The same small businesses also face the challenge of manning an always on Twitter account and maintaining a 24/7 Twitter presence. Putting yourself or another single employee in charge of something with such important implications and possible repercussions could be dangerous should the unexpected pop up while they're unavailable. The alternative solution, having multiple people manage one account, can be tricky too.
Let's dissect the pros and cons associated with having multiple people manage your business Twitter account, and discuss some tips to help you should you choose this direction, as well as one worthwhile alternative you might consider.
Multiple People, One Account: The Pros
Shared workload: Twitter is a full-time responsibility, but you and your employees have other important work to do on a day to day basis. Keeping an eye on the Twittersphere, proactively reaching out to would-be customers, handling replies, and managing followers can certainly be time consuming. Assigning a few people to split the workload is a way to spread the responsibilities and give yourself and your coworkers much needed Twitter breaks.
Different perspectives: Twitter is all about being a part of a larger community, and if you want people to pay attention to you, you need to pay attention back and give something of value to them (ie. a reason to follow you). Part of this involves sharing great content you find on the web. Having more than one sharer means you get more than one perspective on what's interesting, making your account and the links you share more diverse and engaging.
Connecting to a larger audience: Each staffer you assign to manage your Twitter presence will have their own contacts and online network, which means each of them can help you expose your brand, products, and services to a larger audience.
Multiple People, One Account: The Cons
The who am I chatting with conundrum: Twitter is all about building relationships, and your goal as a small business should be to build better, stronger, and more trustworthy relationships with your actual and potential customers and clients. If you have more than one person in charge of your Twitter presence, then there is the slight risk that you're potentially making the relationship building aspect of Twitter more challenging. A very likely scenario is that one staffer will have a strong rapport with a select group of followers, so that when you chime in you could be providing misinformation and creating confusion.
Double duty responses: Even with due diligence and a relatively small Twitter network, it’s hard to keep up with who's responding to which replies and direct messages. You could find yourself in a situation where two or more team members tweet the exact same thing, reply or DM the same individuals, and double up your Twitter efforts in an overbearing way that is perceived by followers as mismanagement.
Varying brand/product familiarity or savvy: Let's say you've got the communication challenges worked out, one thing you can never fully plan around is the fact that each staffer will have a varying degree of product familiarity and/or Twitter savvy. Should the people who are experts on a particular issue be unavailable and the assigned Twitterer on duty is less than savvy on the topic, you could potentially have a customer service nightmare on your hands.
Tips for Twitter Accounts with More Than One Twitterer
Full disclosure: Should you go down the multiple manager path, keep in mind that if you want to maintain the trust between you and your customers that you will need to fully disclose who is tweeting. If you're Twitter bio includes the names of the people tweeting, and you use a co-tag like ~JV in your tweet (that would designate that I'm tweeting, versus someone else), then this really isn't something that you need to be overly concerned about.
Account management: CoTweet is used by big brands to help them manage their Twitter presence. It's a perfect tool to help you designate whether you're on duty, assign tweets for follow-ups, automatically add co-tags to tweets, and generally work together better on a single Twitter account.
A Good Alternative Strategy
If you're not ready to hand the keys to your business Twitter presence over to more staffers, but you're still concerned with maintaining an omnipresent brand on Twitter, you have one other viable alternative. Many big brands and small businesses are tackling this challenge by empowering employees or departments to set up their own separate business Twitter accounts. Essentially, you'd have a primary business account with employees managing their own Twitter accounts and keeping an eye on business related matters as well.
With this scenario, you do create a disparate presence on Twitter and a split attention span, but there are many ways that this could work in your favor - subject matter experts, product gurus, etc - as long as you educate your audience on which employees are tweeting and who they should follow for the best information on xyz.
Twitter origami image via Paddy Donnelly.