You can read here on Mashable how a guy named Noah Kravitz worked at a company named PhoneDog, tweeting while he did as “@phonedog_noah,” and then left the company and took — or tried to — his 17,000 Twitter followers with him when he left.
“Tried to” because PhoneDog is suing him for $2.50 per follower.
Google “phonedog Noah Kravitz” and you’ll see what a mess. Lots of different opinions. And there are clearly two sides — or more — to the story. Evil establishment claiming the life and identity of poor wage slave? Unscrupulous employee running off with company assets as he leaves? Take your choice.
What I see is one huge mistake: the account name: “@phonedog_noah.” It’s half company, half personal. If he’d been tweeting as “@NoahKravitz” then his ownership would have been clear: his name, his followers, his account. Or if he’d been tweeting as “@PhoneDog” then it would have been equally clear: company name, company account, company followers. Unfortunately, “@phonedog_noah” is a bit of both. Ambiguity, here we come.
I took a quick look at my business, Palo Alto Software, which has a @bplans twitter account and a bplans facebook page. Those are the company’s, no doubt. I post on them, Sabrina posts, Noah posts, Monique posts, and others do too. Some people who are no longer employees have posted to those in the past. But @timberry is mine, not the company’s; and @mommyceo is Sabrina’s, and so on. These are easy distinctions to make.
What about your business? Whose brand are you building?
I engage happily with people at companies. Shashi Bellamkonda., for example, who works with Network Solutions, or Richard Duffy, with SAP. These are people. I’ve met them on Twitter, and then in one case in person and the other by phone. This is actually social, amplified by technology. It’s cool.
Not long ago I was driving a five-year-old grandson to kindergarten when he asked me how to make friends. That’s ironic because networking is hardly my strong suit, but he doesn’t know that. And I guess that’s what kids expect grandfathers to know, so I really wanted to help him. I tried. It sounded like a lot of clichés to me, but then I’m not five years old.
I think it’s about Empathy. That’s too big a word for a kid, so I called it feeling what the other kids feel. You have to be a friend to have a friend; the golden rule; kindness. etc. My mother would have said “put yourself in the other kid’s place.” My mother-in-law called it “see yourself through the other kids’ eyes.”
Just a few hours later, in a group of mostly-baby-boomer types drawn together by interest in entrepreneurship and possible angel investment, Twitter came up. I like it and I said so. Somebody asked me for supposed secrets of success in Twitter.
Without actually thinking of that moment with my grandson earlier that day, I gave them these five tips for success with Twitter. And as I did so, it struck me that it’s mostly the same thing: empathy.
Offer something other people want. In Twitter specifically, nobody cares what you’re watching on television or eating for lunch. It’s publishing, not babbling. Use twitter to offer people quotes, humor, ideas, and – my favorite by far – useful links they can follow up on.
When in doubt, treat others like you want them to treat you. Teasing, mocking, insulting, shouting (all caps) are not appreciated.
When you don’t have anything to say, don’t say anything.
When you’re angry, wait. Breathe. Think about it before you do it. Public arguments are ugly. And (when published on Twitter, at least) they live forever. Angry words are not biodegradable.
Return favors. When somebody does you a favor, remember it, and do them a favor back. Thank you is nice but a favor in return is more effective. In twitter at least, too much thanking becomes clutter. Twitter involves a lot of passing other people’s tweets (posts) along, called re-tweeting, so when somebody likes what you’ve published (tweeted) there and passes it to others, find something of theirs to pass along (re-tweet).
The next time I was with my grandson, I gave him almost this same list, revised only slightly, for kindergarten use. And while I’d like to report that he took it to heart and he’s now the life of the proverbial kindergarten party… well, at least we’re both still trying.