Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The guest who came to Twitter: Hand over your social accounts

Call 2012 the year of the hand-over in social media. It feels as if all the kids are doing it, handing over control of their social accounts to people who previously might have been thought of as the audience for those posts.

Many companies and organizations have experimented with hand-overs in social media, or just switched around who's posting what from time to time. But very public hand-overs have come into view recently, as the nation of Sweden handed over its official Twitter account, @Sweden, to citizens for seven days at a time, gaining thousands of followers around the globe. Inspired by @Sweden, Vermont's tourism agency handed over its Twitter account to citizens so they could describe @ThisIsVt. Not without some qualms:
“At first I was like, ‘What are we going to do here, this sounds like a train wreck!’ ” said Jen Butson, the director of communications for the state’s Department of Tourism and Marketing. “That’s the communications mind.” Still, Ms. Butson said, the project could offer this rural state — where the population has the second-oldest median age in the nation, according to the 2010 census — a chance to present a contemporary, humanized narrative as it works to attract more tourists and young residents.
It's not just place-based and public government institutions trying the hand-over. Communicators everywhere might consider an internal hand-over of sorts, patterned on this recent example in which the New Yorker PR department handed over an Instagram account to the magazine's photographers, who will rotate ownership of the posts for a few weeks at a time. Yes, you heard that right: the PR team gave up posting photos and let the photographers do it directly. You can guarantee the viewpoint will be different, with a behind-the-scenes feel minus the filter.

Private foundations also are opening up communications channels to the nonprofits they fund. The Communications Network asks "what if foundations–instead of targeting grantees as recipients of their social media output–made more of a conscious effort to engage grantees as social media content creators?" and points to The Heinz Endowments, which features a feed called the "Spotlight" on its website, where its grantees tell their own stories. Heinz communications manager Linda Braund says: 
Some people at the Endowments were genuinely worried that we could run into trouble with inappropriate content, and that was the biggest obstacle that I faced in getting the Spotlight online. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be aware of what’s being posted — I get an email with a link every time anything is posted to our site so that I can check it out. But, don’t let fear of what your grantees are going to say stop you from allowing them to post directly without waiting for approval from you. We have gained a lot of rich, authentic content on our site about the work our grantees are doing in the community — without a lot of work and time on our part.
Handing over your account is an instant way to give it a fresh look and feel, and to keep your feed varied and interesting. Giving up control is a good look for your company or organization, too--it suggests you feel confident enough to turn over the reins. I'd love to hear and see more examples of hand-overs in social media. Have you turned your account over to someone--or several someones? Would you consider it? Share links, concerns, case studies and experiences in the comments.

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