Lately I’ve been seeing more and more corporations moving into the twitter arena:. @oracle, @capgemini, @accenture, etc. I’ve been thinking whether this is really an appropriate usage for this technology. Many of these corporations just use their tweets to either announce blogs or use the platform as a mechanism to make PR-like announcements. This usage is probably more useful in an RSS feed. Some might say that the misuse of twitter to publicize such events is an attempt to use twitter as an aggregator for social networks and RSS feeds. Personally, I use twitter for a more personal reason – I like to see what people are doing and thinking. As I follow Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang), I like to see what he is doing (who he is visiting, etc.). Based on his tweets, you can understand how his ideas develop and you can help influence his ideas.
Of course, behind many of these corporate accounts is one or more individuals impersonating the corporation. In my opinion, this really doesn’t make any sense. A corporate account can’t tweet about a few crazy ideas about Facebook or ask you where he/she should stay in San Francisco. For me, twitter is personal – as my followers grow I can interact with these individuals on a personal basis. Interaction with a corporation at the same level is impossible.
If I want to complain about Macy’s, then an exchange of tweets with @Macys twitter user is probably going to be unsatisfying. I can exchange tweets with others in my social network about a particular product or corporation. If I want to interact with a corporation, there are better environments such as GetSatisifaction. As James Governor (@monkchips) once said, twitter must be fun.
If you want to represent your corporation in twitter, then it is probably better to personalize your account @acme_marketing for the Marketing director of Acme widgets. Still better might be a real person with a profile that links with your company. When I check the profile for this user, I’d like to see a real name of someone and an twitter avatar with a picture of a person. If users are looking for your company, they will find you via other search-related means.
If you are planning to use twitter as a corporation, be aware of the expectations that accompany its usage. Twitter is not a blog – it is a lifestream whose usage is much more intensive. Followers expect multiple tweets per day and to see that those being followed respond to interaction request by followers. Thus, it would be unexpected to see a CEO to use twitter - although this would definitely be an interesting experience.
I just found the Editorial Policy Guidance Note from the BBS regarding their presence on social networks. In this policy, it emphasizes the importance of "conversations, participate online; don’t “broadcast” messages to users". I then checked out @bbc on twitter and discovered that it is just a news feed. I don't consider this a "conversation".
I obviously see a value in corporations joining twitter but such an association must be based on the environment’s unique characteristics and not the usual assumptions that accompany traditional marketing campaigns.