I can’t sleep.
Last week I sat in front of my Macbook with my finger dragging back and forth on my touchpad, the arrow dancing atop the “save changes” button in my Twitter settings. The agonizing debate was whether or not to take my tweets private. This typically should not have been a torturous exercise; it’s in our right as users of social media services to create the façade that not everything has to be in the public eye, right? (Side note: sorry for the snarkiness, but I’m still recovering from BJ Mendelson’s book!)
I struggled to click because my pending decision came at a cost: By going private, I was to lose my “Verified Account” status. Getting your account verified on Twitter was their way of tramp-stamping you with a big ol’ authenticity tattoo. It was like Twitter saying, “Yes, that really is Miley Cyrus tweeting about her dogs!” You know, if the 11 million followers didn’t give her away…
Well early last year while working with Scott, I had a direct line into Twitter. It’s a long story, includes a previous life of negotiating Firehose Data, and all this stuff I really shouldn’t get into. But nonetheless I had strong connections inside the house of tweets. We, being Scott and I, recognized that there was no way possible 200 million people knew we existed. So we kindly asked, as representatives of Ford Motor Company that we have our accounts verified.
And Twitter complied!
It helped immediately. From times of crisis, such as when we had to correct concerned followers of presumed positions our employer held on a myriad of controversial topics in the media, to general customer service inquiries, by Twitter recognizing us as representatives of our employer, and subsequently authoritative voices, many of the issues we tackled were mitigated more quickly. This is purely anecdotal but after one such customer and I had a post resolution discussion, he outright said “I knew you could make things better for me based on your account status.”
Ahh there’s that word, status.
At the crux of my issues with my PII in the public data stream, I began to fear that maybe I was too public. Admittedly, the psychology of being granted a Verified Account came with a slight ego. You couldn’t help but realize your follower count was rising by the hundreds every week. Did it matter? No, not really. What really helped me make the decision though was data itself. Based on a GigaOM infographic, it became apparent that the Twitter universe that I cared to reach was significantly smaller than the mass it had become. Did you know that nearly 70% of Twitter accounts are outside the United States? Or that 75% of all content you read on Twitter is composed by only 5% of its users? Puts things in perspective pretty quickly, doesn’t it? It didn’t diminish the original impetus for seeking Verified status, but it did make my decision easier in terms of who I wanted to speak to.
Look, at the end of the day, I love my job. I like social media, the automotive industry, Detroit, and all things in between. But I also like NBA games, punk bands Face to Face and Jawbreaker, in addition to being ridiculously sarcastic. None of which, in my opinion, I could share my enthusiasm for as a corporate ambassador of my brand. Maybe the solution is to simply create another account – @craigatford for instance. But I look at duplicate accounts like social media schizophrenia: it simply isn’t healthy. Does this mean I’m no longer an ambassador of the brand that employs me? Absolutely not. What it does is ensure that those who follow me are validated by me, that’s all.
Since “pushing the button” and losing the Verified Account status, my follower account has diminished by about 100 this week. I expect to lose more, and that’s okay. The race to the bottom is more about ensuring my audience is interested in what I have to say verses simply following a blue checkmark. So who cares if I lose out on some AXE Body Spray Klout Perk? The opportunity to determine who verses what (bot or other) follows me is empowerment anyone with a Twitter account can enjoy. So hey, send me a request at @craigdaitch and maybe I’ll let you follow my rants on Andre Drummond’s playing time. If you want maybe you’ll allow me to do the same.