Does your business suffer from multiple personality disorder? Or does it take advantage of the condition? Does having multiple personalities interacting through social media offer businesses any advantages, or is it holding them back from fully realising marketing success?

Business no longer have one face, one way of presenting themselves or one type of audience, meeting them in one type of place under one set of circumstances.

Today businesses have to be dynamic, responsive and flexible, attracting, engaging and interacting with other business, customers and target markets in a number of ways, with the online world offering a plethora of opportunities.

Even for the fairly hesitant business venturing into social media it is likely that in addition to a website there will be a Facebook page and a Twitter profile at the very least. For most businesses the number of platforms extends to perhaps a half dozen or more, including Google+, Pinterest and others.

There are two possible dangers with this situation. One is that a business develops a form of multiple personality disorder, where different styles, voices, attitudes, values and approaches are delivered through the various online platforms. The other danger is that businesses do not develop such multiple personalities.

Does Your Business Have Multiple Personality Disorder?

Creating A Single Corporate Image

One of the first things most businesses do when developing an online presence through a new social media platform is to create a visual look which represents the business in a familiar, corporate way. So colours, logos, images and links will all be presented in a way which reflects the style of the website, which in turn will reflect the style of the business’s previous offline image.

It’s important that for a business this visual style is kept as uniform as possible, because in a world stuffed full of logos and brand names it is often the association of colours and simple images which help consumers quickly recognise the familiar.

Visual familiarity is often something which happens before brand familiarity or even conscious brand awareness, and it is important to make it clear that an online presence is a formal part of the business as a whole. Failing to create a visually cohesive online presence can instil confusion and doubt, or even imply that the business isn’t seriously committed to the platform.

But what of the voice? What of the personality behind the stream of Facebook updates, Twitter tweets, Pinterest comments, blog posts, and other online marketing platforms? Is that also uniform, corporate, recognisable, predictable? Should it be?

Subcontracting Or Outsourcing Your Personality

One of the problems of course is that as more and more online opportunities open up it is increasingly difficult for many businesses to be able to fully dedicate time to monitoring and maintaining that particular presence. Larger corporations may be able to manage this, but for small or medium sized enterprises it can become a real challenge.

Which is why the job is so often given to a separate, sub-contracted company. It is the job of these online marketing companies to present the business in a suitable way through one or more social media outlets.

But this can present a problem, because how on earth can a separate subcontracted firm be able to immediately engage with and interact with the customers of a different business, which has its own mindset, values, approaches and history? Isn’t it inevitable that there will be a difference of voice, or even expertise?

Certainly this highlights the importance of both using a marketing agency which has an excellent reputation for quality and integrity, as well as one which is willing to spend the time and make the effort to fully understand the business, its customer base and its aims, intentions and values. You might find cheaper deals, but you inevitably get what you cut corners paying for.

Sometimes it can be little things, such as Facebook updates being phrased in the first person plural, (‘our’, ‘we’, ‘us’) whilst Twitter comments are posted in the first person singular, (‘I’, ‘mine’, ‘my’). It’s only a small point, but it can give the subtle impression that the business has at least two different heads, which aren’t entirely convinced they know what the other is doing.

Multi-Headed Customer Service Challenges

From a customer’s point of view it’s important that an online presence gives them the impression that they could reach the right people at the business, and get the right information, regardless of which platform is used.

In other words, a customer should feel that if they contact the business through Facebook, they should receive the same information and be treated the same way as they would if they emailed, telephoned or wrote to the company instead.

More than this perhaps, it would be nice to think that if a long standing customer who had been dealing with the business online for years contacted them through Twitter that the company recognised this, and treated them as a long standing customer, rather than as just another username lost amongst so many thousands of others.

So if your business has a website maintained by one company, a blog maintained by someone else, a Facebook page maintained by a group of people and a Twitter profile that’s updated by anybody that remembers, your business is almost certainly giving the impression of having multiple personalities.

Pruning The Organic Growth Of Personalities

Part of the reason this situation has come about is because of the organic way in which social media and online marketing has developed and expanded.

As each new platform or opportunity arrives, the business has to determine who to put in charge of maintaining it. This will require someone who is skilled and experienced with this particular platform or type of media approach, and who has the time to do a good job.

Inevitably this means adding yet another person or group to the mix, diluting and fragmenting the personality of the business still further.

So I would suggest that if you suspect your business has been portraying these multiple personalities, you take the time to draw them together, to create a crib sheet of ‘rules’ to which everyone can stick.

Even simple things like using first person plural or singular, referring to customers by first name, using short URLs from one provider, using the same hash tags, and so on. These are pretty basic ideas, but any business should be able to go far beyond these by considering their aims, intentions, goals, values and customer needs.

But Is Multiple Personality Disorder In A Business Always A Bad Thing?

Bizarrely, it might even be an advantage. That might sound strange, given that I have just explained how it can be detrimental to a business, but I think that if multiple personality is a condition that is intentional, and is carefully managed, it could be a huge advantage. Why?

It would be foolish to assume that a business has only one market, one following, one type of person who fits easily into every single network.

At a basic level there are of course at least two different markets – customers and other businesses, but these will be broken down much more. Other businesses might be divided into suppliers, resellers, influencers and competitors, and customers will be broken down in a number of ways, including where they are within the inbound marketing funnel, whether they are repeat customers or not, age, gender, business or individual, sourcer or purchaser, local or global and so on.

To assume that one type of voice, one way of communicating, one way of engaging and one way of interacting works for every single one of these different audiences is not merely foolish, but dangerous. Having multiple personalities is therefore often an advantage, although it might be more work.

Making Multiple Personalities Work For Your Business

Let’s imagine that your business is looking to make Twitter work for you, and you have identified two distinct audiences, first time customers researching possible solutions, products or services, and resellers who will be stocking and reselling your products. Clearly the same approach and the same content is not going to be appropriate to each. But neither is the voice.

What the customers will want to hear is sincerity, integrity and honesty. What the resellers want to hear is market reach, new developments, latest opportunities.

I wouldn’t advise mixing the two approaches up though, so here’s a thought – why not have two separate accounts? Why not have one Twitter account focussed on delivering news, reviews and advice to resellers, perhaps from your ‘Marketing’ department, and the other focussed on providing advice, recommendations, product comparisons and customer reviews to potential customers, perhaps from your ‘Sales’ or ‘Support’ departments?

Sweeping away organically developed, uncoordinated multiple personality through social media and replacing it with a single voice is often preferable, but replacing uncoordinated personalities with coordinated ones could well harness the power of social media in a way which offers much more success, whilst providing those charged with maintaining a specific account a tighter agenda and focus, ensuring that at least one channel is wholly dedicated to an agreed purpose delivered through an agreed approach.

Do you suspect your business is suffering from social media multiple personality disorder? Do you think that coordinating multiple voices might offer any benefits? Is this something you already do? Do share your thoughts on this either using the comments box below, or through our Facebook, Google+ or Twitter channels.