Is your twitter account yours?

Does a company have the right to your twitter account after you leave their employment? Are they in control of what you send out while you work for them? Should they be? Can they be? Does it matter?

These questions have vexed many a business owner and manager, and I’d like to share some of my own personal views on the matter.

I believe that if a member of staff has their own twitter account, with their own name, whether created before or during their employment with us, it is their property.

Take for example, someone called Jo Smith…

If their account handle is @josmith, that is their name, and they will take it with them if and when they leave. The account itself is not company property, nor are the followers of that account.

If they tweet as themselves, they may tweet about their work and/or their own life. Being employed is part of their life, but not all of it. I would ask that if they tweet about anything official, something about us, and even perhaps about something unrelated, they do so with all due respect and realise that as part of their life is being employed with us, they take that into account. I would ask them to be courteous and wary of what they post, and that everything they send out (once sent) is permanent. Even a deleted tweet can be retweeted (or screenshotted) before you get a chance to delete it.

We provide coaching tips and guidelines to all staff members, and sometimes sessions, on how to use social media at work – the traps, the way it can work, how it can benefit their and our brand.

I believe a twitter account is very different to a staff member’s official email account (which absolutely is company property, including its name being that our company brand forms part of the address, and is run off our servers).

When and if Jo moves on from our employment, he or she can take their twitter handle and account with them … but not their email account. Their own name is Jo Smith and belongs to them (not the company), and so @josmith, and all its followers, moves with them.

To be honest, their twitter account is not much use to me after they leave anyway, even if I insisted I retain it. Their contacts, or followers, followed them for various reasons, and enjoyed (or not) their content. I don’t believe I have the authority to take over their persona, even during their employment with me, and certainly not after it. Even if I did, what would I do – carry on tweeting as them? Change the name and twitter handle? That’s deception.

I have noticed some companies (such as the ABC) have some of their reporters use a twitter handle such as @josmithABC, which presumably is created when they join, and ties Jo’s twitter account to the ABC, and only the ABC.

I actually don’t follow this policy because, what happens when Jo leaves the ABC? Are you going to rename his twitter account, take it off him, and give it to someone else? Shut it down? Plus, if you do this with all your staff, then they will have to start their accounts from scratch, and it can take a long time to build up connections and followers. What happens to their personal ones? Do they now run two?

I would argue that when Jo joined me, he or she brought with them everything learnt prior. Their skills, experience and yes, even their social media nous, was what I was hiring. When they leave, that walks out the door with them. When they arrive, I benefit from all their former employment and education and experience (this is what I am hiring, after all), and when they leave, that leaves too.

I try to treat all staff the same. If they have their own social media accounts (most have several), then our social media policy does remind them that whenever they use it, part of their audience knows they work for us, and for them to be respectful of that. We have a public persona, a brand, and that needs protecting, and hopefully, building upon. They do too.

On my own twitter account, which I started in 2009, two employers ago, I clearly state who I am, and that any views are mine and not of my employer. However, I always try to use my accounts to the best of the company’s goals, by liking and sharing content (but overly so, so as to annoy my followers) as part of my overall social media strategy.

See > https://twitter.com/ChazGunningham

Social media has developed into an important communication tool, and like the computer, phone and pen and paper before it, has its own foibles, pros and cons as compared to other forms of communication. What one needs to remember is that this form of communication is now permanent, and that proper staff coaching, including providing clear guidelines, tips and traps, is essential these days.

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How to rule the roost with Twitter (and why you need to)

I’ve been on Twitter now for over 5 years, and this Tuesday I’m speaking at the AMI annual conference on ‘How to Rule the Roost with Twitter – and why you need to.‘ I believe I only know a small fraction of what Twitter can do, and probably practice even less. But if you were to drop me on a desert island with but one social media, I would take Twitter. Why? Because, it’s so damn powerful, and yet like most of the best things, incredibly simple.

Here’s a link to my Prezi

I remember getting on Twitter (rather begrudgingly – why do we need another social network? and with such a silly name?) and within 6 months I was running seminars that other people would pay to attend, to learn about Twitter… from me! Most people do not (and have not) persisted with it, most notably Bunnings, who seem to have ignored it with much disdain ever since they sent out their first (and as yet only) tweet on the 3rd Feb 2012 (having joined in May 2011 – so presumably they sat around and strategised what their first tweet would be for 8 months?). What a lost opportunity. Masters has tweeted out over 2,600 times and counting. They have a higher Klout score, thousands more followers and are engaging with their marketplace, being human, being social. Not that it’s a numbers game. It’s actually a quality, deep game.

