Lifting the lid on Twitter’s big taboo

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I recently read with alarm in the Wall Street Journal about the truly distressing plight of increasing numbers of marketing executives:

Melanie Notkin, founder of SavvyAuntie.com Inc. says: “I can’t ignore them,” Ms. Notkin says of her more than 19,800 Twitter followers. As a small-business owner, Ms. Notkin says she doesn’t take long vacations. But even on a weekend at the beach, she warns those around her of her need to check her phone.

“We need to appear active,” Douglas Quint, co-founder of Big Gay Ice Cream, says. “We want to appear in people’s Twitter feeds once or twice a day.”

On the eve of her trip to the Southwest, Eva Chen, beauty director at Teen Vogue, sent a tweet: “Huzzah! I’m officially on vacation!” Over the next five days, while driving through Arizona, she tweeted more than 120 times, checked-in more than a dozen times on Foursquare and posted more than 30 photos to Instagram.

In the case of the prolific Ms Chen, she may as well on be on vacation at all . . . . . . 120 tweets in 5 days; in addition to the Instagram posts and Foursquare check-ins. It sounds rather like a day in the office to me!

The need to ‘carry the brand’ throughout their waking moments has forced these executives to – literally – become slaves to Twitter. According to the WSJ: “the most compelling social-media handles, whether a brand, a small business or a person inside a larger organization, usually are the work of one individual, with a unique personality and voice . . .”

I’m all in favour of living the brand, but encapsulating into the identity of a single person has its downside. Quite apart from the risk to brand equity (and followers) should a ‘power Tweeter’ leave the organization, I wonder how genuinely authentic such communications can really be. Most people do not see the World the optic of a single brand, experiences are made up of a variety of insights, prejudices, tastes, opinions and loyalties; some of them rational many of them completely irrational.

In fact, that’s what makes Twitter so engaging – people share literally what’s on their mind, what excites, stimulates, amuses, annoys and means something to them. Twitter enables me to catch up on the state of the European bond market (http://t.co/LsrIeekH) and check out the Onion’s latest take on Jennifer Aniston’s new beau (http://t.co/gyxBOD53) in many cases retweeted from the same person! Twitter becomes far less compelling if we see a corporate agenda crudely concealed behind the feed; worst of all it becomes predictable.

Returning to Twitter’s modern slaves, I would encourage them to – literally – get out more, experience life, feelings, emotions, doubt, uncertainty . . . and express them online through a personal account. They are sure to find life outside the brand liberating . . . . or at least their friends and family might appreciate it.

WSJ again:

‘For most heavy tweeters, it isn’t a burden, or even a work obligation, to stay “on brand” and connected. It’s a choice. “I don’t find it to be an intrusion of my vacation,” says Aliza Licht, senior vice president of global communications for Donna Karan Co., who has amassed more than 413,600 followers on her @DKNY Twitter handle.

More revealingly she adds that she also checks work email while on vacation. “It’s not comfortable for me, my personality, to be away,” she says. Her husband and young children are “accepting” of her social-media connectivity, she says. Sometimes her husband suggests tweets.’

“Accepting” of her tweeting . . . sometimes her husband even suggests tweets . . . . ?!” Hmm I’m not sure I’m convinced. When I had the temerity to pick up the BlackBerry during a recent vacation to share an amusing story about a head of state suggesting that hitting a rugby referee with a rock could be justified ‘under certain circumstances’ (http://t.co/zhm3HOLd), my wife’s reaction could hardly be described as ‘brand compliant’ (unless the brand in question included surgery without anesthetic in its portfolio). Her perspective is that vacations are there for a purpose and that purpose does not include work (which she associated with my picking up the BlackBerry).

I believe that she is right – but in more ways than she realizes. For brands and brand ambassadors to be credible they need to reflect multiple experiences, opinions, points of view, insights . . . . most of all they need to include some element of spontaneity and surprise. A brand ambassador who never removes the corporate avatar from his or her online musings is missing out and . . . . ultimately, doing the brand in question a disservice.

So power tweeters of the world, use this summer’s vacations to remove the chains of brand compliance and express yourselves! United, we can put an end to this modern form of slavery!

Let me know what you think!

Post by: Roger Darashah

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