Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
November 11, 201111:10 AM

Your Name Matters

Here's a truth: I never follow anyone on Twitter whose username is the name of a company.

You may already know that I am a Twitter Snob (more on that here: The Trouble With Twitter - Confessions Of A Twitter Snob). I don't follow everybody back and while I'm fascinated with the discourse on Twitter, I don't think I'm all that good at it (see: The Value (And Waste) Of Twitter). I am constantly adding new and interesting people, but I never... repeat: never... add anybody if their username is that of a company.

Following brands.

I only follow brands I find interesting (slight corrections: brands that I am head over heels about). There are not many of them out there (only a handful) and - more often than not - I unfollow them if the majority of the content is the brand trying to perform customer service (no offense to the brands doing this, I'm just - personally - not interested in following everyone else's ordeals, etc...).

If it's you... make it about you.

It's hard to make heads or tails of who to follow when it's a company name, generic corporate logo and the majority of the tweets (while personal) are to individuals that I don't know. I can appreciate (and I'm thankful) if companies find my tweets valuable (that's the whole point of doing it in the first place), but I have no appetite for the automatic follow-back. I like to follow people. Real people. Using real names. While I understand the need to have corporate profiles or those based on non-real names, it seems like this is also a point of discourse in Google + (more on that here: Google+ Backpedals On Its Real Names Policy). Pundits discuss Social Media as being all about the "conversation." The value for me, personally, comes from the real interactions between real human beings that takes place. It also comes from great content becoming as shareable and as findable as possible. The way stuff gets shared is, usually, through real people who have developed a semblance of credibility within an established community.

Real brands get real interactions when they involve real people.

Fundamentally, this is what excites me about our new media. Yes, there's no issue/problem with a company Twitter feed of Google + business page for those customers who want to connect in a less formal way with a brand, but it's certainly not the be all or end all of the opportunities. In the end, I believe that your name matters and that great brand reflections are delivered by real people, who are using their own name with an earnest desire to connect.

When you use your own name, you are standing up for and behind something. Don't forget the value in that and the credibility it brings to building true relationships.

By Mitch Joel

Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Annie
    Mitch Joel

    By putting the name of the messenger, it ties up the employer a bit don't you think? What if they change community managers often for some reason?
    I am all for personalizing messages, tweets... having discussions, etc. But I think it depends on the company and their values.

  • Posted by William

    I've got a web design firm that I've started and have found myself making more updates via the brand than my personal account, even updates that seem irrelevant tot he business. They're not just reinforcing my product but engaging people I follow and that follow me. But, I don't find myself following brands either on my personal twitter.

    Mainly because most brands do twitter wrong and use it solely as an advertising platform and not as a way to communicate to people. They use to to communicate -at- people. Maybe if most brands took a different approach to their purpose for being on twitter, it'd be more suitable to follow them.

  • Posted by Joshua Dorkin
    Mitch Joel

    I'm a huge proponent of this -- so much so, that we don't allow users on our network to post company avatars for their profile images. I find it highly impersonal. It is hard to relate to brands unless you're an uber-fanboy -- most people just have a hard time with it. On the other hand, it is quite easy to personalize Joe from Ford or Mike from Disney.

    I do have some twitter friends who use their company logo to connect, and while I find it impersonal, I know them enough that I'm ok with it. On the other hand, when some person I don't know tries to interact and all I see is a logo, I typically put up a wall.

    Great post!

  • Posted by Danielle
    Mitch Joel

    I am the Social Media specialist at Freytag's and I am a real person. I try to voice that in most, if not all of our companies tweets, fb posts, blogs, etc. As a local, family owned business I speak for a family, a culture, a company, a city and an industry. I try to embody all of this in 140 characters tied to a name and an itty bitty picture and sometimes struggle with balancing my voice with a proffesionalism that represents our company. Short of putting my name as the account it is me behind the curtain. I believe the way I interact is personal and of service sometimes to customers and non customers alike. I like to think I am building relationships with other businessses and individuals on line. Wether they use our services or not I am happy to interact, respond, give comfort, crack jokes, share media, stories and experience with folks who might not ever discover this wonderful company. I am a proud person behind a wonderful brand and not ashamed to tell you my name! I just don't want you thinking of Danielle when you want to order flowers because you won't find me...
    I'm hoping this opens you up a little to what some companies are trying to do which is expose you to our people, values and personalities through the online communities available to us.

