How many Twitter accounts should you have?

How many Twitter accounts should I have?

I have been asked this question three times in 24 hours, most recently by Edwin Mysogland of Indiana who writes:

I received your book for my birthday last month and I have found it to be a fascinating read.  Forgive me in advance if I missed it, but what is your position regarding handles?  For instance I have two accounts, business and personal.  From what I can gather with the intent of making Twitter so much more personal I assume you would say one? 

The beauty of Twitter is that it can be used by many people in many ways. But let’s start with my philosophy about it, which has also served many other people very well.

Twitter is not about being B2B or B2C.  It’s P2P — person to person.  Twitter is a powerful networking tool and a historic opportunity to connect with people you never would have met before.  It’s an incredible opportunity to build a real, emotional connection with people who can lead to substantial new business benefits. And I’m sorry … but it is just really hard to build an emotional connection with a company logo or a picture of your building.  I want to know YOU.

We’re all SICK of being marketed to, advertised to, and sold to. But we do want to make new friends who will pay attention and help us get by in this crazy world.

Twitter is no different than any other networking venue.  If you attended a chamber of commerce meeting or an industry get-together, you wouldn’t cover your face with a logo and hand out ads. If you’ve done personal networking, you know it takes time, but after the fourth or fifth meeting, you start to recognize people, you know their stories, you find common interests, and you actually look forward to attending the meeting to see your friends.

And then one day, this is what happens. A friend from the networking group calls you up and says, “Hey, my client is looking for some (fill in the blank for your business).  I thought this would be right up your alley.”

And the business benefits start to accrue.

I was on the receiving end of these conversations, all of them resulting from friendships that started on Twitter:

  • “Would you be interested in working for the UK government?”
  • “Rutgers University is creating a graduate-level social media education curriculum. Would you be interested in helping them?”
  • “I’m looking for speakers for my national economic development conference. Are you interested?”

All of these calls resulted in significant new business opportunities. Even the seeds of the national Social Slam Conference I founded were planted with Twitter connections.

There are exceptions to every Twitter rule, but generally my recommendation is that to create an organization that is BEING social instead of DOING social you need to get your skin in the game and stop hiding behind corporate pronouncements and logos. That is not easy, which is why so few companies are succeeding in this channel.

The best practice is to have a social media policy that encourages your employees to tweet for themselves and your company. Why not have everyone be a beacon for your brand in some small way? This is a big decision for many companies. Put time into your policy, start small, experiment, have patience.

And above all, be human.  It’s OK to tweet about your interests. It’s part of who you are. In most cases, you don’t need two Twitter accounts.  Just be congruent and honest.  Be you.

What do you think?  What differing Twitter strategies are you employing?

Illustration courtesy of www.marriedtothesea.com

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  • Fara

    Mark – glad to see you covering this issue – I deal with this from a corporate perspective & it’s a tough call.  On the one hand, twitter/social lets you humanize your brand, but sometimes it’s tough to get buy in for this from the CEO and even CMO.  They’re reluctant (rightfully?) to let social channels become too chummy and reflect badly on the brand.  In my case, I can’t even respond to someone’s tweet about a song choice using our corporate account, since that’s viewed as my opinion and may strike someone as unprofessional.  This limits my ability to interact, since my permitted posts end up being more broadcasts than interactions. While i think CEOs need to relax to see effective social interaction online, they do have real legal / SEC / HR regulations to worry about.  Great as always to see you opening up the debate here!

  • Interesting question. I put this some time ago to Gini Dietrich in der FB Question of the week, She has 2, one personal and one for her company.

    I knwo people how have even more, one is running 7 twitter accounts in parallel.

    For now 2 monthas I am trying out, if a second twitter account helps to get more connections. I never tweet one tweet the same time or even day on both accounts and I also have some other content in both.

