A few days ago, I was asked this interesting question in a meeting with a potential client. Actually, the prospect asked me if I tweet as Evolve Communications. (In case you’re wondering, I don’t. I tweet as myself.)
Up until recently, I held the belief that agencies should tweet. All the time. After all, it’s a way to establish connections, showcase work, and also establish a foundation for thought leadership (yes, I DO believe thought leadership can be accomplished in 140 characters). There’s certainly no shortage of ad agencies on Twitter.
I believed this until I attended the #140 characters conference in DC. During the panel discussion called Emergency 2.0, NPR social media strategist Andy Carvin was discussing a request for donations of food, clothing, etc. that he tweeted during the Haiti crisis. He tweeted through both his own personal account (@acarvin) as well as the NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) account. Andy has approximately 15,000 followers. NPR has close to two million followers. What happened next was fascinating.
Andy received more responses from his personal account than the tweet through the NPR account. This lead to the observation (I’m paraphrasing here) that the connection Andy has with his Twitter followers is much stronger–and possibly more powerful–than the connection between a mainstream media outlet and its followers. NPR, like many other news outlets of its stature, never interacts with its followers (to the frustration of many, I’m sure).
For all the talk of “engagement” and “conversation” that social media offers, it seems rare for mainstream media outlets to use it as such (side note: the fine people who manage the Baltimore Sun’s Twitter presence (@baltimoresun) do an excellent job of interacting with their followers on Twitter). Most of them still use it as a broadcast model.
Which brings me back to the question of whether or not an agency should tweet. After hearing Andy’s story, I say no. Let your people do it for you. They’re your best spokespeople. They’re the ones who either talk with clients every day, or produce amazing creative, or create powerful marketing strategies, or even pay the agency bills, or answer the phones. The human connection is what we are all striving for when using social media. Let people be people, I say.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a social media policy. More on that later.