Should Twitter feeds be handled by third-parties?

Corporate Twitter by Tom Fishburne

There have been some high profile incidents recently involving celebrities and Twitter, notably Alec Balwin’s fracas with American Airlines and Ashton Kutcher’s decision to hand over the running of his Twitter feed to a management company.

And brands have also run into problems, with faux pas from Habitat, Kenneth Cole and Qantas all springing to mind.

As a result of episodes like these, the question as to whether Twitter feeds should be managed by third parties, such as PR firms and marketing agencies, has been asked again in both the blogosphere and mainstream media.

The case for using a third-party

Conversations and exchanges on Twitter are instantaneous and happens in real-time. Whilst this is what makes Twitter so good, it can also be the downfall of hot-headed celebrities who forget to think before they tweet.

A third-party can act as a buffer between a celebrity and their fans. This means that when a debate flares up or a big event occurs there is someone else carefully managing the process (and hopefully in consultation with the celebrity to maintain a degree of authenticity).

A third-party can also help brands manage their social media marketing efforts. Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon for many companies and a specialist agency or marketing company can help facilitate the process and ensure that social media is managed and executed effectively.

The case against using a third-party

Twitter offers people the opportunity to interact and connect with celebrities in a way that is not possible using traditional media. The feeling of intimacy a fan can get from following a footballer, movie star or business tycoon is completely dependent on the authenticity of the ‘star’ in question.

By using a third-party you are essentially putting a barrier up, thus reducing Twitter to yet another broadcasting mechanism. The real value of Twitter lies in the art of engaging with followers, starting a dialogue and building relationships.

Although the situation is a little different for companies, I believe the same basic principles apply. Outsourcing social media is a tricky balancing act and although some consumers may be happy to follow a brand on Twitter to get deals or special offers, authenticity and a careful appreciation of the medium is still essential to ensure that any exchange or interaction is handled appropriately by the company.

It’s a judgement call

The decision as to how a Twitter feed should be handled is completely dependent on the brand or celebrity involved. As with most things in social media, there is no clear right or wrong way of doing things.

However, Twitter is a unique platform that allows you to make genuine connections with anyone, anywhere. Delegating tweets to a third party leaves you disconnected from your followers and creates a diluted version of the whole experience.

Whatever you do, the key is to be honest and transparent so that your followers know who they are really engaging with on Twitter.