Do Brands belong on Twitter?

twitter-logojpg1As Twitter slowly creeps into the mainstream consciousness, helped by high profile users such as Stephen Fry, MC Hammer and John Cleese,  there has been more discussion about whether brands belong on the platform , although some seem to be doing very well out of having a corporate twitter persona.

Debate kicked off on Mashable with a post by Dr. Mark Drapeau, who argued the case against brand presence stating that, “while some brands do a decent job of engaging people on Twitter, many don’t, and one could further argue that brand names and logos, as opposed to full names and user images, are not in the spirit of the Twitterverse.”

The counter argument came after the weekend from Lon S Cohen who pointed out that brands can have personalities too and that the beauty of Twitter that it is completely opt in. Therefore if I don’t want to follow a brand I don’t have too and I’m perfectly at liberty to change my mind on who I follow at any time.

One corporation that has had an active presence on Twitter and seems to be reaping rewards from it is Dell, who claims that it has made over $1 million in sales by tweeting deals at its outlet store. Seth Godin questions the validity of this statement, asking if “the phone company make Dell a billion dollars? Just because people used the phone to order their Dell doesn’t mean that the phone was a marketing medium. It was a connecting medium.” Which is a slightly unfair comparison, as people aren’t ordering products over Twitter, they are responding to content which they became aware of after opting to receive it, so attributing sales to this medium is as sensible as giving ROI to a direct marketing campaign. The ability to put hard cold figures next to interaction on social media is something that is short supply, and so we shouldn’t rush to dismiss these out of hand.

It should also be appreciate that Dell uses Twitter to engage in variety of ways and has more than a dozen official twitter channels, most of which managed by a named person. This allows twitter users to really tailor how they interact with the brand, or not, which to me is the crux of whether brands should be ‘allowed’ on Twitter or not.

Brands that use Twitter as a purely broadcast platform and don’t use it as a way to hone their listening, or customer service abilities are missing the point. That means they’ll also be broadcasting their messages to almost no-one, which is pretty much what they are doing already via all sorts of more traditional marketing channels.

But that’s just my opinion, what do you think – do brands belong on Twitter?

Also posted on Clicking and Screaming

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