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  • The Blending of Corporate and Personal Branding on Twitter

    There has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about how personal and corporate branding are starting to collide. I’m not very surprised that people are questioning personal branding as it relates to overshadowing their corporate brand.  This was all bound to happen as some point because corporate and personal brands have the same exact features on social networks and are subject to the same rules and scrutiny.  Both people, companies and products get the same standard page on social networks like Twitter.  Since a corporate brand must interact with it’s audience through people (employees), individuals have to claim, use and monitor their corporate Twitter accounts.

    Out of all the social media tools right now, Twitter is not only the hottest one, but the one with the most business uses.  For instance, it can be used for customer service, for PR and for lead generation.  After much discussion, today I want to analyze how companies are using Twitter and try and figure out how personal and corporate brands can function together on the service.

    How corporate and personal brands use Twittersodexotwitter

    • Corporate branding: Brands like GoDaddy and Comcast are using Twitter as a customer service vehicle.  When customers are having issues with their service, they just use the “@” sign and the corporate Twitter handle to complain, which is answered by a person behind those accounts.  This is a good system for people who hate calling for support, especially if they’re already on Twitter.  Then there is Sodexo (and EMC does this too), who promotes their employer brand and offers jobs through Twitter.  There are also companies that are using Twitter to just republish or “push” out articles, such as the NY Times and WSJ.  There are even some companies that are using accounts just for products or product launches.
    • Personal branding: People have many uses for Twitter, depending on who they are, what they’re associated with and their role in society. For instance, Jimmy Fallon uses Twitter to promote his new late night TV show, while MC Hammer uses it to promote Dancejam.com, his dance video site.  Then there’s P Diddy, who uses it because he has the biggest ego on this planet and craves the attention.  There are those who are looking to promote themselves to become micro-celebrities and others who are either supporting their company, their consulting business or are just plain doing it for fun (social reasons).

    4 top examples analyzed

    I did a quick scrape of the Twittersphere to find four great examples to show you the mix of personal and corporate brands on Twitter.  Please remember that everyone is still experimenting, including me, so this is just something to think about and ponder.

    twitterbranding2

    • Scott Monty / Ford – Scott uses his personal brand name as his account for Ford.  I know he has other accounts with Ford brand names, but his primary one is his own name.  The good thing about this approach is that people in the social media world already know Scott Monty and he’s done an amazing job building a community over the last however amount of years, earning his spot as the ford social media guy.  There is a major downside to this approach though that I’ve been thinking about.  Since he’s using his name, every time he gets retweeted or someone wants to communicate with him about Ford, his name is being passed on and not his companies.  Also, when he leaves Ford (he’s bound to at some point in the future, either to retire or move to a new position or company), his personal brand will transfer, but Ford will lose all that equity he’s built up on his personal Twitter account (# of followers).   I’m not saying Scott’s strategy is good or bad, but it’s certainly a good one to discuss.  He’s a friend of mine and has paved the way for most of us in this space, so I thank him.
    • Frank Eliason / Comcast – Frank is a pretty smart man to be the first person to humanize Comcast and earn insane press mentions and celebrity status for what he’s done on Twitter.  He uses the Comcast brand name in association with “cares,” which is smart because people will keep seeing that name and really think Comcast cares (even if they don’t 😉 ).  He really brands himself on the Comcast page using his picture (avatar) and bio, along with a custom page with more of his information.  The good part about this is that it feels like a real person is helping you when you have problems.  The bad part is that the account might not be successful in the future without Frank because people connect with him more than Comcast.
    • Jennifer Cisney / Kodak – Jennifer is Kodak’s chief blogger and Twitter’er.  She uses the Kodak brand name as a handle and mixes her picture with the Kodak brand name, which is a very unique way of co-branding a Twitter account.  The Kodak brand takes priority over Jennifer if you observe her background and profile, which is a good thing.  She uses the account to push out press releases, corporate news, her latest blog posts and more.  The negative aspect about this approach is that it doesn’t scale and as more and more people blog of Kodak and her role switches, this account won’t make much sense anymore.
    • EMC / Dan Schawbel – I didn’t think it was fair to analyze three other brands without scrutinizing my own.  I’ve setup, controlled and managed the EMC corporate brand on Twitter, and a few other accounts that I helped start, such as @EMCCareers and @EMCWorld.  The brand is 100% EMC corporate branding and has no signs of personal branding.  It isn’t a communication vehicle, just like the NYTimes and WSJ and others.  The original goal was to push out press releases on Twitter because the media was already on there, as well as other influencers.  In the future this may change, but for now, it doesn’t make sense for me to Tweet about EMC products because I don’t have any knowledge in that area.  I’d rather remain more anonymous because it’s a 1-way account and doesn’t need a face.  The cons are that it will take longer to grow and that it’s seen as “anti-social” in the social media world.

