Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Benefits and Challenges Twitter Poses to Brands

6,000 companies join Twitter every day, so surely someone must see the value. What are some of the benefits Twitter can offer your organization?

A Little Humanizing Goes a Long Way

Huge organizations, public and private, public servants, etc are often viewed as monoliths. While this can be good in that it portrays strength and the “this ship will never sink” attitude (insert reactions here), a little humanizing can go a long way.

Previously, CEOs and directors were protected behind layers of public relations wordsmithing, producing boilerplate content and conversations. The problem with this is because such leaders were far removed from their customers and constituents, they never really heard from the very life blood that kept them alive. And when you don’t hear from your audience, it’s hard to know what is really best for them.

All Ears

We live in an advertising age - - an age where every time we blink, products / services / opinions are flashed before our eyes with the hopes of eliciting a reaction (usually a good one). Considering that we cannot self-select our environment, we see and hear countless unwanted propositions. Twitter is self-selective. Those who are following you opted to, so you are far more likely to have an audience that is actually listening. And with nearly 9.8 million unique visitors in February, that’s a pretty good pool to fish from.

What can you do with this “all ears” audience? The list goes on and on but to name a few…engage a dialog with your customers/constituents, recruit for specific hiring positions, share ideas with people in your industry niche, keep your customers up to date, get feedback on your new initiatives (because again, your audience is far more likely to care), find potential partnerships…it's pretty endless.

So here we have some of the benefits Twitter can bring your organization. But of course it is not all rosy. What are some of the challenges?

One voice

Unlike an individual, an organization is made up of personalities all shapes and sizes. When a company or organization decides to tweet, it is inevitable the question will come up, what should we tweet about? In my experience working for different companies, maintaining a “unified voice” – with the web content, PowerPoint slide decks, letter templates has always been a challenge. While in some cases executive tweeters will be singing out their individual executive melodies, not all companies or agencies will get this level of dedication from the top and often more than one person will want to contribute.

I say pick a strategy and go for it.


Clearly, tweeting successfully on Twitter requires a level of common sense and an appropriate filter. If Whole Foods President John Mackey had tweeted "Would Whole Foods buy Wild Oats? Almost surely not at current prices" as he did on a Yahoo! Stock forum post that would have been a good example of what not to say. Other concerns arise with this with regard to employees leaking proprietary information. From this perspective, it is no wonder that, “while the Web was founded on the principle of openness, the most honored virtue among senior executives seems to be control. Most companies have elaborate programs for top-down communication, including newsletters, CEO blogs, Webcasts and broadcast e-mails. Yet few, if any, companies have opened the floodgates to grassroots opinion on critical issues." – Gary Hamel, management guru.

This is obviously a challenge. But it appears many are leaning toward the side of the benefits outweighing the possible negatives.

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