    First impression: I does not help really, but maybe, this comes from the aspect, that on my 2nd account I do not follow back anyone (policy!). So after 2 months I get ca. 100 followers. Nevertheless, it is a try

    Kind regards from Germany
    Hansjörg

    PS: If someone would like to have a look 😉

    https://twitter.com//HLeichsenring

    https://twitter.com/Der_Bank_Blog

  • I have been thinking about this issue for the last few months. I think you are right. When I am trying to make connections for myself or a company I am working for, it is beneficial to have a “resume” people can go to to see what they think about me. My Twitter account, and all I do online is linked together. I feel this also gives me credibility. 

  • A good question–and a controversial one.

    I think that one Twitter account is a good rule of thumb–and is probably all any casual or moderate user needs. 
    But I think there are good arguments for two accounts for heavy or “power” users especially if they have more than one strong focus. In my case for example, I have one for my communications business and one for my interest in social/justice and community building. While there is some overlap of audience, there’s enough of a difference and I tweet heavily enough on both topics that its better to talk to each audience separately. It also gives my business a presence that wouldn’t be possible with a single account unless I reduced tweeting my interest in issues important to who I am.The key is to use the two accounts in a genuine, authentic way. I don’t try to be two different people. I don’t say something in one account I wouldn’t or couldn’t say in the other. I openly let folks know that both accounts are me (no hiding behind a logo for example). For some, they might be able to say something they couldn’t on the other account so long as it is consistent with being the same person. Your avid interest in hockey might not be appropriate on an account with a focus on legal issues for example.In general, I’d recommend that everyone start with a single account and use it to learn the power of Twitter. Later, if you get hooked on Twitter you may want to consider a second account. Just remember, it’s better to have a strong presence on one account than a weak presence in two or more accounts.

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  • The personal and the professional tend to blend in social media.  If you represent a business or hold an authority position at a company, business customers and prospect will want to connect with you.  That means that you need to be aware of the content that you post and ensure that it’s always business appropriate.  

  • Fara, this is an extremely good point. I don;t come down on companies as hard as some of the “purists.” I think it is fine to try things and experiment and take things step by step. That’s the way it is with most companies. It really tough to get a client to “get” this stuff! Tome and patience! 

  • My guess is that if @Ginidietrich deleted her corporate account not too many people would notice. If she deleted her personal account there would be an uproar because that is where she is connecting and creating value.  A good illustration of my point.

  • Perfectly stated Krysia!  I like that perspective very much.

  • I have two- one for my company brand and one for myself. I used the company brand Twitter account exclusively for my first year. It was helpful to tweet under the brand and establish it as an expert in the space and I made a lot of great relationships. Having a brand on Twitter vs my name has helped me get larger contracts. I now share this account with a trusted intern.

    I started using a personal Twitter account this summer because I found I wanted to participate in conversations about TV shows and pop culture and when big national events happened as well as 4Square Checkins. I hated feeling like I was my own police about what I could do on my company Twitter and having two has helped me have piece of mind. 🙂 I have also started establishing my personal entrepreneurship story via my personal Twitter, which has been helpful for me professionally, too.

  • Anonymous

    With reference to Fara’s comments and desire to interject personal musings, may I offer an approach? Keep in mind this approach requires understanding your audience, building solid customer relations, and maintaining the proper voice for your company as an employee. Try rethinking how you would like to post those responses to song choices within the context of your regulated industry and your company’s mission.  Write a few “test” messages (not live), and submit
    for review to the CEO. See how it goes… Great post, Mark!

  • I think you are right on this

  • It is a tough line, I have one account for business and personal and find I don’t use twitter much on a personal level, I don’t want contacts to know I am checking in to a local dive bar at noon on Sunday. I have also made the choice not to use companies based on the personal announcements staff have made on public spaces when they are also representing their brand.

  • Before
    embarking on a Twitter campaign I spent much time observing and listening to
    what was being said and how it was being said. As a result this led me to the
    belief that in order to develop a community and build brand awareness you have
    to provide a generous mixture of both personal and professional views.

    And as
    you correctly stated Mark, “above all, be human!”

