talks about how companies like Zappos, Yelp, and Etsy have built their brands through the power of their users instead of relying on massive advertising spends.  What makes the article so informative is that Morrissey talks as someone who understands New Media.  The reason is that Morrissey is a writer that really gets the new world of journalism.  For instance, he is extremely active on Twitter, bringing a transparent view to how goes about story writing.

Now back to the article, my favorite quote comes from Tony Hsieh, CEO of, who says:

We think our brand is going to be different because we want people to feel there’s a real person they’re connecting with, whether it’s when they call us or through Twitter or any way they come in contact with us

Frankly I wish more brands would think like this, my own brands at P&G included.  Connecting with your consumers shouldn’t be scary.  It shouldnt be something that just happens in focus groups or other pre-arranged “research”.  It needs to be every day in a world where you open your brand to your community of users.  You invite them into the process and let them know a real person is behind the brand.  Customer Service needs to be one of the top marketing strategies of a brand today.

And you know the best part?  Customer Service costs nothing to do it right.  All it takes is a Brand Manager (or Assistant Brand Manager if necessary) monitoring the brand on Twitter and on blogs.  And if done right, this small investment of time will pay amazing dividends for your brand down the road.   Imagine that, something that costs nearly nothing and can result in legions of loyal brand advocates.  Show me a TV or Print ad that can accomplish that.

Weekly Round-Up: 5-2-2008

May 2, 2008

Busy week and slow posting but here are some blog postings that caught my eye:

Microsoft makes things right

March 24, 2008

So apparently I am little slow on picking this up, but xbox 360 bottomI heard about the story of Nathaniel, a passionate Xbox gamer who suffered a serious loss when he sent his Xbox 360 into Microsoft for repair.  You can read the whole story here, including the amazing response by Bungie Studios (Makers of Halo) and the equally cool response by Microsoft.  The short of it is that Microsoft suffered a major breakdown in Customer Service 101 by making a promise and then not living it up to it.  However, thanks to the power of blogs and the connected economy, they redeemed themselves and then some.

Now this story really rang true to me because of my own bad experience with Microsoft customer support.  Read the rest of this entry »