Twitter Etiquette For Agencies/Freelancers


It is today that we must create the world of the future. Eleanor Roosevelt 

Crowd source

Just One Crowd Sourced Question

Social media moves so quickly that no one person holds all the answers, knowledge or even the questions. In this series, Just one Crowd Sourced Question, I reach out to my social networks and ask folks to share just 1 tip on a social media issue. 

The quote from Eleanor Roosevelt seemed like a prefect introduction. Mrs. Roosevelt reminds us that it is not the short-term but the long-term. So, let's learn from each other and build a strong foundation for the future of social media marketing.

This question was inspired by the recent Tweet-storms. Two national brands, Chrysler and AFLAC, were involved in twitter controversies. Third party contractors, an agency in one case, a freelancer in an other, tweeted posts that the clients felt reflected poorly on the brand promise.

In the case of Chrysler, the agency employee forgot to switch off from the brand Twitter page to his personal account. However, in Aflec's situation, the freelance voice tweeted, what the brand considered to be politically incorrect posts, from his personal avatar.

 What is your 1 tip to an agency/freelancer contracted to be the voice of the brand in social networks e.g., Twitter, Facebook, blogs, next new shiny toy?

On a high level responses fell into three buckets: Understand the brand beyond the message, Content direction and Manage.

1. Understand the brand beyond the message

+Understand the heart and mind of the brand

+Understand the history of the brand

+Understand customers’ needs

+Immerse yourself in the brand offline

2. Content Direction 

+Be helpful

+Be interesting

+Consider that you are an employee of the brand

+Think about the perceptions you create through content and voice/tone

+Be transparent

+Treat social media as if you were extending hospitality in your home.

+Know what the brand would say and not say

+Plan ahead what you’ll post

+Voice of client and brand have to be in sync

3. Manage

+The brand must always manage the agency, don’t get lethargic

+Take an interest in the community you are building online

What happens if you do mess up? There were 2 opinons: Ignore and Apology.

 Crowd Sourced Responses 

Behind every 'voice' in a heart and a mind. The key is to deeply understand the 'mind of the brand' (the principles and strategic views) and the 'heart of the brand' (the relationships that a brand has created in the community). If you understand both of these then the appropriate voice will generally always follow. ~ David Alston, CMO, Radian6

The 'voice' of any brand belongs to the customer. Once you understand that, you realize the opportunity is to engage with the customer as if you were having them over for dinner, at your house. Not at a restaurant where everyone's guard is up, but at your house, where, presumably, the relaxed atmosphere will encourage open dialogue.

Many bloggers consider the invitation to comment on their blog an invitation to have coffee with them, and they act accordingly. Rude, offensive and off-topic comments are not allowed, or are deleted.  Do the same - be a good host, offer sustenance, but don't think you need to tolerate anarchy. ~ Yvonne DeVita  Lipsticking @Y2vonne

I have to give you two. Aside from being professional, helpful, engaging and the like - consider yourself as an employee as you are an extension of the brand or actually building it - you have to know the company, products and "speak" inside and out. ~ Susyn Duris Actor, Marketing Consultant Susan Elise Duris

Do your homework to completely understand the history and values of the company you are working for as well as the needs of its customers. Both are extremely important and critical to any desired success in outsourcing social. Anon

If you're going to speak for a brand online, it's really no different than speaking for someone in the real world. Information can easily be misconstrued and misinterpreted if it doesn't come directly from the source. Agencies and freelances can be great resources to companies looking to dip their toes into the social media roller-coaster.

But the most important thing is to educate and not just push out information: along the way, help your client understand the purpose of the tools, how to craft creative messaging, how to evaluate efforts, and understand the power of the web.

The key here at attaining a consistent voice between the messenger (Tweeter, blogger, etc) and the client is communication. They have to be in sync. And although it should go without saying, a person in charge of an official social media account should remain professional whenever talking in the company's voice. ~ Stephanie @saltzberg

Being your company's voice on any social media outlet changes the way you should approach ALL of your social media. In other words, whether personal or corporate, write something, read it, think about how it could be read (or misread), then decide whether it's appropriate to "submit". Steve Chalk ~ @sjchalk

Your example of Corporate PR overreaction is a common one. Sounds like the easiest, fastest and best thing they could have done in that specific situation would have been to simply delete that tweet and no comment or 1 short apology, case closed. With social media, once you've developed your strategy and tactics including specific campaigns you should have already thought of potential blow back. No one is loved by everyone and nothing one does is viewed as ok by everyone. Someone will always object. Expect it to happen.

When it happens ignore it. In rare circumstances, issue one single apology (think about it first), the stick to that. Worst thing you can do is engage in a downward spiral like Absolut did in the Mexico/US map fiasco. All it amounted to in the end was a lot of wasted PR time. No one will remember it if you just move on.

 In the case of Chevy, I don't have all the details either. But Twitter isn't exactly for kiddies, and even an F-bomb can be deleted in a few minutes, no damage done. All they ended up doing was looking very un-cool to a the majority of customers on Twitter who would have felt my first suggestion would have been the most proper response. Simple advice. If you're doing social media marketing you need to have a back bone! ~Tom H Anderson @TomHCAnderson CEO Anderson Analytics Tom H Anderson

It's about building the relationships for the brand, not for you - act accordingly. ~JR Schmit @cloudspark

Number 1 tip - Be transparent; you work for the brand, but you are not the brand. @PRMKTGCamp

Brands turn to agency support because they need to get things done. But even the most trusted, most effective agency relationships need to be strongly managed by the brand, with effective processes and procedures for acting as the brand "voice." If the brand gets a little too comfortable with the relationship and begins stepping over processes, the agency should raise a red flag. ~ Polly Wade @pollywade