  • Interesting post and I agree on the whole – I think where a lot of what you might talk about is for a very niche audience it can make sense to have more than 1 account but that said I think it’s very hard to inject your personality into more than one account but you need to be conscious of not creating noise that may put off some of your followers (or maybe you go with the ‘natural screening’ theory).

    I very much agree that for a corporate to find a ‘social voice’ is proving very difficult, it involves them being very brave and thinking very differently and I’m still on that journey with a number of my clients!

  • Maybe I’m the odd bird again, but I do have two Twitter handles. Not business/personal but English/Finnish. If you’re going to tweet in many languages, I would even go as far as to suggest you create a handle for each language separately. I doubt [email protected]:twitter  followers would like to see half of the tweets in a language they don’t understand a bit.

  • Thanks Ann.

  • There is a first time for everything. : ) 

  • I like this.  It’s not that you are two people, but you have two very different strategies and audiences. I got to work with the CMO of Coke for a while and somebody asked him, “how many strategies should I have?” and he answered, how many customers do you have?  Point being, you need to segment as much as you can afford to do. Thanks!

  • Absolutely Nick. You are always “on” on social media and let’s not forget it.

  • Makes perfect sense : ) 

  • I think Twitter is much more business oriented. I don’t communicate with family on Twitter. That’s a FB thing for me.  Thanks Samantha!

  • Perfectly said James. You are on your way! Thanks! 

  • “Brave” is an excellent way to characterize the challenge Jan!  Love that. Thanks! 

  • Yes, you are on odd bird, which is why I love you and why we get along so well. This is a very good example of when two Twitter accounts makes sense! Thanks for that insight Kimmo! 

  • Interesting post and a debatable one too 🙂 But i believe that having one twitter a/c serves my purpose. Initially I had two twitter a/c one was personal and one was with work/sm etc. the problem was that i was not sharing much on personal and the one where i was sharing lot of cool stuff had a logo without face. so obviously people were not interested, wanted to know the face and all questions. so now have one a/c(business one) with a face of mine and life is good. managing two accounts was pain and variety in content was a challenge for me. but things are sorted for good.
    as u have mentioned that people trust a face more so i think brands need to shed their traditional clothes and be more social. 
    Great thoughts and interesting one 🙂

  • a valid point 🙂

  • I have 2 twitter handles because I have 2 unrelated blogs. I couldn’t consolidate marketing and entrepreneurship with breastfeeding, potty training, and baby things. 

    I tried for a long time to make them go together but it hurt both presences. I’m about to start a 3rd … depends really on how focussed you want your streams to be. 

  • We have been debating this very question related to our growing company.  Thanks for the great content as always Mark 🙂

  • Guest

    Mark – ignore this one, I’m just checking out commenting for Disqus via Chrome

  • Kimmo, that is great. I have stopped following a number of people because of language, appreciate that you keep two accounts for those of us that are not as accomplished. 

  • Prasant, thanks for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts. Thanks for the gift of your time! I appreciate it!

  • Extremely good point. The audiences varied so much.  Well said Ameena. All gets back to strategy.

  • Keep it personal. Keep it real. Use real faces and make meaningful connections. 

  • Thanks, Eric. I know what you mean: I’ve followed someone who has a good wit but has 9 out of 10 tweets in Greek. Bloody annoying to endure the 9 waiting for the 10th.

  • Okay, so now I’m officially endorsed as an odd bird. (Funny — I’m taking it as a compliment 🙂

  • Will do!  Of course, reading The Tao of Twitter (http://www.thetaooftwitter.com/) again as a brush-up always helps ; ) After taking your class in Feb. I changed our company logo to my picture, made my profile description more personal (as I am the only one who has ever used  @vieodesign:twitter anyway) and the statistics say it all! http://tweet.grader.com/history/vieodesign  

    Now that we have more team members, we are debating creating a separate company account where several of us tweet (with background profile pictures and tags on who is who) or just leverage personal profiles that already exist.