With Twitter you can pin down topics, hear what people are saying about things right now, and interact, learn, engage and pass it forward. You can discuss, listen, remind, laugh, have a little dig, and discover incredible content.

The only way to find out is actually to go do it. Like most things.

Social media and customer service

customer service

A CEO (of a company in the UK) put out a circular to his staff last week asking them how they could use social networking to “improve customer service” or “reduce potential complaints“. I find the question itself interesting (and revealing) – customer service is the experience the buyer has when they interact with your service. It’s totally in their mind. It’s how the phone is answered, it’s how reception looks, it’s every little thing… These days everyone expects good customer service, even great, so the objective now for businesses is to ‘wow‘. Only by ‘wowing’ can you set yourself apart. It’s the new normal. And that’s got to be good for customers.

A few years ago, as we started our small online business, I remember reminding my staff that we had to wow our customers every day, at every opportunity. Considering we had pesky real estate agents as customers, that was going to be a challenge (!) We did not use social networks to “improve customer service” or “reduce potential complaints”. We used good old fashioned manners and courtesy. I employed people (irrespective of their IT background) who could learn fast but had a deep seated desire to help people. These two aspects were all we needed.

Roll on ten years and we’re in an era of social connectivity. The water cooler conversation of old is twitter today. Organisations in 2014 can use social media to actively watch what people are saying (using # and @ discussions on their name), they can engage with their customers, answer questions, post ideas, ask things, forward good thoughts, thank people for their points, etc. even turn around complainers. Most companies have a full time person on this, or a team of people.

Example – I was giving a “Twitter for real estate agents” course a few years ago, and an agent I will call Barry (for that was his name, bless him) did a search on his own company and was alarmed to find this one tweet had been put up only a few hours earlier: “Property —— <name deleted> are the worst real estate agent – stay away! ” Barry was distraught. What should he do? Could he sue the person? Delete it? After he calmed down a bit, I asked him to call his office and see what this person was talking about and why. He came back and said it was already sorted, the person had been a tenant and had not got her bond back, so had vented on Twitter. OK, so what now? Barry tweeted her back saying he’d sorted out the issue, and to call him in the office if things were not all fine. A few hours later, the tweet was removed (only the person who tweets can remove the message). Problem removed, and I bet that lady had a high opinion of the company as a result, and told her friends about it, as I am telling you now.

Ignoring twitter does not stop people talking about you anyway. Better to be ON there and (at least) surveying the conversation, then maybe taking part, engaging, adding, contributing …

My favourite example of customer service and social media is one I use a lot in my talks – that of Peter Shankman in 2011 and his fantastic true story of Mortons steakhouse. This actually happened, and was not a set up! Peter’s story of how a steakhouse got a meal to him after a long business day and a flight back to New York provided so much free press and positive attention for Mortons over the next few days and months, worth in the multi millions, and all for a simple act of being awake, involved and having the wherewithal to act.

By contrast, I posted 2 Aussie companies and their comparative use of social media around customer service.

Can social media be used to  “improve customer service” or “reduce potential complaints”? Sure, but that’s a bit like saying can you use the phone (or words, or technology, or…) to give great customer service. You’re asking the question the wrong way round.

Infographic above: from Clicksoftware 2012

10 Surprising facts about Twitter

Twitter facts

I remember being very sceptical about Twitter when I first came across it in 2008, but being encouraged to give it a go, and then persist with it, it slowly became my favourite (and most useful) of all the social media. I can’t really imagine life without it now. { As some of you may know, I once walked inside the Twitter HQ in San Francisco.}

Firstly, it’s the world’s best search engine. Search for something on Google and you see web sites; search on Youtube and you get videos; search on Facebook and you scroll through all the nonsense your ‘friends’ are up to… search a topic/person/business on Twitter and you get what everyone is talking about that right now. In many situations, this is immensely more powerful and useful than anything else.

Using Klout and Twitter together, you can see who is most influential, and who are the ‘amplifiers’ (heavy users who spread the word). Engaging with these people will send your messages further than you could on your own.

Searching google is fine for information retrieval, but if something has just happened (in sport, in the world) then Twitter is where you can get straight to the centre of things as they are unfolding. Usually from the horse’s mouth.

Twitter allows more than just 140 characters of text, but embedded within are links to web sites, photos, videos, and everything else you could imagine. It dissects and disseminates like nothing before, or since.

If you want to reach people, engage in conversations with those of similar interests, or see what’s happening, twitter is ideal.

