Everyone is debating whether brands belong on Twitter.
Can you think of a better lead-in to focus on the LA Times?
Over the course of five hours earlier this month, California resident Sylvia Martinez wrote the following two Twitter messages about the Times:
First tweet: thinking about canceling sub. to LA Times. Trib came in and ruined it, now wants protection against debts. why should i pay for that? | Dec 8, 2008 09:16 PM GMT
Sylvia, president of Generation YES, is one of many people I follow on Twitter. (Though her professional affiliation is not the reason I follow her; rather, I find her tweets valuable.)
When I saw her tweet about the newspaper following her, I immediately sent this message:
I’m curious how long after your 8-hour-old tweet about the LA Times did they start following you.
Like clockwork, the LA Times sent me this message within a few hours:
We followed @smartinez manually a few minutes after her tweet – it’s been a busy day 🙂 We don’t auto follow unless u follow 1st
No message was sent to @BrandCustomer, but the Times began following both me and my experiment. At no point then or now, am I following the paper.
The publisher is offering great customer service by its responsiveness to people who tweet about the brand.
When I introduced the concept of @BrandCustomer earlier this month, I noticed that one of the commenters was AndrewN, the social media guy in the LA Times newsroom, who wrote this message in the comment field:
“We’re now following you on Twitter. Please reciprocate by following us…”
Who is we? Who is us? Is it Andrew or someone else? Maybe a group of newsroom folks? Their Twitter bio is unclear.
Moreover, I live in Massachusetts and follow hyperlocal feeds like @UniversalHub. Why should I follow the LA Times?
Responding to Andrew’s comment, why should I follow you merely because you follow me? Provide customer service, be helpful, offer advice. But don’t ask for reciprocity; you’re a brand, not a person. People follow brands for different reasons; I follow brands if I find value and the brand offers a personal touch.
If you had a personal account, such as @AndrewN, and you identified yourself as the social media guy at the Los Angeles Times, and your tweets were about everything from journalism to social media, then I might find value and follow you.
At the least, you should emulate Morgan at JetBlue and place your name in the LATimes’ bio section above. Be transparent. Be authentic. That way, people (and I) can know who the real McCoy is behind the company.
UPDATE: Based on the above advice and the below comments, Andrew Nystrom and the L.A. Times changed their ways, as indicated in this praise-worthy twitter message.
Photo credit: mattlogelin