  • “If you attended a chamber of commerce meeting or an industry get-together, you wouldn’t cover your face with a logo and hand out ads.”
    I tried this once in the early eighties but it didn’t work. At the next meeting I gave everyone I met ten business cards to pass out to others they met during the event as a favor to me. Again, a fail. Another time I tried asking long questions of the keynote speaker while working in as much self promotion as possible. At that point they unfriended me from the group and deleted my membership.

    None of this really happened. I just got carried away imagining your example.

    Today I try to keep things simple. I’m the same person at work that I am at home so I have one twitter account. But that’s just me.

  • Kimmo, You make a great point. I have often had someone start following me that tweets in another language and I can sometimes decipher that they may also be in marketing, I’ve followed some back only to unfollow later simply because I don’t understand anything they tweet. Do I need to learn more languages or do they need multiple twitter handles?

    I think you have the right idea and as a follower, I’m glad you have the English account. Does it take you much extra time to manage two accounts in two different languages?

  • Billy, thanks for getting in touch! Much appreciated. I’d definitely say they need multiple twitter handles. “Think about your audience” — you know…

    It doesn’t actually take much extra time to manage the two accounts. What I find on the internet that I  want to retweet, for example, is easy to summarize in two languages. If the links lead to sites in English for my Finnish readers, that’s usually no problem, but I can understand vice versa might be more problematic 🙂

    Third-party tools like HootSuite or TweetDeck make it easy to switch between accounts, which helps immensely.

    BTW: would you be inclined to block someone because you can’t figure out who they are and what they represent, not understanding the language? There’s always the risk they might be malicious in some way. Then again, they might see you as a hero, mentor and role model, which made them follow you in the first place. A bit of a conflict of interest.

  • I am so happy Twitter exists. I hate networking meetings. They are the Anti-Mark.

  • If your team members have the interest and the ability, there is a definite advantage to having each of them serve as beacons for your company individually. I follow-back every person who looks to be legitimate. I only follow back a small percentage of businesses because I don;t know who the actual person is. I rarely want to be friends with a business.

    A social media policy is important, even in a small company, to define social media rules of engagement. Even a simple thing like everybody describing your company exactly the same way is a big deal when establishing a brand presence. Good luck!

  • When I see somebody following me who is working in another language, I make an extra effort to try to find out what it is about. If it is not intuitive (like Finnish!) I’ll even translate a tweet or two.  I regard it as an honor that anybody follows me so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt. I am trying my best to have a global sensibility although i know I too often write from a US point of view because it is expedient!  I think I have offered more international voices and perspectives of social media than any other blogger I know of. Off the top of my head, I recall having features or guest posts from France, Thailand, UK, Sweden … and of course Estonia! 

  • And that is the way it was meant! 

  • It happens occasionally.

  • Great article, but our company did go the company handle route and encouraged our employees to create a professional handle in addition to a personal handle they may already have had.  However, we’ve tried to make it fun (personal photos with a graphic edge, not the company logo) and also encourage our Tweeters to share their personal side as well.  Check out our blog on it: http://blog.fusionalliance.com/blog/views-from-a-marketing-maven-of-sorts/our-twitter-force.

  • I have yet to learn to become more personal with my usage of Twitter. I understand that it is all about relationships and connection but with the limited time I put in unto twittering, I only got time to discover interesting articles, read them, retweet them and then place a tweet of my own. I know though that this is not enough.

    – Wes –

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  • Hi Mark, 

    Being a person counts most. I have a few twitter accounts but make sure to engage on each one. Some are for SEO purposes, but I still make sure to RT, chat, ask questions and provide answers. The more human you can be, independent of how many accounts you use, the better.Thanks for sharing!RB

  • one account, every time – but I’m no ‘one-trick pony!’ ha! – seriously – congruence n presenting a consistent, rounded self, is important for sustaining online relationships, because nobody wants to engage with a stream of corporate messages. yes – there are exceptions, as outlined below – but generally, I think you create a ‘richer’ picture with a single twitter account 🙂 

  • Jane Stretton

    I should maybe point out that I tweet as @dovefarm –  check out my logo and u will understand the   pony pun – I kind of keep it there now – cos that’s how people know me on twitter 🙂 

  • Madamward

    I have 2 Twitter handles, one for my business and one for personal. The reason I decided to create 2 accounts is that I have seperate interests/ventures that would not be relevant and indeed perhaps unproffessional to tweet on either account. Also, the direction I want to take my business in, will be seperate from me personally one day, which would mean I’d have to start again with a new account.
    I do tweet a mixture of personal tweets on my business account and be myself and don’t bombard with marketing message after marketing message, as I agree poeple at large are sick of being sold to but still feel, for me personally, it works better to have 2 accounts.