Here are 10 ‘surprising’ facts about Twitter, courtesy of FastCompany

  1. Tweets with links included are 86% more likely to be retweeted
  2. Twitter engagement for brands is higher at the weekends
  3. Tweets with images get 2x the engagement (sharing, favouritising…)
  4. Tweets with less than 100 characters get 17% more engagement (even 140 is too much for some folks!)
  5. Twitter’s fastest growing demographic is 55-64 year olds (they started late, but are getting into it now)
  6. Tweets with hashtags (‘#’) get 2x the engagement (this allows you to look for similarly themed tweets, e.g. #perth or #worldcup)
  7. Mobile is responsible for 66% of brand-related tweets (people are out and about with their smartphones)
  8. Mobile tweeters are 181% more likely to be using it during their commute
  9. Amplifiers are 122% more likely to use direct messaging (a bit like email, to other twitter users who they mutually follow)
  10. If you ask for it to be retweeted, the tweet has 12x higher chance of being retweeted, 23% more likely if you mention the word ‘retweet’

The first tweet was sent on March 26th 2006 by one of the founders Jack Dorsey. Today, there are 750m users and 65m tweets are sent daily.

My latest presentation (‘How to be a Major Twit’) can be viewed here. Is it time for you to really engage in twitter, and see what it can do for you?

Bunnings – get on Twitter!

why bother Bunnings? oh, you haven't

One of my favourite examples of social media engagement is the Peter Shankman Mortons story (the Morton’s Steakhouse turned up with a free steak meal as he landed at Newark airport, after his joke tweet had requested it). The free publicity and branding this resulted in for Mortons was gold. And yet they probably did it as a lark – what if we REALLY did this, how cool would that be?

Mortons is a plush steakhouse chain in the States, and Peter is a fan. Even more so now, I bet, and the feeling would be mutual. Back in Australia, I frequent our humble fast food outlet, Hungry Jacks, usually as a treat for my kids (and yes, I admit it, for me). The other day we arrived just before noon to find the place packed, queues everywhere where too few and rather panicked staff were trying in vain to serve customers as more and more piled in. There were maybe 20 folks, all a bit disgruntled not sure where the queue was and when their order would be taken. Quite a few had been there a while already, so after five minutes of this I asked my son if we could go the the next door KFC instead. No one there. He wanted his burger so we persisted, but after a while more I said – “come on, let’s go KFC, nothing happening here”. And so we did. As I left I tweeted my disappointment to the Hungry Jacks twitter account.

Within an hour I had a personal message from Hungry Jacks central asking me to email them the location of the restaurant as they genuinely wanted to know why I had had such a poor experience. I was impressed someone at HJ was at least on twitter and watching the relevant streams.

Later I found myself in Bunnings, where sad middle aged men like me spend weekends walking aimlessly up and down the aisles looking for a particular tool or gizmo to help with some long lost DIY project. After an age, I had what I wanted, but was then alarmed to see about 50 people queuing at two checkouts (with about 7 checkouts empty and unmanned). I tweeted my annoyance to @Bunnings. Something about having run a small business myself, and one that relied on supreme customer service for survival, really bugs me when businesses don’t seem to care about their customers. They view us like a notch on a management spreadsheet, or seemingly so.

No reply from Bunnings, but of course I am not surprised as their Twitter account (see image above) lies dormant with a single tweet telling people to go to their website. What a missed opportunity, not just to view what people are saying about you, but to engage and connect with your customers. How useful could the Bunnings tweet be, if they just thought about how it could be applied. I hear some impressive agency is going to get them organised in that sphere. Lord help us. Get tweeting Bunnings. Think Mortons. Think what you could do with it (not an agency, YOU). Social media provides a company the golden opportunity to engage, connect, add value and (above all) listen.

The death of the web site

I’ve been noticing a trend over the past year or so, that may point to the death of the website (and world wide web) as we know it.

Like you, dear reader, I have apps on my iPhone (and now iPad) that are holding more and more of my attention. I am visiting ‘web sites’ less and less. In fact, there are apps I use (shazaam, foursquare, evernote, tuneinradio, localmind, instagram, autostitch…) for which I have never (or very rarely ever) visited the web site. I spend more and more time on the app versions of twitter, facebook, hootsuite and the like, and less and less on their traditional web site. It’s faster, better, cleaner, and I do it on the go. And it’s not just me. There is a whole generation of 20-somethings and younger whose only real experience of the internet at all is through their apps. They judge email like we do our letter box (full of bills and spam). Web sites are not for them… hardly at all.

