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December 23, 2008


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Matthew Gilbert

The key to the success of an organization on Twitter is personalization (the "at" factor as you mentioned).

Companies that ignore the need to directly and personally engage their customers just don't "get" the current 2.0 landscape.

Using Twitter to market in the same old impersonal and shotgun approach way is a misuse of the technology. It would be like upgrading your transportation from a car to a private jet, only to drive the jet down the road instead of leveraging its full potential.

My philosophy is that an organization is a collection of individuals making individual choices, and to be successful an organization will represent itself that way to the public.

To quote a recent tweet from @shelisrael that echoes this idea: "Social media to [m]e is about the humanization of companies."

Twitter only works as a peer to peer platform - not a company to peer platform. Organizations (and even some individuals) that don't approach Twitter in this way will eventually be ostracized by the community via a technical version of natural selection.

I call this the "@" factor which is similar in name to the "AT" factor, above, but references how often that Twitter user can be seen replying to others on his/her profile page.

Ron Miller

I think to a certain extent Twitter did this when they cleaned up Spam accounts last week. I woke up to find myself with substantially fewer followers.

At first I thought perhaps I offended some of my followers, then I learned via some good people on Twitter what had happened.

I think that accounts like the Acne one you referenced will be removed because it's perceived as Spam, but also keep in mind you have the power to block followers you don't want following you by clicking the Block button in the follower's profile.

One of many great aspects of Twitter is that you as the user have control over who you follow and who follows you, so feel free to use that Block button against spammers. They'll get the message.

Ron Miller
By Ron Miller Blog


I think the Acne feed got exactly what it wanted from it following you. You wrote about it. I see this quite regularly, with product and association twitter accounts following me, not because I may find them useful but because I could publicise them

David Meerman Scott

Rachel, you're absolutely right. I had thought about that -- here I am sending the Acne people some link love. But I thought it was too good an example to ignore.

Matthew and Ron, thanks for jumping in.

David Esrati

Twitter is entirely opt-in, so why shouldn't a company like Dell use it to announce deals at their outlet- and how different is that from you announcing your blog posts?
You're just a corporation of one- looking for a piece of attention.
The key is if the tweets offer the follower something of value for free.
I follow you because I learn something of value from your tweets- not for any other reason.
However I don't expect to see any backlash at all- as long as
"the corporate account" isn't doing auto tweeting- they still have a live person at the other end of the keyboard.

Randy - 1429 Creative

So even though the handle is impersonal, as long as the tweets are personal, it's OK? I follow our local (and very nat'l) paper: @dallas_news but there seems to be a live person behind the tweets. It's the impersonal feeds that I get that drive me crazy - you can tell they are robotic. You're dogmatic statement "Twitter is not an advertising tool" was surprising. I think I understand it. It's more about community building - relationships. Coffee shop/bar like mentality, right? Those are not places for relentless, impersonal self-promotion. But Twitter can be used to bring attention to a new service, idea, promotion, etc...right?

Dianna Huff

I agree with Randy. I like the corporate accounts that have people behind them, such as @HubSpot and @comcastcares.

Ron Mlller

I think intent is important here. The examples that David and Randy cite are quite different from what David writes about.

I follow several news feeds and I follow several retailer daily specials such as Amazon's, but I'm following them because I choose to and because the offer a valuable service--news and bargains--that interest me.

That's very different from some random company I don't care about following me. Let's face it, Acne chose David, not because he is likely interested in them, but more likely based on his number of followers. It's a different dynamic.

Of course, there are people behind every tweet, but the beauty of Twitter is not marketing to random people, it's the fact it humanizes people by letting you see there is more to them than their professional selves.

Corporations have a role to play here, but they have to learn how to play or get blocked (or removed by Twitter itself.

Ron Miller
By Ron Miller Blog

David Meerman Scott

Randy, the coffee shop / bar analogy is a good one. If you walk into a bar and shout "BUY MY PRODUCT" you don't get very far. But if you walk into a bar and make a friend and say "I'm in the real estate business" they may choose to learn more.

April Jones

I think Ron Miller nailed it with this comment: That's very different from some random company I don't care about following me. Let's face it, Acne chose David, not because he is likely interested in them, but more likely based on his number of followers. It's a different dynamic.

I get some strange followers sometime and it makes me wonder what I've said in one of my tweets for them to think I am part of their target market. The acne account is one. I also get a lot of real estate people from Arizona which is odd because I don't own a home, I don't talk about mortgages or relocating to Arizona. My favorite one, though, was some Twitter account that is about nothing more than periods. Yes, as in menstrual. Why??

But as Ron Miller said, those are different than the two local newspapers I follow or the Yahoo Buzz and Today Show accounts. but then again, those are more about receiving information and although I'm sure they wouldn't object to me buying their newspaper or watching their show, that isn't their main goal of using Twitter. Or if it is, they aren't obvious about it.