    Conclusion

    I can’t give you a real solution here because I don’t think anyone has figured how to personal and corporate brands can “play nice” in social media.  It really comes back to having goals set for the account before you establish it, build a list of followers and constantly get your name out there.  If you’re the corporate Twitter person, leading with the corporate brand name is extremely important, especially because you’re getting paid!  If you aren’t the corporate Twitter person in your company, but have an account, then you can do whatever you want, as long as you’re still  best representing your company.  At the end of the day, we all really need to take a second look at how we’re positioned in relation to our affiliations on social networks in general, not just Twitter.

    How are you branded on Twitter?


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    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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    8 comments on “The Blending of Corporate and Personal Branding on Twitter
    1. avatar
      EXPERT
      Tom Collins says:

      I don’t think Ford should be too concerned about Scott Monty’s personal branding depriving Ford of anything if/when he leaves. He’s brought the company a ton of brand equity precisely because his personal brand is strong enough to help people cut through the faceless corporation barrier. They connect with the human side, ask questions that matter to them, and actually listen to Ford’s “voice” when Scott responds.

      We’ve seen it before with Robert Scoble and Microsoft, which gained a lot by his efforts and did not seem to lose all that much when he left.

      A big win-win, it seems to me.

      • avatar
        EXPERT
        Dan Schawbel says:

        Tom, thanks for your comment. I look at social media profiles as assets. The number of people you have following you on Twitter is worth something and if the company can’t keep it, then they lose that value over time.

    2. avatar
      EXPERT
      Scott Monty says:

      Thanks for the mention, Dan. This is all evolving as we speak, and I’m delighted to see people discussing it.

      But this isn’t necessarily anything new; this has been the case offline for years. Let me give you a current offline example: Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally. He was hired because of his personal brand (turnaround at Boeing). Where does Mulally the person and Mulally the CEO begin and end? It’s completely intertwined. And what happens when he leaves Ford?

      The company will certainly benefit while such individuals are still there, and there needs to be succession planning to make the transition smooth when the individual and company eventually part ways. This is nothing new. We’re just applying it to online presence now.

    3. avatar
      EXPERT
      McMatt says:

      You bring up a good point Dan about corporate/brand presence crossover. Would love to have you join our convo tomorrow (3/24) with Scott around this and related topics on Sun’s Socially Speaking BlogTalkRadio at 4pmET/1pmPT http://bit.ly/mLHW

    4. avatar
      EXPERT
      Jenny Cisney says:

      Dan – great article, thanks for the mention. Good to know what we are doing right and where there are areas for improvement!

    5. avatar
      EXPERT
      yinka olaito says:

      Dan, I am of the opinion thatstart up corporate brands with strong executive personal brand should not shy away from merging the two initially until the corporate brand has builts it own credibility and can exist outside the goodwill of the entrepreneur. That is nothing bad in doing this.
      Like I said, it is my opinion and i will apprecaite others’ comment who feel otherwise. I am willing to learn

    6. avatar
      EXPERT

      Interesting article. It would be good to see how different kinds of branding compare when it comes to revenue created from this channel. It’s difficult to measure, and at the moment we only rely on the conversations we see as a measure of success on social media.

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