Apps are there, on your phone/tablet – push a button and they fire up. They are part of you, in the same way the phone is – it has your photos, calendar, email, camera… and you carry it with you. Apps’re just so easy. No loading of web sites, and they make funky use of the sensors of the device, incorporating the camera (famously with Instagram, Torch and a whole slew of augmented reality apps), geolocation, tipping (the ‘drinking beer’ one or fishing or many gaming apps), swipe, touch, flick, sound, microphone. You can’t touch web sites, or swipe them. It’s just more personal, more engaging and more real somehow. They can even work offline.

Does this mean web sites will become less relevant, and apps will take over? Yes, probably. Should businesses now develop apps for their business shopfront, and spend less time on their next web site upgrade (perhaps getting an app instead)? Maybe. I think you need to consider how you want to engage with your clients. In the same way too many 1990’s and early 2000’s websites were merely online brochures replacing the offline printed versions (many still are), you should not think of an app as a mere replacement for a web site. It’s a whole different experience and connection. 74% of iPad users take it into the bathroom with them. Now there’s a thought.

[Photo Credit: from SimpleMovieReview.com]

Not sure about Twitter?

Here’s some great advice about Twitter from someone in the States whose been on Twitter for 5 years…

When I first saw Twitter my reaction was the same as everyone else’s. I did not “get it.” It took six months of trial before I learned to appreciate Twitter and to stop overthinking it.

There isn’t anything to “get” about Twitter, and because it really isn’t for marketing in the old-school, in-your-face kind of way, no complicated strategy is needed …

Here are some tips to get started

1. Find people in your own area to follow on Twitter.
2. Follow the local media. They tweet the news and are usually pretty social.
3. Spend more time on Twitter reading than tweeting.
4. Turn off Twitter and Twitter alerts when there is work to be done, and never use it when you are with clients.
5. Promote businesses in your community by mentioning them on Twitter and by checking in on Foursquare.
6. Use the lists function to filter out the noise. Use Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to look at certain tweet streams that interest you.
7. Practice safe tweeting: Never drink and tweet or drive and tweet.

Local businesses love it when I mention them on Twitter, and they are the reason I use Foursquare to check in. Promoting the idea of buying local has also been good for business.

Twitter does not have close to as many users as Facebook does and is not about reaching the widest audience — that is what Google is for.

Learning how to use Twitter means being able to network anytime and maybe even connect with people that you wouldn’t get to meet any other way.

Don’t worry if the cool kids are using Twitter or how they are using it. Try it out again for the first time and if it isn’t right for you just stop using it. If you are not interested in what others have to say, Twitter isn’t for you at all.

If you think people all over the world care about everything your business is selling or promoting, please delete your Twitter account now so you won’t be tempted to use it!

– abridged from Teresa Boardman’s Inman post
– Image from Business2Community, which also has great advice on how to increase your followers the right way

The day I walked into Twitter


This is the true story of some sad grown ups or 10 year old girls – you be the judge . The conference in San Francisco was over and a couple of Aussie friends and were relaxing in ‘Little France’ (it’s barely 2 side streets) finishing off some palatable French red wine and pate’ when I chirped up “isn’t the Twitter headquarters a couple of blocks away?”

Well, after a few bottles of red, anything seemed possible, so 5 minutes later we found ourselves following the blue Google maps dot to a nondescript looking 6 storey building in the SOMA (South of Market Street) district, where some household name ebusinesses reside. To be honest the beige coloured 1970s office building looked more like a tax office than the throbbing heart of social mediasville, but we thought “what the hey” and marched inside, half expecting to be turfed out 10 seconds later. Turning briefly to the security guards in the lobby we confidently announced “Twitter?” as if we were rushing to an important meeting. “Sixth floor” they replied pointing to the lift lobby.

‘Hey we made it to the lift lobby’ we giggled, ‘no way this lift is allowing us up to the 6th floor, you probably need a smart card or something’. But, on pushing ‘6’ we duly rose up and before we could express our surprise we were standing in the lobby walking to the Twitter reception desk. Now, no doubt, this scene plays itself out many times a day, so we thought we better own up and see if it was OK if we could hang out. The receptionist (her card called her ‘Communication Officer’) smiled and said it was fine. She even gave us a password for free WIFI. So for the next hour we photographed ourselves, tweeted, foursquared and facebooked from Twitter HQ, used the facilities, sat in all the seats, read the framed newspaper and magazine article covers and watched the tooing and froing of Gen Y computer whizzes as they moved between offices (they needed smart cards for access here of course).

Yes, a sad middle aged wannabee story – but have you ever been to Twitter HQ? No, I didn’t think so 🙂