Tweeters Behaving Badly: Why You Need To Think About Personas as Part of Your Social Media Strategy

By Chris Bucholtz

One of the things social media allows us to see clearly and instantly is that some people don’t get social media. I see this every day in the CRM Outsiders Twitter feed (we’re @CRMOutsiders, by the way). Many of the people following us and being followed by us pre-date my arrival, including one gentleman who hails from the south Florida area.

I’m not going to call him out by name, but his handle is important. He’s an exec at his company, so when he signed up, he used the name and the company as his handle. If he were me, he’d be @ChrisSugarCRM.

There’s no secret what company he works for, and yet I’ve never seen a post about the company. However, being that we are a continent and four time zones apart, prime time for him is still work time for me. Thus, I have seen lots of commentary on sports, most of it spouting obscenities like a Tourette’s syndrome-afflicted merchant marine with a bad case of the Mondays.

During the NBA playoffs, there were allegations made about Dirk Nowitzki’s mother that would make a hardened veterinarian blush. Dolphins football brings a profane and homophobic running commentary. Even the Florida Marlins, as self-evidently awful as they are, were the subject of an assortment of posts that featured proctological references to batting helmets, challenges to their sexual identities and one reference to Hanley Ramirez resembling an, ahem, lower simian attempting to have romantic relations with a football.

At first these Tweets offended me, but they are so over the top they started top become funny. It’s also not often you get such a great example of what not to do with social media: identify yourself with your business, and then act like an absolute boor.

However, he’s still plugging away, his business still exists, and he’s obviously outlasted any social media manager the company may have had. His Twitter persona is different from his real-life persona – it’s got to be, otherwise he’d be busy flogging his resume in search of a new company he could utterly embarrass on Twitter.

Personas are an interesting thing, especially in the social media realm. The person we portray ourselves as in Tweets is different than the person portrayed in LinkedIn, or Facebook or wherever you may be, and that persona is different than the one you have in person. If you’ve ever read an angry screed on some social media site written by someone you know to be a bashful nebbish in real life, you can grasp this phenomenon.

From a CRM point of view, this raises some interesting questions, like this one: Should you create a different social profile for people based on the personas they adopt in different social media settings? How do you manage your interactions with all these personas? And how do you identify the personas that are most lucrative for you to foster relationships with?

I wrote about this idea a long time ago – so long ago I refer to CRM 2.0, rather than social CRM. The idea is still a bit out there (and immersive role-playing environments like Second Life seem to be fading in popularity, not threatening to subvert real-life reality, dimming the idea of personas a bit), but it does make sense to shift your business’s efforts to the channels where people are more likely to buy. If discerning between their personas helps with that, perhaps it’s something to track, even if it’s only to vary the way you respond to conversations in different venues.

At the same time, it’s important to keep track of the personas that represent your company. The same person who’s a respectful, articulate gentleman on the corporate Twitter account might be an out-of-control wild man on a developer’s forum or vertically-oriented site. Let everyone in the company know that there’s an image you need to project when you’re associated with the company – as in, when your handle or user name is identified with the company – and that, while you don’t want to deny their personalities, you also need for them to realize they’re representing the entire company. If what you’re communicating on social media wouldn’t be appropriate in front of customers in the office, it’s not appropriate in front of customers in social media – as in, potentially thousands of customers or could-be customers.