From Corporate to Personal: A Breakdown Of The Four Types of Twitter Profiles

Brands often ask how they should position their persona on social media profiles and accounts, this guide should be a helpful breakdown.  This post is inspired by Michael Brito, one of Intel’s social media strategists who presented on this topic with me at Stanford a few weeks ago. There are different purposes for different needs, so my standard breakdown is designed for you to weigh out the pros and cons as you make your decision.

From Corporate to Personal: The Four Types of Twitter Profiles

1) Pure Corporate Brand
100% corporate branded with primarly corporate related content. These accounts, which are often sporting the proper brand name of a company are used often to provide corporate news, deals, and support.  There is no indicator of any individuals involved.
Example: Four Seasons corpoate or McAfee News feed which indicates it’s not an interactive feed.
Pros: This account can be managed by a team, and less risk of an individual being co-branded with the brand, as they may leave later.
Cons: This may be perceived as a just an extension of corporate PR or the corporate website with little human interaction.

2) Corporate With Persona
Estimated with about 80% corporate brand and 20% personal brand this account may be a corporate branded account, although it’s clear there’s an individual participating.
Example: ComcastCares, which shows the account is run by Frank Elliason, or CiscoNews, by John Earnhardt
Pros: This account maintains the face of the corporate side, yet shows a human element, building trust with the community.
Cons: The account may be limiting itself as the community may come to expect and rely on the individual person to participate.

3) Employee With Corporate Association
In a rough estimate this account consists of 20% corporate related content, and approximately 80% personal information.  Perhaps the most common account are the thousands or maybe millions of accounts my employees that may not explicitly represent a brand but they represent their individualism and often indicate they’re an employee of a company.
Example: Take any personal account, which often indicates their name, they indicate they’re an employee, although may have disclaimers that their opinions are theirs alone. Bert Dumars of Rubbermaid.
Pros: These personal accounts are often organic and are a great way to build connections with a community.
Cons: Even if a disclaimer states that “these opinions only represent me, not my employer” they still are representatives of the brand.

4) Pure Personal Account
These accounts are 100% personal content and have no tie or mention of corporate or branded information. These personal accounts, either created by an individual that doesn’t want to be associated with their employer or their employer won’t let them is void of any corporate ties.
Example:  There are various personal accounts, without any affiliations to brands.
Pros: This account has no tie or risk to a brand.
Cons: Although the risks are reduced, so are the opportunities. The chance to evangelize the brand with their community are lost.

Each Profile Type Serves A Different Purpose
Which type is right for your social media endeavors? It depends on the culture and goals of the organization. Expect many brands to have several of these accounts (For example, Cisco has types 1, 2, and 3) within their social arsenal). Type 1 may be useful for sharing facts, Type 2 may be helpful for support, Type 3 may have advantages in evangelism and type 4 may be helpful for employees that have little connection to the product or customers.

Having multiple types of profiles for your brand strategy is useful, play to the strenghts of each, however it’s important to note that having internal coordination with process and policy will also help to provide a common, high-quality experience to customers.

Love to hear from you, what profile types does your company use?  If you found this helpful, tweet out what kind of account you are, with this URL to this post

71 Replies to “From Corporate to Personal: A Breakdown Of The Four Types of Twitter Profiles”

  1. If it isn’t obvious, I’m type 3: “Employee With Employer Association” I have a note on my Twitter profile that states “I work at Forrester Research, however these opinions are mine.”

    I use Twitter mainly for work purposes, although I’ve made my passion my career, so there’s a lot of fun overlap.

  2. I’m “type 3” also… a “private citizen” (who happens to also be an employee, among other things like father, husband, grandfather, brother, friend, Harley rider, etc.) with an affiliation to SAP. My Twitter profile, like Jeremiah’s, also notes that the opinions expressed are my own. I, too, mix personal and business topics in my tweets. For many of us, work is part of who we are, but not everything we are, and the two elements – work and personal – often overlap in time, space, thoughts, activities…

  3. There’s a dialog in Twitter

    @Wzzy suggested that there’s a type of account between the first and second, such as @Ask_WellsFargo

    I say @Ask_WellsFargo is a type 2 “Corporate With Persona” as if that person leaves (her name is Haila), the account is likely transfered to another employee to manage.

