Many people will tell you that when you use a Twitter account (or other social marketing techniques) to promote a product, website, or blog, you should make a specific account for said website or product and keep your personal account separate and out of the public eye. This is not always true. Separation of one’s business and personal life is a traditional marketing approach which does not apply as much on the web. People who have grown up seeing traditional advertising all their life don’t want to hear about companies, but about people: Individuals with whom they can connect. If your project is small enough that you alone can represent it online, then using your personal account can give users a sense of inclusion that a company account with nothing but product and blog updates just can’t do. People want to be able to feel they know you, the creator of the content which they will consume. You become real to them in a way that a company—a large abstract entity—can never do.
For example, take a look at the Twitter account of Jonathan Strickland (@JonStrickland): the senior writer for HowStuffWorks.com and co-host of their popular podcast, TechStuff. Strickland’s current 1,324 followers are mostly fans of his writing and podcast. They don’t know him personally, but they follow him and virally market his podcast for free. If HowStuffWorks were to create a TechStuff Twitter account they would undoubtedly be followed by a great many of Strickland’s followers, but the same loyalty would not be present after they could no longer hear Strickland quote Shakespeare or Burgess in between tweets about the podcast or his latest article. They want to hear his own personal style and have a glimpse into his life. Compare Strickland’s bio line:
“Writer for HowStuffWorks. Actor. Director. Goofus.”
to the bio that might be present on a TechStuff Twitter account:
“Podcast about technology from HowStuffWorks.”
Both advertise the affiliation with HowStuffWorks, but it is possible for a reader to relate with Strickland’s; this has helped make his podcast a success. Using your personal account can create a sense of loyalty among your followers.
Adversaries of this approach to social marketing will point out a problem: what do you do with your account when you switch jobs, or decide to start that next big endeavor you’ve been planning? If you simply start posting about designing steering wheels for ships instead of about mobile technology (or whatever you might have been writing about before) you’re likely to alienate many of your followers and suffer a decline in popularity. This means you’ll have to start all over gaining followers and creating a sense of trust and loyalty which has now become even more difficult because, if you lost a great number of readers, potential new readers no longer have the social draw of seeing that you already have a large group of followers. As it turns out this is less of a problem than you might think because you used a personal account. As I stated earlier, people follow you to connect with you, not your product. They are interested in what you have to say about your product and your personal endeavors. If you have taken the time to get to know your followers as you should then they can form a client base for your new project. Your readers can remain your readers, and become interested in your new subject matter as well.
While using a personal account and using a business account to market a product both have their merits and are useful in different situations, for websites, blogs, small businesses, and other smaller projects it is often more beneficial to use your personal account rather than an account created specifically for the project. Not only will you already have engaged followers who can start marketing your product from day one, but—should you decide to move away from the project in the future—it will be easy for you to use your current followers as a social marketing base for your next endeavor.