Russ Somers

Good post, David - I see many more 'spam' accounts than there were a year ago.

I don't know that we need to call on marketers to stop abusing Twitter, though. It seems to me that Twitter is robust against spam in a way that email, facebook, etc are not. Sure, you can follow me as @buymystuff or @clickmyjunk. But unless I follow you back, I won't see your spam. Is a spam message spam if nobody's following to read it?

Doug - Velocity, B2B Marketing Agency

Marketers find a way to use -- and then to abuse -- every new medium.

The latter gives marketing a bad name.

Aaron Stannard

I don't think there's anything wrong with a company being on Twitter using it's company name; I just don't think that companies should use those accounts to try to create reciprocal "follows" as a means to spam people.

I manage my own company's twitter account which we use primarily as a syndication mechanism for our content marketing, and I promote our twitter handle at the bottom of all of our blog posts. Perhaps once our following gets larger we might use it as a conversation piece with our customers, although we already have a growing forum/blog which handles much of that already.

Hazel Grace Dircksen

I think it's pretty simple really. As some of the other readers have pointed out, Twitter is opt in, so if people don't opt in to follow brands that have no personality or are Tweeting junk, the business will either change how they are using Twitter and start to add more value or they will give up and stop using it, either way is fine by me... I ran into Evan the day after the first Mashable article came out and he completely confirmed these thoughts. Brands should be on Twitter. Anyone should be on Twitter. It's up to us who we choose to follow no one is twisting our arms.

Also, it's actually kind of a nice to have the transparency of Twitter to see what marketers are doing (and size yourself up against competition!)… if I were a business about to hire a marketer, I would certainly check their Twitter feed to help me determine whether their style was in line with the image I want for my company.

Hazel Grace


I believe what we are seeing is different companies using a new tool in an old way.

I've had many new followers who are "selling" their product, service, business or whatever... and it is clear to see that they simply don't know how Twitter works. They see it as just another billboard to post their message.

They haven't taken the time to listen and see how other in their niche are using Twitter. They need to take the time to see what others are doing and more importantly what is working and what is not.

I also think there is another underlining problem that businesses/nonprofits have with twitter - is that they don't know how to engage their followers.

Its easy to beacon your message, but what happens when you start getting flooded with questions and comments.

Perhaps this is a step that should have been considered before starting a Twitter campaign - but many may have gotten trapped with just how fast twitter works.

Andrew Brown

Strongly agree with your article but I think sending them to hubspot works against your article because they don't know how to use twitter properly themselves.

I had to stop following hubspot users from my twitter because all they did was spam retweets and rarely interacted with me.


I get few enough "(person) is following you" that they're easy to keep up on and I simply click through to the profile page. If it's a person sometimes I'll follow. But recently I had product site follow me, and I simply blocked them.

Twitter's opt-in on BOTH ends - you choose to follow someone or not AND you can choose to let someone follow you or not. The latter's an important and underemphasized feature.


Having 2 Twitter accounts myself I understand and agree to what you are saying. I have my personal account, and the account I manage for my web start-up. I have no problem following a company, but enjoy when they are a person and communicate with me, not at me. That is something I try to do as well for my site's account. I treat it as if it were a personal account, just it has the logo instead of a picture of me. A lot of people have issues with that, because it's a logo. I don't and don't think people should as long as the person is a human.

Jon Silvers

People follow individuals because they want variety and personal conversations. People follow official company Twitter accounts, I think, because they want updates about that company. I think the division is pretty clear.

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Chris Selland

Why does having a brand following YOU bother you? Are you claiming you have a close personal relationship with the other 4,345 followers that have you 'way off to the right'?

If a marketer - or a person - is irritating on Twitter it's very simple to stop following them. If they do a good job they'll get followed. If not, they won't. What's the problem and where's the 'abuse'?

Too many Twitters are causing their own problems by following silly reciprocal following 'rules'. I only follow people (and yes, some brands/marketers) who a)I know or b)provide value. Whether they follow me back is nice but really not important to me.

Sorry for the tone but seems to me you're creating an issue where none exists.

Lester Smith

In general, I'd agree: Twitter should be for people, it's not the place for olde-tyme marketing. But to say Twitter accounts should never be for inanimate objects misses the charm of Tweets from the Martian Land Rover, for instance. I don't want to hear from a member of the team; I wan't to follow the Rover itself. By the same token, there are companies I want to follow as companies, not as joe@companyX.


Great thread...I'm in the process of deciding how to advocate my companies' creation of a corporate twitter account. The two models I see (and confirmed by this thread): 1. push stuff out, follow no one or 2. push stuff out and follow (just about) everyone back (preferred). Both call for pushing stuff out - stuff old school does well. However, the difference comes in the resources required to manage scenario 2 in the real-time twitter world. I'm watching Starbucks and how they handle their traffic, both ways.

