There may be good reasons why a business has more than one Twitter account – using one for marketing and PR, a second for customer service, a third even for special events or staff insights.
It can help users, and particularly customers, identify the best place to send their tweets, and reduces the headache many small business face of having to monitor, then laboriously filter, a single account for everything.
Larger companies in particular may need to separate their many business units, products and individual brands into distinct Twitter feeds, or may want to target tweets to a certain location or region.
Many businesses also encourage staff to have their own individual Twitter accounts, enabling them to say their piece and add personal insights free from the heavy hand of marketing and comms departments.
But while many businesses have such separate accounts, they signal clearly and honestly that these all pertain to the same company identity, and use the same logo and rubric on their tweets.
A few mavericks, however, are abusing the system – they are operating in disguise.
Some providers, for example, assume multiple Twitter identities that they assign completely different names, logos and profiles, in an effort to cast as wide a net as possible for potential clients. It is the Twitter equivalent of destructive fishing practices using enormous drag nets.
There is an easy way to demonstrate that this is happening: simply “follow” a few sites that appear to offer very similar services consecutively – and see how they react.
If you receive identical “welcome” messages in reply in which not one word differs, but under radically different Twitter identities, you will know you are dealing with the same company, possibly even the same sole trader.
Yet these profiles may regularly post tweets under these separate identities, making it look as if they are busy little bees working steadily towards prosperity in a dynamic, competitive marketplace.
It is a lie. It is a betrayal of Twitter. And it shows contempt for customers.
By assuming false identities, these mavericks are greedily seeking to soak up all the available capacity within a sector. They are wannabe monopolies, dishonestly stifling honest competition.
Their activity is the online equivalent of a fast-and-loose fly-by-night who affects a different voice on the telephone whenever he receives a call from his bank manager.
Fortunately, customers are clued up: when they find out that they are communicating with a shadow, they will lose trust in them pronto. They will suspect that these providers may be tempted to apply similarly questionable standards in their business dealings.
We have only one thing to say: don’t let them get away with it. Shine a light on the shadows … and expose them.