  • Fara

    Good idea, Ann.  I’ll try it 🙂

  • Thanks for adding to the dialogue Jodi.

  • I wouldn;t be so hard on yourself. It depends on your goals Wes.  I think it is awesome that you are getting so much value out of Twitter just by finding interesting content. That shows you’ve done a good job surrounding yourself with quality folks. You’ve created some good value for yourself.

    However, it is true that to really realize the most powerful networking benefits, you need to show up. It’s the same in real life. If you go to a networking meeitng and just sit in a corner and observe, nothing will happen.  Same on Twitter. You need to make an effort to show up and connect.  Again, depends on your goals.

    If you are struggling with the time and ideas on how to do this, I think you might enjoy The Tao of Twitter book. It provides a simple regimen for both newcomers and experienced follks trying to get more value through this networking tool.

    Thanks for your comment and good luck!

  • Thanks very much for taking the time to share your perspective Ryan!

  • Sounds like you have created an interesting brand for yourself Jane. Thanks for commenting.

  • I’m glad you’ve found a plan that works for you. However I would be careful tweeting anything “unprofessional” on any account. Let’s not kid ourselves. Everything we say reflects on our brand. If we are being evaluated by potential employers, HR pros or customers, every public utterance is fair game for them to make an evaluation. Everything we say, and everything we don’t say, reflects on our personal brand. Good luck! 

  • Hey what about Canada?! 🙂

  • I don’t think I could handle any more than one Twitter account Mark, as it is I feel like I’m communicating with a black hole most of the time. Must admit to neglecting Twitter a bit of late due to my fascination with G+ (any future thoughts to come on G+?), Love the cartoon!

  • mvaede

    I totally agree that Twitter, like any other social network, has to be personal. As a matter of fact, I think business is personal, even when you work for a large corporation. When you work as a consultant, personal branding becomes ubiquitous and paramount – so 1 twitter account covers everything, because YOU are everything you do and everything is very personal and professional.

    But I think you can have many Twitter accounts. Kimmo provides a perfect example, but also when running several business or activities – each very different and without any spillover benefits, then separate twitter accounts brings clarity to your streams of comments, thoughts, ideas and connections. As pointed out be others in this thread, focus is the key word here.

    Mikael

  • I am not finding myself drawn to G+.  In fact it is remarkable how many people I have talked to in the past two weeks who have pretty much looked at it and then dismissed it. I think it’s cool. Just don;t have the bandwidth for another platform, at least right now. 

  • Superb commentary Mikael.  You bring up some good angles on the discussion. Thanks.

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  • Thanks Mark! Great to hear you like my approach.

  • Thanks for the recommendation, Mark. I do realize the wisdom of your words, I am just too strapped for time. But, I will look into The Tao of Twitter. I have been hearing good things about that book. 🙂

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  • It’s your name online.
    Imagine having several names?
    You may have several facets to your name: father, husband, worker, designer,funny, and so on.
    But…
    You are known by one name and even thought you may swim in different social circles you are still fundamentally the same person.
    So…
    I think on the overall one identity should be enough for anyone, unless of course you are a superhero and need to keep who you really are secret 🙂

  • Said it before: it’s the real me, not the whole me. I show personality, interests, lots of my flawed, wacky human side on my professional Twitter account, yet still have the secret, play Twitter for those things that don’t crossover, translate well. These are my 140-character fist shakes at the world: I vent, rant, rave or gripe about hot button issues that could damage my professional profile, or obsess about my TV shows. Seriously, you’d be worried some nights when I get going. 😉 Yes I’ll engage and discuss almost anything on my professional account, but in moderation. Even my cheering LSU, trust me, I don’t blow up my stream with posts during a game, curse out the refs when they make crappy calls. 

