How NBC News Stays Transparent on Twitter

Ryan Osborn

On Twitter, it’s not uncommon to see a small logo in the lower, righthand corner of a user’s avatar. The move is designed to promote transparency, so that tweeps know immediately what organization that tweeter is associated with. Almost all of the employees of social media marketing firm Likeable Media, for example, have a tiny thumbs up sign overlaid on their avatar. Representatives of Syracuse University have the “S” logo in theirs.

In the last year, NBC News has started implementing its logo — the well-known peacock symbol — on its more than 240 employee Twitter accounts. Adding the peacock is meant to encourage transparency and tie the NBC News community together, said Ryan Osborn, director of social media for NBC News.

“The reality of being online today is that the personal and the professional is mixing more than ever before,” Osborn said. “It’s important for employees to be clear about their employment and background. It’s a way to tell the consumer, immediately upon seeing a tweet that, oh, that person works at NBC.”

Although the company initially started developing intricate Twitter backgrounds, such as this one for the 2012 presidential election, Osborn and his team quickly realized consumers were primarily seeing employees’ tweets in their own stream — and therefore not even seeing the Twitter backgrounds being made for personal pages. Osborn switched tactics and decided the peacock in the avatar was the way to go. (NBC News does, however, continue to design Twitter backgrounds.)

Shawna Thomas

Everyone from Richard Engel, NBC News’ chief foreign correspondent, to Chris Donovan, a producer on Meet the Press, to Shawna Thomas, NBC News’ White House producer, have the news organization’s logo on their avatars.

“It shows we’re a news organization that’s comfortable innovating and encouraging our people to use new tools,” Osborn said. “At the same time, I do think it adds a level of hey, use these tools responsibly.”

The peacock doesn’t preclude employees from tweeting about personal issues. Osborn initially created his handle, @rozzy, to discuss movies and music. He still does and says the addition of the logo “doesn’t take the fun out of it.”

In an unexpected surprise, the peacock logo has also developed somewhat of a fan base in the Twitterverse. There are a handful of non-NBC News tweeps who like the peacock logo so much, they’ve asked to integrate it into their avatars.

“They’re embracing NBC branding in a way that they hadn’t in the past,” Osborn said. “Consumers want to be a part of the process themselves. It’s exciting.”

What are other news organizations that are transparent on Twitter?