  4. Determining what kind of account I have has been a dilemma in the past. As a developer, I work under a company title, but I have a larger following associated with my personal brand. Because I weave in advice, my audience at least knows what I do for a living. Since I don’t have the time to maintain two different lives online, I recently dropped the business accounts (they didn’t get any traction, so I was safe.)

    Honestly, type 3 is the most valuable for me (and probably a lot of other independent workers too). If everything changes, and I leave my freelance firm behind, the community will still know who I am.

    Thanks for posting this, Jeremiah.

  5. Nice post Jeremiah, I’d again be in Profile #3) Employee With Corporate Association, as I work for Wipro Technologies and most of the times post my views/opinion or RT what I like. But being active on Twitter also helps be guide my team design better Social CRM solutions integrated with the cloud communities. Or advise my customers better on how they can benefit from doing CRM on communities like Twitter.

  6. Like the breakdown. Here at Carphone Warehouse we have a number of different accounts, but I would say that we fall into categories 1 & 2. We have a larger population that is 3 & 4, but I would say they are not really integrated as such in any formal way into what we do from a business tweeting perspective. As @guyatcarphone responding to customer service queries and complaints definitely operating in 2, whilst @carphoneware, tweeting corporate announcements etc, firmly in 1.

  7. Nicholas, in the end, you and I have personal brands –that have associations with the things we do, and where we work.

    Focus on the Nicholas brand first.

  8. Nallai

    The @zappos account is a number 2 account. It’s corporate branded, but really the personality of it’s founder and CEO Tony. Both brands are nearly inseparable at this point.

  9. Hi Jeremiah. My account, @staraasved, is a type 3 account. While I often post items important to me personally (generally environmentally related issues) I also tweet items related to social media given that it is my field of work at LiveWorld, Inc. More realistically, I’d estimate my tweets are closer to a 35% business related, 65% personal ratio.

  10. I’m curious if there has been any research as to which type is the most effective? My gut feeling would be type 2 or 3, because personality helps raise interest. Personally, I’m type 3.

  11. Where do you place public figures like politicians?
    In The Netherlands we have also ministers that run a personal Twitter account to stay in contact with the people.

    In your setup you categorize them as #3 accounts?

  12. Debbie each account serves a different purpose. Sorta like, what’s better, a hammer, a saw, or a screwdriver. It depends on what you’re trying to build.

    Take @delloutlets, (type 2) which merges Stephanie’s persona, it’s not a personal account, but it’s sold 3mm in revenues. A good mix.

  13. Bram (I was just in Amsterrdam a few weeks ago, miss it already)

    Celebrities and politicians are type 3, as long as they associate their brand (position or fame) with the account

  14. Well, I guess you could say I am obviously a type 3 as I was called out: @bwdumars. 🙂 Thanks for the post, the definitions and explanations for the different types. I do believe you hit my role perfectly. We also have several type 1 and 2 accounts including @sharpiesusan, @rubbermaid, @rubbermaidtwo, @sharpiesally, @gracobaby, @lindsaylebresco, @ExpoMarkers, as examples. I like to think of myself as an aggregator across our brands. I re-tweet some of the more interesting and fun tweets by our employees and band team members. I feel this is creating more positive word-of-mouth and brand awareness and supports our overall brand building efforts. Our CEO called out our Sharpie Uncapped social media and brand community site program today ( our Q2 2009 earnings call as an example of next generation brand building. Very positive for the Sharpie team and our overall social media efforts.

    Thanks again for the excellent post.

    Bert DuMars
    VP E-Business & Interactive Marketing
    Newell Rubbermaid

  15. My primary piece of advice to SM users is, “To thine own self be true” and “Let your freak flag fly.” I feel it’s really important to be authentic AND let your personality show; it’s the “social” component of social media. That’s our rationale for advising our clients to embrace what you outline here as #2 or #3, the degree or weight of which defined by who they are and what kind of business they’re in.