We've just had layoffs, and just for giggles, it might be fun to watch the face of the old-school CFO when I argue for a headcount to manage essentially 'customer services responses' to something call "Twitter". Still on the fence with this one...

Shannon Paul

David, thanks for the post -- you raise some interesting points and the comments here are great!

I'm curious to know what your thoughts are around pro sports teams using Twitter. I recently started a Twitter account for the Detroit Red Wings, but I still use my personal Twitter account when appropriate to communicate with fans of the team and hockey in general. Originally, I started the team account as a means of creating a profile that would link to the team's blog, but also so I could tweet live game updates from without annoying my other followers who may not be as interested in this kind of communication.

Integrating social media into a sports organization offers a lot of opportunities to learn lessons that counter the conventional thinking on the matter since fans of pro sports seem to be a lot hungrier for traditional marketing messages than is the case with most businesses. I would love to hear your thoughts on the this -- I know you've worked with the Islanders in the past and believe I'm sure I could learn a lot from your perspective and experience.

David Meerman Scott

Hi Shannon, Thanks for stopping by.

I've actually modified my thinking a bit as a result of the feedback in the comments on this post.

I now think that for a situation like yours, many Red Wings fans would love to follow the team on Twitter. That feed could include things like team news, updates, real-time final game scores and the like. In the off season it could include trades and the draft. I'm all for that kind of use of Twitter.

What I wouldn't recommend is, say, randomly following everyone on Twitter in Detroit. That's crossing the line in my opinion.

On your personal Twitter feed, you can give an insider's perspective. What's the deal on things that fans rarely see?

Take care, David

Jim Kukral

I don't understand what harm/bother it is to you if some corporation/marketer follows you? You're under no obligation to follow them back, so don't.

This is a non-issue, no? There are no rules, let's stop pretending we can make them up?

C. Edward Brice


I would say that there are good tweets from companies that position their brand front and center. It’s the goal in which they start the twitter feed that really differentiates the quality of conversation and feed itself.

I started a branded twitter feed for my company Lumension Security a few months ago where our goal is to build a community of IT Security professionals. We strive to provide value added content on our twitter feed including syndication of industry news, blog posts and even exclusive research that we made available first on Twitter.
Our goal is not to provide purely promotional marketing and sales content or news only on all things Lumension.

We promote our twitter feed across other syndication channels as a way to converse with us directly and have even started an experimental service twitter feed to enable our customers to connect directly with our support team.

To this end I find the Cisco Security tweet, and the various analysts and other IT security related twitter feeds to be of high value, all of which are company branded.

I don’t believe there will be a “backlash” against branded feeds as the platform is entirely opt in. I do believe that twitter will look to leverage advertising and perhaps a enterprise platform for micro blogging that they may charge for.

The reality is that twitter must pay for the platform and while social media is great for conversation, conversation doesn’t pay the bills for the data and server centers.


You said it yourself. 70% of Twitter users are new to the site. As someone who is from the other 30% I can't tell you how tired I am of people telling me how to use Twitter... Newsflash Twitter IS a tool! It's a tool for advertising, communication, having conversations, sharing news, and yes, being silly!
Furthermore, Twitter is NOT a community. No matter how many times people try to make it into one, it simply isn't. Sure, you can make friends here, but you can make friends while in line at the grocery store too, does that make the grocery store an Elk's club?

i have a personal Twitter account for shenanigans and I have one for the organization I work for. Through my organization's Twitter account, I have established a fantastic one-to-one relationship with our members and clientele... and yes, I do advertise.... and so does everyone else! Anything on Twitter that does not fall under the realm of what someone is eating for lunch is basically an advertisement and furthermore, my followers understand that "advertisement tweets" are part of what I have to do to justify our presence there.

Sorry. Don't mean to sound as if I'm going off on you. I'm just tired of people telling me how to use Twitter, then telling me it's not a tool.

Besides, some of the most creative Twitter accounts come from the advertisers (like the entire cast of "Big Bang Theory" and "Ad Men" being on Twitter as their characters... yup! Advertising.)

What really bums me out is that as more and more people try to make their mark by defining what Twitter should be to the masses, we loose the quirky, charming people who really made the Twitterverse unique and FUN!

Yes... @TweetJeebus, I'm talking to you.

Simon T Small

Twitter can be used for so many purposes, selling product is just one of them.

Corporate accounts have their place, if used correctly, however need a person behind them.

One example in Australia, BigPond (largest internet service provider) are using it to provide customer service, and it works a charm!

There are so many outcomes that Twitter can achieve, I use mine for market research and monitoring news, along with building relationships and self promotion.


I agree, i have stopped following some companies on Twitter due to constant irrelevant feeds

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