Corporate Twitter pages are booming, but are you really following an official corporate Twitter feed?

In recent years companies large and small have been trying to figure out the best ways to monetize Twitter. As part of this effort, many companies have opened Twitter accounts in the attempt to develop best practices for marketing, customer retention, and customer satisfaction.  Although the industry is still trying to work out the kinks on Twitter customer interaction, several security best practices have emerged.

  1. Verify the account
  2. Link to a corporate website page that shows the Twitter account name
  3. Use consistent branding

Fortune 50 Twitter Security Best Practices Study

I have completed a brief study to uncover how many top companies are actually following simple security best practices.  The Fortune 50 was derived from the CNNmoney.com 2010 Fortune 500 list.

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78% of the Fortune 50 have an official Twitter presence.  However 82% of the companies had at least one illegitimate Twitter presence (regardless of whether or not the company is officially using Twitter).  An illegitimate Twitter presence includes any Twitter account that uses similar name and/or logo to the ones trademarked by the company.  For example, lets say there is a company named “Thomasfunland”  and that name has been trademarked.  Any Twitter account like @thomasfunland, @thomasfunlan, @thomasfunlands, or @thomasfunlandco would be considered an illegitimate Twitter presence if it was not owned by Thomasfunland Corporation.  Currently, there are more Fortune 50 corporations have an illegitimate Twitter presence than have an official corporate Twitter page. 

Problems caused by illegitimate Twitter presences:

Phishing, malware, cybersquatting and other types of fraud are the problems most commonly associated by illegitimate corporate accounts.  These are important problems and have become vital to more mature channels of internet commerce  like domain management, to date they are not as common in Twitter and other forms of social media.  The most common issue in social media comes from customer confusion.  How can a customer trust a corporation’s use of Twitter, if they are not even sure that they are really looking at a corporate site?  Across all types of social media, many consumers are currently following sites that they believe are an offical presence of the corporation, which in fact have no relation to the original company.

Breakdown of Security Best Practices

Twitter Verified Accounts

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Twitter started “Verified Accounts” for famous people in June of 2009.  BETA testing of business verification began in November of 2009.  If a Twitter account is verified,  it will show a small check mark.

 

 

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While verified accounts still are not available to all businesses, Twitter does allow businesses to submit a form indicating interest in the BETA testing.  Although it is unconfirmed, I would assume that Fortune 50 companies with a Twitter presence would be high on list for acceptance into the BETA testing program.  However the ratio of Fortune 50 companies with verified accounts is surprisingly low.  59% of Fortune 50 companies with an official Twitter presence do not have a verified account.  Another 23% have some, but not all of their Twitter accounts verified.

 

 

 

Link to a corporate website page that shows the Twitter account name 

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On all twitter pages there is a place for a web link in the top right corner of the page.  For example, on my Twitter page I have a link to my blog.  When I set up this link, there was no process to verify that I was linking to a website that belonged to me.  The Twitter account holder can put any web link that he/she wishes.  That also means that an individual or impersonator can easily put a web link to which ever company he/she choses.  This is important because it means that a Twitter page that links to a corporate website, does not necessarily belong to that corporation.  Corporations should have a Twitter web link that goes to the general web page and does not mention the Twitter page.  Instead a corporation should have web link that goes to a page on the corporate website that shows the name of (or has a link to) the corporate Twitter page. 

Although this practice is very simple for companies to adopt only 62% of Fortune 50 companies with Twitter pages have this type of link.  I thought there may be a negative correlation between corporations that have verified accounts and corporations that have a secure web link.  This would mean that a company who is verified would be less likely to have a secure web link and a company who is unverified would be more likely to have a secure web link.  This might happen if corporations assumed that having either security measure was sufficient to prove that the Twitter page belonged to the corporation.  Unfortunately this relationship does not exist either.  When looking at the companies that have not verified their Twitter account, only 52% of them have a secure web link.  What I did find is that 100% of the companies that have verified all of their Twitter accounts, also have secure web links on their Twitter page.  This list includes: Chevron, Bank of America, Ford Motor, and Pepsi. (Click on the links to see examples of the pages that are linked to their Twitter profiles)

Consistent Branding

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Consistent branding only comes into play for companies that have more than one Twitter page.  When a company has multiple Twitter pages, consistent branding helps consumers identify the official corporate Twitter pages from the illegitimate presences.  Although I did not look heavily into the branding of the pages I did notices a few examples of consistent and inconsistent branding.

 
 
Companies do not consistently follow any of these security precautions
 11 of the 39 Fortune 50 companies with an official Twitter presence (28%) do not consistently follow any of these Twitter security measures.   AT&T, McKesson, CVS, Proctor & Gamble, Kroger, WellPoint, Medco Health Solutions, UPS, Dow Chemical, and International Assets Holding.

Resources

Anyone interested in the complete list of Twitter Verified Accounts can visit: http://twitter.com/verified/following .  This list is automatically updates any new verified accounts using a bot.

Companies interested in more information about or joining the Twitter BETA testing of “Business Verification” can fill out a request here: http://twitter.zendesk.com/entries/76487-can-i-verify-my-business-account

Companies that would like help cleaning up illegitimate accounts that constiute a trademark infringement can submit a request on this page: http://twitter.zendesk.com/entries/18367-trademark-policy

If you own (or want to start) a parody, commentary or fan account based on a corporate or celebrity presence and want to make sure it does not get shut down, visit this page: http://twitter.zendesk.com/entries/106373-parody-commentary-and-fan-accounts-policy

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