    That said it is different for me as I’m a solo PR. When someone else is signing your paychecks, then it is that much more important to think about the strategy you have for Twitter, how much overlap of professional and professional (interests, follows, tweets, topics) is ideal for you – and your employer. To wit, your advice about the social media policy, and the various strategies we have for different networks. Being a beacon for your brand my work for the boss, but is it really the kind of stuff F&F want to follow? Doubt it, which is why there’s FB. FWIW.

  • not an issue here!! 

  • Yup.  And may I say how much I enjoy your vent, rant, rave and gripey messages! : ) Thanks Davina!

  • Well tomorrow’s game, there might be one or two tweets that get a little ranty, downright bitchy, if my LSU Tigers mess up. 🙂

  • Agreed! and then some. Since there is no real privacy anymore, anywhere you may as well take the branding that is you and own it for what it is worth.

  • NYC Singh

    Excellent article, covering an issue that many professional Twitterers run into.

    I’ve got my own Twitter account for my web consulting business, with the username being the company name. Some questions I’m wrestling with:

    1. There’s a lot of talk about it being OK to tweet about your personal interests on an account whose main purpose is networking, with an end goal of bringing in business in the future. But is there a downside to rationally voicing your opinion on certain topics? For example, topics of politics and religion can get people passionate, either in agreement of disagreement with your point of view. Could I be pushing away potential customers that decide they don’t like my political or religious alignment?
    2. Profile Photo vs. no profile photo. I’ve heard that you really should use your photo in your profile pic, as people are more likely to form a connection with that as opposed to a company logo or avatar. Could there be downsides, though, to having a profile pic? My thought was that if someone doesn’t like the way you look, they can simply choose not to follow you even before they get to know you. That may also be true in real life, I suppose, but on the web, you really only have a few seconds to get someone to stay.

    Thoughts, folks?

  • This is a great reasoning but I do have an additional question 🙂 

    What about the situation where you have two or three absolutely unrelated sites and you want to promote them all on Twitter. So for example, I as a blogger, tweet about blogging and social media but have site on (example) fitness and interior design. How would you handle these? I keep separate accounts for separate sites and still haven’t really figured out how would I be able to merge them. Any ideas? 

  • I think it depends on your goals and I could go either way with this one. I am assuming that you want to network with people who are likely to buy your services. So for example, I am a potential client. I am marketer, I enjoy fitness and may need some help with interior design. Those interests and needs are not mutually exclusive. If I only saw your marketing account, how would i ever know you also do design and fitness. And if you are trying to network as a person, why wouldn’t you be fully human and let people know of all of these interests?

    The only way I would have separate account is if the businesses were just so wildly different that it would confuse people or you wanted to keep a wall between different parts of your life.

    Remember that Twitter is not necessarily B2B or B2C. It’s P2P – person to person. You’re not really getting to know people if you wall off parts of your life. I tweet about art, history, sports, travel … anything that interests me because I want people to know me, and perhaps be interested enough to become a new friend.

    Of course if you are simply “broadcasting” from these different accounts it is probably annoying people any way because you’re not networking, you’re advertising and people are sick of that. My take any way : ) Hope that helps.

  • I was going to write a blog about this and you have said exactly what I would have said.  Someone asked me about this via Twitter yesterday and I thought it might be easier to write a blog rather than being restricted to 140 characters, but now I will just send her a link to this post.  Thank you.

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  • Good post, Mark. I agree that companies need to let employees be themselves on Twitter. A good corporate policy is Google’s “Do no evil.” I do have multiple Twitter profiles, but @fearlesscomp is certainly the flagship.

  • feelblizzard_

    I have two. I’m Russian so one is for my Russian friends. And second’s international, where I post in English only, I have pen pals all over the world.

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