Why pages on Twitter is horrible news for marketers

Posted on Thursday, April 7, 2011 by Alan

According to various sources, including this post by Mashable’s Stan Schroeder, Twitter is considering changing the way brands will appear on the social network. Reports indicate that Twitter will give brands “pages,” similar to the way brands appear on Facebook now.

From Stan’s post:

The initiative, which Marketing Magazine reports is being lead by Twitter CEO Dick Costolo and President of Revenue Adam Bain, is to give brands their own space on Twitter — a page they could point to and use to deliver content, while encouraging Twitter users to follow them.

For Twitter, which has been looking for ways to monetize the site for years, this change makes a lot of sense. Giving brands a more official-looking platform on the site will offer Twitter’s designers new opportunities to gain revenue, instead of relying solely on promoted tweets, accounts and trends.

But while the news may be good for Twitter’s bottom line, how should we in the marketing community react?

First, the good news:

More official looking pages mean more customization, new opportunities to present content in different ways to our fans and followers. Think of all the cool things we can do with Facebook pages (the apps and contests and custom tabs), and the value we’ve gained by having dedicated marketing opportunities on the platform.

Now the bad news:

When I help our clients build their brands on Facebook, one of the mantras I like to repeat is: “think of your brand as a person.” It’s a branding philosophy built partly from the science of marketing (people trust messages from other people more than they do a branded message), and partly out of what P&B’s clients want to be to their customers (they want to build a personal connection with travelers). What that translates to on social media is a personal, fallible, human approach to social media marketing. If Black River Falls were a person, for example, P&B thinks that person should be someone who really loves Black River Falls, who posts photos of trips, and shares anecdotes and reminds fans what they love most about the community.

On Twitter, this brand/person merge has been much easier than on Facebook. Until now, our destinations’ pages have always looked like any other account. And that’s made our job easier.

But even if our clients are doing a great job of being human on social media, the separation of brands from people that Facebook (and now Twitter) are implementing, is making the distinction between real citizens of the community and brands clearer. When a fan interacts with Black River Falls on Facebook I want that fan to be as at ease and convinced of the authenticity of that “brand/person” as he is of his best friend. But the more separation the designers at Facebook and Twitter put between brand accounts and people accounts, the harder that job becomes. Our clients’ brands may talk like people and interact like them, but now they won’t look like them. Users who visit these accounts are alerted immediately (or at least subconsciously) by the brand-specific page design that they’re interacting with something less than a full member of the community.

Are brands people? Of course not. But if a brand presents itself authentically, honestly and openly to a community, and has real friends, fans and followers who enjoy that brand’s appeal and message (just as they enjoy their friends’), the distinction begins to fade away.

I’ve been reminded more than once as a social media marketer of the story of Pinocchio. All he wanted was to be a “real boy.” And all my clients want is the chance to present an authentic, real, human face to the world. Unfortunately for them (and for us), that job continues to get harder.

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About Alan

Clever and creative, this master of social media knows how churn up excitement and build serious awareness. Mr. Hamari’s specialty is starting online conversations that keep going and going. He has an ability to discern new opportunities where others hadn’t before.