corporate twitter

For a while, it felt like social media was under the radar for many companies. Something they gave to interns or outsourced to agencies. The better companies experimented with being more transparent than ever before, overlooking the typical safety nets around corporate communication.

Lately though I’ve sensed a backlash brewing about potential liabilities around corporate social media. For a start, there are the the big regulatory SEC issues, like those in this WSJ article.

The article talks about eBay hiring a “social-media veteran to be an ‘internal reporter’ to increase transparency and put a face on the company.” Ultimately, the experiment proved too transparent and they had to muzzle the social-media veteran so they didn’t violate SEC disclosure rules.

“There’s much more of a microscope on what I’m doing now,” he said.

I sense that this microscope is broader than just SEC concerns and will start to guide many companies to be more risk-adverse with social media. In a meeting recently, I heard someone say that the “summer of free social media love” was going to come to an end.

It will be interesting to watch. I actually think this microscope creates an incredible opportunity for companies still willing to put themselves out there. For companies with something interesting to share and the courage to say it, social media can amplify their voice far louder than their size. The microscope will keep others mute.

Compare the voice of @howiescardigan, Cardigan Bay’s third largest clothing company, with the silence of @LeviStraussCo, to see how David can leverage social media against Goliath.

In 2003, Levi Strauss (revenue £2.8bn) threatened to sue Howies (revenue £300K) because they claimed Howies jeans infringed a patent. Howies leveraged its transparency and openness against the legal risk aversion of Levi Strauss to win the contest in an hysterical battle they called “Operation Tickle“.

“We introduced a colour-blind test for people buying our jeans. Just to make sure they could tell the difference between grey (ours) and theirs (red). We also introduced a spelling test, too. We asked our customers to spell corporation, oppression, Machiavellian etc. Of course they had to spell Levis and howies as well. If people failed the spell test, we refused to sell them the jeans”

The growing social media microscope will help distinguish companies that are willing to openly interact with their customers with real honesty. This is David’s new slingshot.



  1. Tom, this cartoon is perfect! I run into this everyday.

    Is it possible to add a share this button to your site ( Or something like it? Having an option like that would make it easier for your message like this to get out.


  2. Peta says:

    Steven, try Shareaholic or ShareThis addons for your browser. Makes it easy to share anything whether the site has a sharing link or not.

  3. Greg Russo says:

    Lol, great cartoon. We have formal procedures for Tweeting, but just like it shows, it removes all relevance because the whole point is to Tweet about what’s happening *now*! I wonder if this is being solved by the Corporate Twitter clones like SocialCast ( and Snipia (

  4. [...] did a cartoon once that showed a legal review of a tweet. After all the red ink the tweet was far longer than 140 characters and the brand missed the event [...]

  5. [...] the brilliant [...]

Leave a Comment