Question 78 of 365: Should your brand be a person?

Question 78 of 365: Should your brand be a person?

The is no lack of branding going on in the twittersphere or on any of the social networks that have built huge organization promotion services (Yelp, FourSquare, Facebook). Once a company or non-profit has seen potential to get more eyeballs on their product, they have launched head first into the arena. It is just unfortunate that so many of them have no idea what they are doing.

It has become an expectation on any webpage to see your affiliate Facebook or twitter presence mentioned. It has become even more of an expectation that people will be talking about your brand on those services. So, the logic goes that if you put up a twitter account, a blog or a facebook page, you have secured your right to guide the conversation and (hopefully) the people to your corner of the internet.

And yet, I see mostly this:

Bob Mickus (delizios) on Twitter
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

When, I should be seeing mostly this:

Smashburger Boulder (SmashburgerBLD) on Twitter
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

The Difference I see is that restaurant highlighted in the first image opened without a person behind the brand (2299 W. Littleton Blvd, Littleton, Co by the way… awesome coffee shop and wine bar) and the second opened with huge fanfare from the twitterati of Boulder, Co. There were nothing but people (and burgers, I suppose) behind this brand. They give away food because of twitter, they have conversations with others because of twitter. They have even gotten other people to take photos and post them on twitter, just because they have engaged the audience with people, instead of merely products.

It just isn’t enough to have a Facebook page or Twitter account, you actually have to have a real person behind it. There needs to be a man (or woman) behind the curtain if you are going to be the great and powerful Wizard. And you need to go out and have a conversation if you want people to start talking about yourself. Go out and get early adopters who talk about your stuff. Follow people who matter in the community. Start commenting on their ideas. Be a person in a community, not a brand among other brands. (Offering free stuff, access, or learning is never a bad thing as well).

While this post is most focused on companies who do a bad job of promoting their brand on social media, I believe that all organizations need to be doing a better job of placing people on the front lines of defending their brands. Non-profits should not let the conversation out of their sight just because they have always promoted with traditional methods. Schools should not just be pushing out information from their online presence, they should be using it to listen and to engage everyone. And for all of those organizations who can’t find the time or the personnel to manage a Twitter or Facebook account. Here is the easiest way to create a good conversation:

  1. Sign up for a twitter account using someone’s gmail address, but instead of putting the regular gmail account use the + sign, like this: This will allow you to filter all incoming mail from that address and forward it to as many different people that are managing the account as you want.
  2. Set up those filters immediately after setting up the account.
  3. Go to and search for some folks with similar interests. Follow them.
  4. Go to and look up some of those folks that you just followed and then follow their follower that look interesting (you can follow everyone on a page in a single click, which is awesome)
  5. Have everyone on your team sign up at and have them add the twitter account to their Hootsuite.
  6. Have everyone monitor the account, post interesting stuff, and start to talk with the people that have already been followed.
  7. Set up a few twitterfeeds so that your account is always posting something interesting (Go to and search for something in your brand’s area of interest. Grab that rss feed and put it into an auto-tweet system like so that any time that someone posts a really good link to delicious in your topic, you automatically post it to twitter and gain followers by having relevant information about your topic).

All of this can be done in an afternoon. As long as you care enough to have the conversation about your issues and passions, people will be there to have the conversation with you. While I am not a marketing guru, I do know when I am talking to a real person. I know when they are trying to engage me in a conversation, and I know when they are trying to sell me something.

I will state this as plainly as possible: I want more people on Twitter and less brands.

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  1. I know the Pew Millennial Report says teenagers aren't on the twitter. Then again this site (…) says they're on their way.
    It doesn't matter. Two groups within my G11 Change the World project created twitter accounts to get the word out about the work they're planning on accomplishing.
    To be clear, I haven't coached them at all. We brainstormed early on about what tools were at their disposal, but nothing beyond that.
    One group has started finding other folks and organizations on twitter whom they think might have ideas on solving the problem they're attacking. When this group finds a new account, they ask the same question, “What things do you think we could do in order to decrease the amount of obesity, drug use, and depression in america?” Not a bad question. Definitely a conversation worth having in however many characters they can.
    The other group has also started searching out other accounts with a similar affinity. They've also been digging up helpful links and sharing them out. They're pushing and pulling information related to their studies. They're useful conduits. I'd follow them if they weren't my students.
    Both groups have seen their brands as people from the start. I'm not certain why this has happened. Perhaps they assume that's the case with these tools – someone must be on the other end. Perhaps the ubiquity of communication in their lives makes it seem a natural extension. At any rate, they're doing it right.

  2. I do wonder what people instinctually know about communication when they are
    born into it. I don't believe in the Digital Native/Immigrant nonsense, but
    I do wonder about why some people (young or old) simply get why push and
    pull matter and not just one or the other.

    I actually think it took me until this year to really figure that out fully.
    I've been doing this kind of work for years now. Why was my brain so
    stubbornly insistent that one or the other must dominate. While twitter may
    not matter for kids yet, some of them get the concept of why it is
    important. Some of them are starting to figure out that their networks are
    more than just the sum of their friends and their posts. And you are helping
    them to figure that out. You are helping them to navigate through the
    intricacies of push vs. pull. And thankfully, I (and the rest of the world
    if they want to) can come along for the ride.

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