  16. Jeremiah – these different individual profiles is really interesting and something many of us will have to wrestle with on an ongoing basis.

    Perhaps a missing dimension is how each social network platform has a certain profile – for instance, Linkedin (99% business), Facebook (primarily personal life), etc… here’s more on that perspective.

    So converging both concepts may mean that I’m a 4 on Facebook, 3 on Twitter and 1 on Linkedin. Love to hear your and others thoughts on this.

  17. Nice post Jeremiah.

    I have two accounts, a corporate account and personal account. Up until now I would have put the corporate account into type 2 and my personal acccount into type 3. I’m thinking of refining this and moving the corporate into category 1 and limiting the tweets, while moving to a more personal approach from now on and letting people see the face behind the brand more with my personal account in type 3.

  18. Bert

    You weren’t called out, you stand out! (a good thing)

    Kris, my freak flags, nice. Not all corporations are ready to be social. take @cnnbrk it just spits out news headlines but has million plus followers.

    Andre, I didn’t even cover other social sites as it changes the weighting and analysis.

    Donagh seperation is not only good for you, but also your followers who may have expectations.

  19. Jeremiah – Good breakdown, but I wonder if it matters since the laws on commercial speech, the in advertising and even FTC guidelines are broad.

    Are you creating a false sense of security? Even if you’re 1% business, someone could argue that its commercial speech and therefore subject to Truth in Advertising laws.

  20. Jeremiah — as usual, excellent post. I am definitely a 3.

    Excellent question Bryan, regarding TIA laws. The law says:

    – Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
    – Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
    – Advertisements cannot be unfair.

    So, keeping this in mind, maybe brands shouldn’t be doing this on twitter. Conversations do not have to equal advertising.

  21. Interesting post. Thanks. I maintain the @PETCO Twitter account. I fall squarely into the #2 category. I tweet about deals and company news but throw in personal anecdotes about my pets or other goings on around the office. I also maintain a #3 style Twitter account with considerably less followers where I identify myself as a PETCO employee but talk about the company very little.

  22. I think that you missed one common usage. There is the Personal account as you mentioned which focuses mainly on non work related topics and I believe there is also the “Personal Professional” that comments on topics and issues in your profession without any Company or Brand affiliation. I would put myself in this 5th category. @TheDanKidd

  23. Very insightful definitions Jeremiah. At PR Newswire we have several 2’s (@prnewswire, @profnet, @multivu, @meetthemedia), a few 1’s (@prnevents, @eventnewscenter, @prnalert and @prnphotos), and a whole lot of 3’s. Your right in that you have to remind the 3’s that although it is under their own name, if they are using the company name in their bio, their opinions can easily be interpreted as company opinion. We’re fortunate that most of our 3’s get that. @danthekidd suggested a type 5 (one who doesn’t list the company name in the bio but tweets about the industry); I would be concerned that in some cases this type could easily become a transparency issue. We’ve asked all employees to be very transparent about who they work for if commenting on our company or issues that would concern the company (good or bad).

    Like @petco, aside from maintaining @prnewswire I also have a #3, which is much neglected because of the former.

  24. @britopian @jeremiah – It could all be viewed as commercial. Disclaimers really mean nothing, especially to lawyers and/or plantiffs. Whether its on Twitter or anywhere else, it can be and would be construed as commercial speech.

    Segmenting into four twitter types may convey a false sense of security to brands and their employees.

  25. There can be personal community as well….. For e.g. Sharepoint Professionals, .Net Experts, etc

  26. What about bloggers, self-employed, and “influencers.” As a life coach who blogs, and there are many of us, it may appear that our posts are personal, but they may more likely fit into type 2. But I see it more as a type 3.5. A blogger with a personal brand. A writer, a journalist, an influencer who is attempting to join the conversation.

