ImageNot long ago, a user on our site asked me, “In terms of growing our B2B business through social media, and in particular with regard to Twitter, should we focus on our company or personal social media accounts?”

Well, Peter, you ask a great question.

Here is my response: it depends on what you are trying to achieve and with whom you are aiming to connect and target.

Option 1: your brand is you

From personal experience, running the business account from the company name has allowed us the flexibility to have several people post to the same account, from different perspectives. This is, however, a risky game.

As most marketers will tell you, Twitter is not about pumping information; it is about maintaining an active and engaging dialogue with influencers and people who are relevant to your company. It is much harder to formulate a conversation with people if they cannot tell exactly with whom they are speaking. A company is multifaceted, thus the need for many voices, but without a unified tone or singular representative, it is more difficult to initiate interest in conversation and inspire loyalty.  

Publication sites (which primarily pump articles) and larger B2C brands and organizations, rely on their label more than a small or medium sized B2B business (which relies on reputation and know-how), hence the need for stronger brand association. That said - if the goal is to create brand awareness and have knowledge associated with a particular business name, this might be your strongest bet.

B2B Examples: @Marketo, @Optify, @JESS3, @siriusdecisions, @Eloqua, @Savvy_B2B

Note: Savvy_B2B and Eloqua are interesting examples because although the Twitter name and handle both state the business title, the background image for the Twitter account page shows personal handles for the people who represent them. This is a clever way to diversify this method and make clear who the individual ‘experts’ are behind the brand. 

Option 2: you are your brand

Logistically, this means running your twitter account with the company as the handle and your name as the representative name on the account. This is a way to promote a personal and professional reputation, simultaneously - and on behalf of your company. The expertise you provide relates directly to you as an individual, but your words and interactions corresponded synonymously with that of the business.

The danger in this method is that there is little autonomy from your personal and professional life (at least on this account). If you have a tendency to make political or otherwise sensitive statements as an individual, or have a series of social media managers coming into (and out of) the role as ‘Twitter Master’ - this is not a good option for your business.

If your primary goal is to fuse your personal reputation with the product, service or industry knowledge of your business – this method can be highly effective. In a sense, this method kills two birds with one stone. You are a person with whom people are more willing to approach and respond - and you are the direct link between the conversations and knowledge of the company itself.

B2B Examples: @copyblogger (Brian Clark), @MarketingProfs (Ann Handley), @B2Bbloggers (Jeremy Victor), @Twylah (Kelly Kim), @socialkaty (Social Katy)

Note: I decided to put Katy Lynch, from Social Katy, into this category because she makes clear on her Twitter account that all Tweets are run by her (she just refers to herself as “SocialKaty,” hence the name on the account). Either way, she runs it exemplarily.

Option 3: you are you (in relationship to your brand)

In the third option, you are you (are you). Under this model, you are bound to none but yourself - with only internal pressure to speak and interact on behalf of your business.

The advantage to this method is that you have more freedom with the content you choose to share and in the conversations in which you participate. Your current and potential followers can get a better sense of your personality, your motivations, and whether or not they want to do business with you, when they see that you are a representative of yourself (speaking freely). Transparency, here, is the vantage point. Hesitancy to connect for fear of bombardment of pitches and company information is low when people do not see the immediate company correlation.

The disadvantage I see is the stifling of independence and difficulty to maintain professional discipline. Let me explain: if your personal account becomes the method by which you communicate professionally, the “personal” aspect of your account runs the risk of being monitored (by your own conscious guilt) and suffering the loss of your “true” personality – the advantage of a personal account in the first place.

This is a sad loss, indeed. Besides giving your audience the more dull and censored version of yourself, you lose part of what is meant to be fun, useful and inspiring about Twitter. If you are afraid that your personal connections and need to interact with things unrelated – or maybe even contradictory – to your company, this method is not optimal for your business. It can, however be done – and done well.

Many people have no problem to share both personal and company opinions through the same account; they are representatives of their brands and themselves. There is an aspect of authenticity in these accounts, when we see their personal passions often (but not always) have directly to do with their profession. This option requires a careful balancing act – but, when executed with healthy self-reflection, thoughtfulness and wit, it can do wonders to establish a personal reputation within an industry, while providing enough personality to inspire higher numbers of engagement.

B2B Examples: @jeffbullas, @leeodden, @StephanieTilton, @DannyBrown, @noyesjesse

The choice is not explicit or infinite; but it is yours. Happy Tweeting.