Can You Have a Business Identity on Twitter?

Imagine a conversation, maybe a group of people standing around talking at a cocktail party or networking event. One of them wears a logo suit, like one of those mascot costumes, that hides the face and presents the person as the logo character only. Maybe it’s something like Ronald McDonald, or Tony the Tiger, the Pillsbury Doughboy, or that Michelin tire character.

Zappos on TwitterWhat sort of conversation is that going to be? If the other people gathered around are people, representing themselves, how comfortable would they be with the logo character?

Let’s assume that all of the others are spouting points of view, equivalent to content. I’m there talking about business planning and small business, you’re there talking about your favorite topics, and we probably share opinions and suggestions about other topics that come up. So we’re aware of our business selves and our various sets of expertise; but we’re still people. And the logo characters aren’t. Or so it seems.

So I’m watching how this works.

I use the Zappos example in the illustration here because that’s an interesting compromise. We see the person behind the curtain, he or she even introduces themselves. That’s sort of like the person in the conversation wearing a company shirt, or name tag. I get it. I’m assuming we follow them, temporarily, if we have a customer service issue.

I see people identified with companies. Scott Monty of Ford, for example. Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Publishing. That seems to work well for them, and it works for me too. They’re the person, not the company. I follow them if I like what they’re saying.

I see companies that tweet as companies, announcing deals, sales, products, seminars, and so on, as companies. The moving taco stand tweeting its location. Those tweets don’t seem to come from people. I’d follow them if I had a customer reason to.

I still think the business side of Twitter works best for those individual experts who are there as people, but, when topics come up, people with experience and expertise and opinions. I’d like some, but jeez, I’d need to list hundreds of names. It’s the people tweeting that makes Twitter interesting, not the companies. For the people doing expert business as themselves, Twitter is a very powerful business-related conversational platform. That’s cool. But it’s still conversation that really works.


  • Cathy C. says:

    Well as it generate conversations for a particular relevant issue, I think tweeter is a great media that caters diversity of opinions that is particularly beneficial to creating links with various potential business people.

  • Alexandra Peters says:

    I have to agree, Tim, that’s it’s all about people. It took me a little while to figure out that social media is effectively about having conversations. I don’t have conversations with large businesses – why would I? Except when I need service.

    Very glad to have discovered you today. (Thank you, NYTimes!)

  • @_SKG says:

    Hey Tim,

    Ok, I understand where you are coming from now. Thank you for the response! >,<

  • @_SKG says:

    Hey Tim,

    First, I want to say that I really enjoy your posts, and I’ve benefited from the material you’ve shared in the past. Thanks for always pumping out stellar content.

    Second, I must say this post leaves me a bit confused. I understand the illustration you used about the cocktail party, however, Twitter is no longer JUST a social lounge. It is quickly becoming our preferred method of communication as a society.

    Naturally, just as cell phones became ubiquitous because of the convenience they provided, it is my opinion that Twitter is on the same track. When you have an issue you with a business you pick up the phone and call them yes? You don’t see the person on the other end of the line, but I agree, “it is the conversation that counts.”

    Twitter is simply an alternative method of communicating. One that my generation is falling head over heels in love with. Thus, you mentioned that Twitter isn’t a viable communication for large businesses, but it is for small businesses and individuals? Seems a bit contradictory to me. Perhaps I misunderstood your post.

    Best Regards,


    • Tim Berry says:

      Hi Steven, and thanks for the comment. I’m never happy to leave you confused, but in this case, well there’s a sort of naturalness with that, because I too am confused. I find this stuff fascinating, but I don’t think I have answers. Just more questions.

      I do mean it though when I say that it doesn’t seem to work for a large business like it does for small business or individuals. That is my opinion. I don’t think of large companies as people, but large bulky organizations, whose opinions are cooked; but I do think of small businesses and individuals as people.

      Glad to see you here, and thanks for adding to it! Tim

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *