Getting personal with business-related Twitter accounts

It seems Twitter has found a way to solve a problem many businesses come across while using the service: How do you have multiple employees tweet under one main account, but still show the person behind the account?

It goes back to the core point of Twitter -- the most successful accounts have personality. And the same is true with accounts created by businesses to keep in touch with customers. When you have a face and a name behind the corporate tweets, it makes communication more personal and adds value.

The best success stories come from accounts like Starbucks and ComcastCares, where it clearly says in the bio who is doing the typing.

A few days ago, Twitter started testing a feature that includes the account name of the writer within the bottom of the message (not within the 140-character tweet -- it's only on the website). For example, if Biz (the co-founder of Twitter) logs on the main Twitter corporate account to send a message, it will say in a small font under the message that it was written by Biz, and link back to his personal account.

Mashable has screen shots of what the contributors feature looks like - check 'em out here.

This feature isn't open to the public yet, but if you want to see an example, check out the Starbucks account, which is testing this feature.

The best way to manage an account like this is to assign one person to the account and say who it is in the bio. But if you need multiple people on one account, there are some ways to make it personable. You could compile a Twitter List of all the employees who use the account.

Make sure the bio says something like, ``Tweets brought to you by these Acme Co. employees,'' and put a link to the Twitter List of their personal accounts. There are how-to List guides on Twitter.

I wouldn't recommend typing the name of the author in every tweet; it looks messy and wastes valuable characters.

If you do have multiple employees managing one main account, check out the free applications CoTweet and HootSuite, which have some behind-the-scenes tools for professionals to track responses and manage multiple accounts.

But no matter what you decide, just be sure your business account has personality and engages with other users. No one likes to interact with a lifeless drone.

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What some very smart ninth graders can teach us about technology

A few months back, Bridget and I tried an experiment in being "wired and well-mannered.'' For a week, we made an effort to put our mobile phone behavior on hold if there were people actually in front of us.

MHZNovaHigh And, we sort of forgot about it. That is, until last week, when we encountered some ninth-graders in Brenda Amador's English class at Nova High School in Davie. (Thanks to Nova student Carly Gourley for taking this picture of the class!) They're reading 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, and as part of it, have given up all technology for a week. Amador said she's been doing the experiment for three years now. The goal, she said, is to "recognize the intrusiveness of technology and that it can create social misfits."

Amador's no Luddite; she uses her iPhone in class to help teach. But the veteran teacher said she's also noticed that as more students text instead of talk they have a harder time making conversation -- even looking adults in the eye.

Ninth-grader Marlee Abbott said she realized that she had a hard time communicating ``beyond 160 characters.''

As a run-up to the week without technology, Abbott and her classmates had to track how much they use their mobile phones, computers and other devices. Some realized they sent anywhere from 50 to 200 text messages a day -- and that they had friendships based entirely on texting, but when they actually were face to face with these people, they had nothing to say.

What they've learned so far: If you're instant messaging or texting someone, they can't tell if they have your full attention. (The recipient could be playing solitaire, one student pointed out, and they'd never know.) Conversations, they told us, are hard because they require focusing on the person in front of you and having to listen and respond -- rather than being able to have time to craft the perfect typed response. They love technology, but they're thinking that moderation is the key. Which Bridget and I thought were fairly astute observations that should be shared with adults, too.

One note for parents: It's not the best netiquette role modeling when you tell your kids not to text at the dinner table, but you bring your Blackberry. There are some work emergencies that can't be avoided -- but trust us, your teenagers can tell the difference.

Anything you think parents and/or teenagers should know about being wired and well-mannered?

Finally - Bridget and I did an interview about this topic on WLRN this morning. If you missed it, here it is:

Poked 1984 - WLRN Miami Herald News


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Be careful when putting co-workers in a company Twitter List

Twitter recently introduced a new tool, called Lists, to help users organize the massive amount of information broadcast through the network.

Lists are a way for you to categorize users. You can create a public List for the world to see on your profile, and others can follow folks on that List. Or it can just be a private List for your personal use. Putting an account in a List doesn't mean you are following them.

Although the List tool is a great way to let others know of good folks to follow, you can get yourself into some trouble with co-workers if you start creating Lists of people you work with.

For example, I wanted to make a public List of people who work at The Miami Herald. There are plenty of people here with Twitter accounts, and most people say in their bio that they work here in some manner.

But the problem comes in when there are co-workers who DON'T say in their Twitter bio that they work here. Maybe they don't want bosses to know they are on Twitter. Maybe they don't talk about work and they keep it for their personal life only. And because it's personal, maybe they don't want people to think they represent the company. Regardless of the reason, the fact that they don't identify themselves as an employee means I shouldn't "out'' them in a public employee List without asking them first.

I realize today the lines between career and personal life are totally blurred -- especially in our social media profiles. But you have to respect your connections who are trying their darnedest to keep those worlds separate in their Twitter or Facebook accounts.

That, of course, brings up the point that Niala and I always preach about -- no matter what you use your network for, you should always act professionally. These days, there's really no way to completely cut off your professional connections from stumbling upon something in your personal networks. It's just better to be safe than sorry.

You can access and manage Lists through Twitter's website. Third-party Twitter applications like TweetDeck, Twhirl and Seesmic are still working on incorporating this new tool. But in the meantime, play around to get a feel for how they work. Or if you don't have the time to create your own List, visit a site like Listorious.com, which features some really popular Twitter Lists and you can just follow ones that others have made.

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Broward County considering social media policy

My WLRN-Miami Herald colleague Joshua Johnson did this story on Broward County considering new rules for employees & social media - take a listen.

These days it seems the most popular means of communication, are also free: social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube. Broward County would like to get in on the act too, but it's bound by open government laws. As WLRN-Miami Herald reporter Joshua Johnson tells us, the County is considering new rules to help it navigate the world of social media.

BrowSocial-WR-Johnson-119

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Connect your Twitter account with LinkedIn

Today Twitter and LinkedIn announced that they have teamed up to help you cross the social media streams between the two networks.

The feature is slowly being rolled out to LinkedIn users over the next few days, but the LinkedIn blog has a clear description how the cross-posting will work.

I don't support putting every Twitter post on your LinkedIn profile. Niala and I always preach you should be careful when crossing the streams. The network audiences are different, and no one uses the @ symbol in LinkedIn, so the language is sometimes different. Twitter tends to be a mix of personal and business updates, and LinkedIn always keeps a professional tone.

But just by adding a simple #in to your tweet, it can post to your LinkedIn account. And it goes the other way around too -- just check a box while writing your LinkedIn status update to share it with your Twitter followers.

I like the ability to turn it on and off, depending on the message. It's a nice way to save time and make sure only relevant stuff gets shared to both networks, instead of having your Twitter feed vomit all over your LinkedIn page. It can be especially useful when you're looking for input or help from your business connections on both networks at once.

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¿Qué estás haciendo? Twitter now in Spanish.

Twitter has released a Spanish version of its site this week, and made the announcement in Spanish on its blog.

Before this, the only languages that were available were English and Japanese. But that didn't stop tons of users already tweeting in Spanish, like my colleague Daniel Shoer Roth (@danielshoerroth) who writes for El Nuevo Herald. (And thanks to Daniel for the heads up on this news.) Twitter said it is seeking the help of volunteers to translate its site in more languages.

To change the language, go to Settings and then scroll down to the drop-down menu for Language.

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Eat a virtual sandwich; help out Share our Strength

Dagwood Tomorrow is National Sandwich Day.  Yeah, I didn't know either, until this morning, when I got a press release about a new nonprofit fundraiser that going on tomorrow between Sara Lee Deli (they make the deli meats, not the yummy baked goods, apparently) and Share our Strength, a nonprofit that is working to end childhood hunger. (I wrote about nonprofits and how they're using social media last week)

For every new Twitter follower they get tomorrow, Sara Lee says it will donate $1 (up to $25,000) to share our strength.

It will be interesting to see if this catches on...

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Nonprofits and Social Media, Part II

If you've had a friend suggest lately that you become a fan of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida, you're not alone -- it's part of a new strategy by the local nonprofit to get involved in social media.

In six months, the group has created thousands of fans and even seen individual giving increase since it established a presence on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Richard Kelly, 42, the vice president and chief operating officer, dabbled in Facebook for a few months to get an idea of what he calls the ``nuance and power'' behind the site before the foundation created its page.

Kelly said initially the idea was to delve into social media just to create awareness about the organization, which fulfills wishes of children with life-threatening illnesses.

``We understand the demographics and the way that people get their news has changed,'' Kelly said. ``People get their news in many ways and we're going to deliver it that way.''

In the past year, the local arm fulfilled 479 wishes for the children and families it serves in 13 counties in the southern half of the state.

The staff of the nonprofit, based in Fort Lauderdale, modeled its page after the national Make-A-Wish page, which has more than 86,000 fans.

Once the local page was created, Make-A-Wish reached out to a core group of staff, board members and volunteers and asked them to suggest to 10 friends that they become fans of the Facebook page they created. In the past six months, the page has gained 4,250 fans.

``We're looking to share our stories and our mission -- and if fundraising comes with it, that's great,'' said Kelly, who said they have seen a small increase in individual giving to the local foundation in the six months since they've created a social media presence.

The Facebook and Twitter accounts are updated at least once a day by Kelly or other staff, who also monitor the comments and interact with other people.

The local Make-A-Wish Foundation is just one of many nonprofits that have started to establish a presence on social media sites. Recently, an Atlanta-based social media company called EVERYWHERE came up with a fundraising idea: for every mention of the phrase ``beat cancer'' on Twitter, in Facebook status updates and on blogs, they would have sponsors donate a penny.

Over a 24-hour period that started on Oct. 17, the group was able to get more than 200,000 mentions. The #beatcancer hashtag, a keyword that Twitter users use to keep track of similar topics, quickly became one of the most used terms of the day.

EVERYWHERE's Tamara Knechtel said the goal now is to use social media to generate large mass donations: ``If we were able to generate $70,000 in 24 hours, what do you think we could do in 365 days?''

Do you work at a nonprofit? How are you using social media to spread your message?

Oh, and if you made it this far: Kelly was also a guest on my Business Show that I host each week on MiamiHerald.com:


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How local Make-A-Wish Foundation is using social media

I spent some time last week with Make-A-Wish Foundation of Southern Florida's Richard Kelly talking to him about how the organization has developed its social media presence. In the past six months, the group has created a local fan page on Facebook, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel.

I'll post the entire Poked column about what Kelly is doing later, but in the meantime wanted to share some video clips of my interview with him talking specifics of how they did it.

Here's Kelly talking about all the practicalities of how they got started, especially with Facebook:


And here, he speaks about how they were able to grow their local Facebook fan base to more than 4,000 people in six months:




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How have your social networking habits changed?

A year ago, Bridget and I set out on a mission to help two kinds of people: Those who get social media and those who don't.

We've been poking and prodding you (and each other) for a year now to behave better not only on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but also on the devices we use that keep us constantly wired.

We used data from Compete.com to compare those three sites' traffic over the past year since we began writing this column.

Facebook--twitter-linked Facebook topped the trio, with growth of more than 200 percent in average unique monthly visitors. (Facebook itself releases data on the number of active users, which it estimates at 300 million, which, if it were a country, would be the world's fourth largest.)


Twitter was next -- much smaller -- at 23.5 million, but with exponential growth of 660 percent. LinkedIn clocked in last at 15 million, and a still-respectable 85 percent growth rate.

All of this shows that our entire communications culture is continuing to evolve rapidly. Networks are converging faster, with Facebook incorporating Twitter-like features onto its site, and more applications are being created to blur the lines between networks for the sake of saving time.

Case in point: I don't even go directly to Facebook's site that often anymore, because all of my Facebook friends' news feeds show up through Tweetdeck, a Twitter application she uses.

And people aren't just sharing news and information via these networks -- they're increasingly making real-life connections there -- especially during work hours.

So where this is all going?

We don't know. What we do know is that social media clearly isn't a fad that's going away, and we want to make sure that people think about how they act online.

Our advice until then is the same we've had when we first started: Think before you post, tweet or tag. When in doubt, use common sense: Treat others the way you would want to be treated. And don't get too mad at people who offend or commit faux pas, because we're all still getting used to the current networks -- until next week, when a new one pops up.

How have your social media habits changed over the past year?

I've been looking forward to this for 364 days

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