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The Tweet Hereafter

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Looking at the astronomical follow rates of celebrities like Ashton Kutcher or Oprah Winfrey, it's tempting to conclude that unless you're peddling deals like Dell Outlet, the best strategy is to hitch your brand to a personality. That's what Ford did with Scott Monty, a former advertising exec-turned-Twitter gadfly who is now the head of social media for Ford Motor. As a sort of living representative of Ford, Monty, who has about 37,000 followers, has appeared on the Adam Carolla Podcast and at BlogWorld Expo. "We're getting a ton of listeners or attendees who wouldn't think about Ford or a Ford product," Monty says. Jim Tobin, president of Ignite Social Media, a Web 2.0 marketing consultancy, says Ford benefits greatly by the association with Monty. "He's a Ford employee," explains Tobin, who believes Monty has more credibility than a celebrity endorser. "Everyone knows that Tiger [Woods] is getting paid to promote whatever he's promoting."

But Monty appears to be an anomaly. Other brands that have tried to launch a persona on Twitter have failed to win many fans. Adam Denison, Monty's counterpoint at Chevrolet, has 2,300 followers. Denison says the company decided in December to switch its Twitter focus to its Chevrolet account -- which had about 1,600 followers at last check.

Chevrolet is having more luck on Facebook, where its official site has more than 62,000 fans. David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation for interactive shop 360i, says anemic Twitter accounts and robust presences on Facebook will be the norm. "For some brands, just maintaining their turf [on Twitter] with the occasional update might be enough," he says. "A bigger danger is to go in and make it clear they're going to get involved [in Twitter] and then ignore it." Not too many brands are doing the former these days.

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