  • Posted by Rick Calvert
    Mitch Joel

    I am still torn on this one Mitch. Your points are all valid and if I could manage two separate twitter accounts I would, but I am just too dumb and lazy to do that.

    I know Chris Brogan completely agrees with you and two years ago we had this conversation at another event. As a result I changed my twitter avatar (my handle is @blogworld) from just our company logo to a photo of me kind of floating in an acid flashback way over our company logo 8).

    I do think that was an improvement and lets people know who choose to follow me that the tweets are really from me, but also to expect tweets about our brand / events.

    My twitter bio has always said: "Tweets from BlogWorld & New Media Expo, and its founder Rick Calvert"

    I think that is a pretty accurate description of what I tweet about. I can post photos of hikes with my dogs, or some update about the show.

    I realize the nature of our business makes me a bit of an exception but that's a larger point. Every business is unique in its own way so applying the same rule to every brand doesn't fit.

    Each of us needs to analyze why we are setting up a twitter account in the first place, what are our goals, what are we trying to achieve? Do we want to humanize our brand? Do you want to provide better customer service? Do we want to build our personal brand? Who are our customers? Are they sophisticated social users like you? or are they much more casual in their social media use and understanding of social tools?

    When you have tens of thousands of employees like Ford for example does everyone at the company need a twitter handle or should every employee's handle have their real name?

    There are millions of other reasons to set up a twitter account / handle and every brand has their own unique audience.

    Btw your post brings up another point, should we all have accounts with our real name regardless of our job / brand goals?

  • I'm WITH you Mitch, 100%. Isn't SOCIAL media about being SOCIAL. I don't socialize with brands.

    Yes, I follow my beloved Starbucks, but I can't think of another Brand I follow.

    Look at Scott Monty if you want to know how it's done... and yes, Ford is at his mercy, but if Social Media is about PEOPLE, and your company understands that... they'll know why people have to do their social media.

  • Posted by Kevin Behringer
    Mitch Joel

    I completely agree. This goes hand in hand with the ubiquity of the statement, " Like us on Facebook!" Everywhere you look - billboards, signs, websites, print ads, tv ads, everywhere, companies are telling us to like them on Facebook, but only a handful actually go to the important next step of telling us why we should.

    I think one reason that they don't personalize their efforts is that a) they don't want to tie their efforts to an employee that may leave or b) no employees want their personal brand tied to the company. It takes a special company to inspire people wihtin the organization to be so tied to the company that they become that company in social media.

    I don't know what the solution is, but it certainly isn't working the way it is right now.


  • Posted by Mark W Schaefer
    Mitch Joel

    Stop the presses. We agree.

    I am quite passionate about this idea and try to teach about this concept in my lectures and classes. Social media allows us to humanize our organizations and it just a bit difficult to creatwe an emotional attachment to a logo. Or a picture of a building. Or a delivery truck!

    Thanks for the great post Mitch!

  • Posted by Kimmo Linkama
    Mitch Joel

    "The value for me, personally, comes from the real interactions between real human beings that takes place."

    Okay, that's a good principle. Somehow it disturbs me, though, that it's now nearly 36 hours after the first comment, and the writer hasn't found it "valuable" to "interact" with any of the "real people" voicing their opinions here.

  • Posted by Kimmo Linkama
    Mitch Joel

    Hey, nice to see you here! No, not reply to every comment, but show up in discussions so commenters don't have to just talk to each other. Oh... but you just did that! Thanks.

  • Mitch Joel

    I completely agree and so my question is how do you get your Csuite to see this point?

    I have tried to get this changed but they have said for brand integrity they did not want to use my name or picture.

  • Posted by Jan McCourt
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting idea, but wrong! The key must be to prove that there is a real person behind the brand. Twitter represents a low cost vehicle that can really help small businesses a chance to compete with big brands. To say that such small businesses should not use their business names in identifying themselves is to neutralise one of the really great examples of the power of Twitter.

  • Posted by Company Name
    Mitch Joel

    WITH you Mitch,. Isn't SOCIAL media.

    Yes, I follow my beloved Starbucks, but I can't think of another Brand I follow.

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