  27. Nice post, Jeremiah. Thanks for the shout-out. At Cisco, as you note, we are in all types, but the overall goal of our presence on Twitter (from my point of view anyhow) is to show that there are people behind the company who are thoughtful, knowledgeable and willing to help. It is not always easy to approach a company that has over 60,000 employees and Twitter (and other forms of social media – we started with corporate blogs in early 2005) can help put a face and name to the company…as well as help people interact with our company.

  28. Great post Jeremiah. What I found most interesting on reflection is that when I first engaged in social media my profiles were all type 1 & 2 and have since evolved to type 3. I feel it’s more authentic as an employee to have a type 3 profile.

  29. I think in most cases, ONE account or one single type is not appropriate just because we all have multiple dimensions in our life.

    I use two Twitter accounts and one facebook account.

    @Orbius is type 2 where my posts are related to the company’s business only. This also allows another person to take over as the voice of the company if necessary.

    @chlow is type 3 – some relation to company but mostly personal professional bur related to people in the local region. Only some have common interest in my company’s business.

    I note the other Twitter account for each in case it is of interest to any follower.

    I use my facebook for 100% personal and family – type 4. No work related posts here. Will not be-friend anybody I have not met.

    Segregating accounts( and hence type of followers) is the only good way to make sure that my posts have the least amount of noise to my followers/friends. After all, our post supposed to be for their benefit.

    If a post applies to more than one (e.g call to action to social causes), I post in multiple accounts.

  30. jeremiah,

    thanks for this one. i’d be interested in hearing from you whether you think these correlate to your corp social media strategies: tower, hub-spoke, and tire. are there twitter account types or approaches best suited to tower? which work for tire? and which are good for transparency, customer service, etc.

    in other words, do the acct types translate to strategies?

    also interesting would be to see if a one can tell the different from tweet styles and content, and whether these differences matter? the mixed acct types would seem the most effective, because they offer the acct holder the flexibility in personality and content to engage a lot of followers in different ways, while taking refuge if necessary behind “corp” restrictions.

    on the downside, it would also seem that mixed accts might create more communication and require more time/effort to maintain. does this lead to a caveat for companies that really need to avoid mixing it up too much w customers?


  31. Many businesses also tweak and change as their brand changes. With Twitter no one single approach is the right approach. It is important to try new approaches.

  32. I wrote up four types of celebrity Twitterers almost a year ago, it’s amazing how similar these are:

    * An Imposter: A fan (or maybe an enemy) Twitter-squatter who has claimed the celebrity™s identity and has not yet been shut down or replaced by the real celeb.
    * An Agent: A public relations agency has been hired by the celebrity to use Twitter to publicize their activities. The celeb has little to no knowledge whatsoever about what the hell is going on in their name on Twitter, or for that matter even have a foggy idea of what Twitter is. I suspect a large number of celebrity twitterers are of this type, and of course their fans either fall for the ruse or don™t care (in the age of professional wrestling sports entertainment, is there any difference?)
    * An Assistant: The celebrity has an aide, perhaps their secretary or personal assistant, who writes the tweets for the celeb. When I first started using Twitter I imagined a corporate CEO fatcat barking orders to their beleaguered secretary ” in the same voice they would have used in the 1950™s to say Judy! Take a memo! to get their secretary to grab a pen and paper and ready themselves for dictation ” shouting Take a tweet!
    * The Real Deal: The celebrity who writes themselves, with their own bare hands, using a real computer or mobile phone to tell their fans and followers what they are really doing.

  33. An interesting twist on Type 2 is @dipnote, the official U.S. Department of State’s account. Bio shows who’s currently “on duty”, eliminating the con of relying one individual person’s participation.

    IMO, a great way for corporate brands to feature/introduce team members while promoting the brand. Share the love.

  34. Very interesting! My work account is definitely a Type 2 – my personal account is Type 3.

  35. Hi , I am definetly a a # 2, seems like a lot of others are as well. Type 1 seems like a waste of time.. defeats the purpose of “social” media.

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