Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Public Relations

If corporations are people, what are their personalities? Can we have relationships with them? What is that like?

So I set off to explore the ways relationships between people and corporations could develop. As a result, I ended up studying the corporations themselves on social media. A corporation on social media is a strange new entity: it's sort of the corporation, but as it must be controlled in real time by a person, it's sort of one person too. It's a very public, very immediate spokesperson.

A person tweeting behind a corporate handle is neither that person (who would tweet about personal things) nor the company (which would tweet a boring party line, much like if you called a company on the phone and got a recording). It seems closer to the company identity, but I wanted to see if I could get to the human involved.

I started trying to find existing human conversations with companies, much like Chip Zdarsky and Applebee's. (or this, this, this, or this.) This proved fruitless, because most conversations with companies were someone complaining at a company, or else companies talking with other companies to try to appear fun; it was all business. So I went to create my own conversations.

I didn't want any of our conversations to be biased by anything particular about my identity, so I created @MarioLoweystro. Mario is intentionally as bland as possible. But he's obviously human; I didn't want anyone to think he's a bot. I then tweeted at some companies, trying to get to know the people behind them.

Here are my experiences.

And here's a guide showing how to make friends with corporations.

I started off with popular companies, including top-100 Twitter accounts, companies that are supposedly good at Twitter, and really big companies. This turned out not super fruitful - they tend to have millions of followers, and therefore, they can't talk with me. Their accounts are just broadcasts. But then I started tweeting at smaller companies, more local companies, less "sexy" companies. (from a list of Pittsburgh corporations.) They tended to be friendlier. As I went, I varied my styles and talked about different topics; to see what happened, check out my slides above.

Who were my best friends? Probably @WholeFoods, @Tesco, @Huntington_Bank, @Kennametal, and @Zappos. We had some good talks.

We had an exhibit at CMU too for all our final works:
I displayed the record of my conversations, the guide I created, and a bunch of name tags for the companies I met. Plus my computer, so you could try making friends with corporations too. (in fact, go log on to Twitter and try it yourself now!)