Survey Results: Employee & Brand Social Media Accounts, To Blend or Not To Blend?

 Last week we surveyed our Social Media Club community by asking if they trusted a brand – more or less – when employees use blended accounts when engaging online, e.g. when Twitter handles are a combination of @Employee Name/Company Name.      

More than 46% of respondents answered their trust of a particular brand was not influenced more or less by a blended social media account, with 41% saying they were more trusting of the brand when they were also attached to individuals, like @SanjayGuptaCNN or @RichardatDell.  

It is assumed of course that if the account was set up as a blended account (@Employee Name/Company Name), it would remain with the company once the employee left. Of course, these waters are murky and there is much more that should be discussed around this: 

(1) If the account is only used for business related posts, would the account be turned over to the company once the employee leaves? If the intent is to represent yourself as the employee, one would think the account belongs to the company. See #3 below. 

(2) Was there agreement between company and employee of how this account was going to be used before it was set up? We ask this question as most ‘blended’ accounts are used professionally and personally, and the percentages slide up and down depending on the company news, and the employee representing the company. 

(3) Is this topic of ‘who owns (use this word loosely) the Twitter account’ covered in your social media policy? Have you laid out, in writing, what and what happens if an employee leaves? 

We asked if brands who allow employees to have personalized Twitter handles are susceptible to losing value when the employee leaves, and 80% said yes (e.g. mine is @jessicarmurray and I work for @socialmediaclub).

This is a great risk to brands who have a large community since much of the content is delivered by someone that is seen as the face of the organization, and is welcomed and trusted by the audience. Of course, this brings to light some of the issues on relying on just ONE person to be the face of the company online and does not remain only in Twitter-land, but we will save this for a post to come later as it is a meaty subject.

Have you ever tweeted feedback or complaints to brands and received a response from someone that you weren’t sure was affiliated with the brand?  It’s happening more and more, especially with spam bots doing keyword searches for brand names, often responding to you with a spammy link (warning: don’t click these if you cannot verify the user). 

More than 53% of surveyors said they would respond but would be hesitant to give away personal details, and more than 27% of people said they would not respond. 

So, what’s the next step in verifying whether or not the person responding is, in fact, an employee of the brand?  Most reported they simply look at Twitter bios, and if no details about the brand, they wouldn’t respond. Many said they preferred receiving responses from the official brand channel versus an employee of the brand.  Another way to verify employment information is by doing a quick name search on LinkedIn.  One respondent said “And it’s why we discourage/prohibit employees from answering customer questions from their personal accounts. We want those answers coming from one credible voice.”

The most interesting response was our last question related to who owns the personal social media account if the employee leaves? 

More than 70% of people said the company owns the account and content, with 27.5% saying this was property of the employee.

As noted in Item #3 above, and these are our assumptions again, but if the account is @comcastcares, we imagine it remains with Comcast and the replacement person steps in and keeps interacting under that same name. If the account was @jessicaatsocialmediaclub and I left the company, do I have the ‘right’ to change the Twitter handle to @jessicarmurray and keep all the followers that came with that account, or should the account name be changed to @kristieatsocialmediaclub as she was stepping in as my replacement?   

Things to consider: 

As more companies integrate social media, many feel to be truly authentic means allowing employees to establish these blended personal & profess
ional social media accounts.  How often are brands thinking of the impacts it could have if the employee left?  While we admit receiving a response from a recognizable face feels more warm and personalized versus a tweet from a branded social media account, brands should have a plan of action which require certain tweets to escalate from branded pages to certain employees either on public social media accounts or simply move it to DM’s and email. This way, brands can maintain value, credibility and trust of customers. 

And lay this out, clearly, in your social media policy. It never hurts to be prepared.