How To Use a Company Twitter Account

Twitter now has mainstream awareness.

When Entertainment Tonight is doing segments with Biz Stone and Ellen and Diddy are spending couch time talking Twitter – it’s mainstream.

So just as Second Life had a big influx of brands when it gained momentum, so now does Twitter have the onslaught of corporate accounts and brands joining the herd.

It’s important for corporate brands and companies to be on Twitter, but the voice you use for that account is crucial.

Too many announcements and you’re just a broadcaster spewing the message without engaging in the conversation. Too personal and you might end up colouring outside the lines and damaging the brand.

There’s a sweet spot where you can engage the audience, yet manage to keep an arm’s length from being too personal.

Here are some examples of those doing it wrong, and those doing it right.


Optimum PR engaged in opinion and used expletives in a couple of exchanges last week. This painted the entire company with the opinions and aggressive approach instead of just one employee.



When radio station CKNW first entered the Twitter community, they spam followed as many Vancouver twitterers as possible. Their account is maxed at following 2000 people while only having 1700 followers. The moment someone followed back, they unfollowed trying to quickly build up a database. This was mostly seen as offside by the Twitter community.

Since then, the account has been used to just stream headlines and not engage in the audience or the conversation. This is a bit of a grey area, the radio station is about news headlines, so that’s true to the brand, but some conversation and a more honest approach to growth would have served the brand better.


Starbucks‘ Twitter account is perhaps the most perfect example of how a company can Twitter. It’s active in responding to questions, it monitors the stream to interact with comments about the company and pushes out relevant information about the company without making press releases the only reason for having an account.


This whole discussion came up after a conversation I had with @cbcvancouver. Which felt very odd and unnatural to me. I wasn’t having a conversation with Ian or Gloria or Shane, I was having a conversation with the brand. Yet the language and voice the brand used was very personal.

The account asked me why I felt it weird, that they were trying to engage in the process and make it more personal and conversational.


If you’re going to have just one person manage the brand account, that person needs to remember they’re speaking as the brand, not as themselves. The language, style and interaction of that Twitter communication needs to be true to the message the brand tries to convey.

One of the best at staying on message is Southwest Air‘s Twitter account.



If you want to have one account for the company, that is managed by many different people, try signing your tweets.

Here’s how Ryan Seacrest and his team handle the account.


CBC’s technology show, Spark, uses a plug in called CoTweet to manage the account and insert individual signatures.


The Twitter accounts of brands should be used to spread the brand message, listen in on the conversation about the brand and join the conversation where applicable. To interject with opinion and statements starting with “I …” doesn’t suit the brand dynamic of a corporate Twitter account.



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  1. March 13, 2009

    Great post. For corporate tweeters, the hardest thing seems to be finding the early balance of, knowing that you have something to contribute to the twitterverse, but not pushing or creating the perception that you are pushing your own brand or product.

    The problem is that this requires ;

    – patience – most companies are trying to get there fast and struggle with the urge to wait for the pull instead of pushing
    – honesty – a small perceivable gap between who you are and you intentions and the reality that comes through in your tweet stream
    – consistency – something thats hard to acheive if you have multiple people communicating from one twitter account

  2. March 13, 2009

    Great examples Buzz. Companies are feeling their way around Twitter, some with more success than others. I like the practice of identifying the person (or several people) updating the corporate Twitter profile. That may not work if there are a number of people involved but helps to remove that layer of corporate anonymity when it does work.
    And as you point out, companies are putting out an impression with their Twitter updates and they have to remember once it’s out there, they can’t take it back.

  3. March 13, 2009

    Great article. I agree that the whole twitter experience is meant to be informative and engaging at the same time. Spam following not only hurts the brand, but also cannot build a solid readership (followers), likened to RSS subscribers. Paul Taylor’s points suffice as corrective action.

    Any thoughts for smaller outfits that want to use twitter? For example, a cafe or art shop downtown. Obtaining geographically relevant followers is the most important, but are there advantages for promoting to distant areas?

  4. March 16, 2009

    Surprised you didn’t include Zappos – they use twitter in an amazing way, 9/10ths of the company is using it, and they handle some customer service through twitter.

    simply brilliant.

  5. March 16, 2009

    Yes, @Zappos is brilliant.

    @Comcastcares is also a good example of an early leader in being genuine and authentic on Twitter.

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