Spend as much time as possible with the brand at the outset. See if you can work from their office for a few weeks. Get to know the people that represent the brand via the marketing group. Social is such an intimate relationship with a customer that if you're not immersed in the brand you're not going to be able to fake it. Jeff Hilimire Jeff Hilimire @jeffhilimire

First: Understand the brand as thoroughly as you can. You are, in essence, the company's brand ambassador. Second: When in doubt on content, check with a higher internal authority. Elaine Fogel Totally Uncorked on Marketing @Elaine_Fogel MarketingProfs Daily Fix

It's a no-brainer to stay appropriate. My tip is to stay interesting. The world has enough bores already. Jacki Schklar FunnyNotSlutty  

Anytime you represent a brand, you need to really understand that brand. In other words, what is the promise that brand makes to it's customers? If for some reason you make a mistake, I believe the public is fairly forgiving. However, the public has a high BS meter so you need to be sincerely apologetic and respond quickly. Covering this up and acting as if it's not a big deal will backfire on you and it will only make things much worse. Anon

My best advice is that social isn't just a marketing strategy - it's more than just a tweet or a post here and there. Investing in social means investing in your community or investing in the community you hope to build. It is tremendously hard work despite the immediacy of extracting information via the medium. But again, any machine can extract information.

The most grueling (and the most rewarding) part of social is the human element. Any agency representing a brand has to cull together a team that the brand will help in gleaning knowledge about the brand. You can't hand off the face of your brand as you would a commercial - these are your clients, your people talking about the brand and they deserve to know that there's a thoughtful framework behind the response. Bianca Buckridee @blatantlybianca

Do your homework constantly so you’re believable with regard to what that brand would and would not say and have a strong narrative so that you're not guessing what to say day by day. @girlwithskirt

While there are situation where it works well to impersonate a brand (i.e. Donald Duck), it's never as authentic as a connection with a real human being.  In today's fast pace world, we discount anything that is non-human. A corporation or product is not human. 

I define "brand" as "the relationship with customers" and see it is always greater than the ideas and communication coming from the brand owner. To engage the power of all the conversations that occur about a brand means letting go of control. I believe that is best done with real human beings presented as their authentic selfs. ~ Warren Whitlock Best Selling Book Marketing @warrenwhitlock

.. and my thoughts: Walk a mile in the brand's shoes. Is your client more pink flip flops of siletto Jimmy Choos? (Oh, come on you knew I had to get that in some how!) What does that mean? Perhaps spending time on the retail floor, on customer service calls, talking to sales reps and interviewing the receptionist who has been there for 27 years, using the product. It means understanding the brand value and promise to the extent that when you are "social media mode" your mind set is not from the agency point of view but  simply put you are the brand. 

Are you thinking .. way too expense for an agency to invest that amount of due dilgence time? Yup. Sorry. But it's too important not to .. especially when you consider .. she who holds the conversation holds the relationship. @Tobydiva

Toss of a pink boa to everyone who kindly shared their knowledge and insights!  Thanks to Caren, Cat Chat for the edit help!Pink boa


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First it is important to adequately understand the voice of the brand throughout the digital landscape and create a set of policies and procedures to follow for each communication channel, how to engage and respond with appropriate company contacts for each initiative.

Posted by: Dorothea Bozicolona-Volpe on Mar 25, 2011 6:09:17 PM

Thanks for doing such a great job researching this Toby! I think many in SMM will find it useful.

Posted by: Tom H. C. Anderson on Mar 26, 2011 11:50:48 AM

@Dorothea - appreciate your contribution. great idea to develop guidelines for each channel.

@Tom - thanks for your kind words .. high praise from a researcher!

Posted by: Toby Bloomberg on Mar 26, 2011 12:25:20 PM

The dynamic character of Twitter makes it a superb tool for ad agencies that need to convey message quick. But, too many fast decisions lead to too many errors that can cause ireversible harm to a brand or a product.

Posted by: Business Man on Mar 28, 2011 10:53:59 AM

Very cool! Thanks.

Posted by: Elaine Fogel on Mar 29, 2011 3:35:20 PM

These tips are extremely beneficial. These are things that anyone can easily do to improve a blog. It seems self-evident to write what you love, to direct your content toward your community, etc. but these simple goals can often be pushed to the side in pursuit of sheer number of readers.

Posted by: Virtual office assistant on Apr 5, 2011 12:46:28 AM

Twitter can be a real cash cow for you, provided you can exploit it properly. Most companies wish to replicate the success Dell achieved by running extensive e-marketing campaigns on Twitter (remember, Dell sold $6.5 million worth of PCs and accessories by using Twitter for conducting digital marketing of their products), few can even dream of coming close to that. Will you be the one to show others the way to do it?

Posted by: Ashley Forrester on Apr 7, 2011 7:26:45 AM

Twitter and social media are great resources for businesses and individuals to use. Mistakes do happen because employees are human. The point we all must we remember in using them - we work for the brand, but we are not the brand.

Posted by: Kristina Jefries on Apr 8, 2011 9:47:26 PM

@kristina - excellent point!

Posted by: Toby Bloomberg on Apr 8, 2011 10:10:36 PM

This blog exactly written about my research and like it.

Posted by: Academic Writing on Apr 25, 2011 1:48:48 AM

Great tips. A lot of people may think that it's easy to market and sell using social media because it's where most of the interactions are but it still has to be analyzed because the medium keeps on changing and as entrepreneurs, you should also keep on adapting.

Posted by: Sydney Shore on May 1, 2011 10:05:37 AM

In practice the idea may provide a coherent underlying architecture on which to build processes that aid organizations and institutions to manage the social returns of their investments in a transparent and quantifiable way.

Posted by: διαγωνισμοι on Oct 4, 2011 8:21:29 PM

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