Is it worth maintaining multiple Twitter accounts?

Do you have more than one Twitter account? Why?

Usually when people maintain more than one Twitter account, it is for reasons of branding. Let’s say someone owns a hotel and a hardware supply company. They’ve taken hardware supply to the Internet and ship all over the world, and that means they need an online presence and identity. They need the same for their hotel, but they don’t want these two identities to mix. The easiest solution is to create two Twitter accounts.

But for those of us who are writing online, and particularly when we’re starting out, is it necessary? I have my personal Twitter account, which displays on the right side of SilverPen, and then I have the echo linux account which shows up at the top right of that site. These two sites have different focuses and audiences, but I’m wondering if it’s worthwhile for me to have two accounts.

What do you think? Are multiple accounts for freelancers and bloggers worth starting early? Or should we pool our resources and use these tools to get the word out to as many people as possible?

It makes sense to create separate online identities for different brands, but what if the brand is ourselves and what we do?

Making a custom Twitter background

Like most everyone I know, I wasn’t sure what to make of Twitter when I first began using it. I didn’t know anyone on it, and I wasn’t sure I’d really use it all that much… and now I’ve sent well over 4000 messages through it, it’s my only means of communication with PAXers, and I’m not sure I could survive without it.

What’s more, Twitter has become an extension of my website. Whenever I publish a blog entry, it pops onto Twitter. It’s primarily through Twitter that I keep in touch with people from PAX, and for many, it is only through Twitter that they know me. Like my site, it ought to reflect my personality a bit more than a stock background, and perhaps more to the point, it ought to match up with my site.

I’ve written before about the importance of branding, so even though I don’t run Twitter, I should put my personal stamp on it. The first place I turned for help was Google, and it led me to the article Make a Good Impression with a Custom Twitter Background on Twitip. This article has some excellent advice, so if you’re looking to make a custom Twitter background, this is pretty much all you need.

I would offer one additional tidbit, though: Darren writes about the potential screen resolution your visitors will be at, and how that can affect your Twitter background–while taking this into account, also take a look at your Google Analytics results (which you ought to have set up) where you can see what resolution visitors to your site are using (see screenshot). I ended up going with a 200px wide branding spot; 120px was simply too narrow, and I think it’ll work for enough people to be worthwhile.

Branding Emotionally

This post is part of an ongoing series of collaborative conversations. See that initial post for a table of contents of all articles in the series.

As I began to talk with Ryan about pursuing a new design for SilverPen Publishing, I lamented the fact that I have never really been satisfied with my website. This has resulted in changing its appearance and sometimes overall organization once or twice a year since I first set it up in 2004. I never quite knew what I wanted, and I’m not capable of designing it anyways, so I just found some pre-fabricated theme, slapped it on, and convinced myself that it’s good enough to use.

Of course, it never was good enough, and because my site’s design has never been how I truly wanted it to be, I have never been satisfied for long. This results in my changing the design after a few short months and, as Ryan pointed out, that prevents my readers from ever establishing a true connection with my site.

This connection, or at least what creates this connection, is referred to as “branding,” and the consideration of the subject is relatively new to me. As a writer, I continually hope that people will read what I write and continue visiting because they liked what they read. That might be the case eventually, but it takes a lot of work to get there.

Everyone knows you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we also know that when we’re strolling down an aisle at Barnes & Noble, it’s the covers and the titles that catch our eyes more than anything. Unless we went in looking for a specific author, and even if we did, we’re often going to browse around and pick something up that is pretty and visually interesting.

The same goes for a website. Something that is visually appealing, well designed, and easy to use is going to attract repeat visitors far more than a plain black and white page. This is even more important when the primary content is text-based; webcomic artists can have a spartan page because their primary content is visually appealing, but writers have no recourse to ocular stimulation beyond the design of their site or the inclusion of a photograph with their article.

Branding is more than having a good design, though. Continuity is important to maintain that connection with your readers. If your site changes on a regular basis, repeat visitors may think they’ve stumbled upon a different site entirely, not realizing that you’re just spastic and can’t settle on something. Especially if they don’t visit often, or are returning months later to find a particular article, maintaining a consistent site design can make all the difference between frustrating and exciting them.

By way of example, I have trouble remembering exactly where something is when I’m reading, so when I return to look for a particular quote or page, my search is a contextual one. I try to locate what I’m looking for based on its relation to other things. This might include how far down a page I recall the quote being, or the series of steps I took to reach a particular article. But if everything looks different visually or has been moved around, there’s a decent chance I’ll never find it. And if I can’t find something the first time, I’ll likely never go back and look again.

As readers become more familiar with a look, they begin to recognize it as indicative of a site. It becomes comfortable and evocative, and the easy recognition of particular elements will allow you to communicate more clearly with your readers. Using the same logo on your site and business cards will help people relate the two and, in turn, relate them to you as a person. Connections are formed in the mind that will help people remember your work more clearly and with greater longevity.

The key is to find a design you really like, that really suits you, and with which you are really comfortable. All three of those are crucial because the second step is to hold onto it. You’ve got to remain steady for a while if you’re going to establish any sort of emotional connection with your readers. Otherwise, the next time they return and you’ve changed everything up on them yet again, there’s a decent chance they’ll surf away, never to return.

Design As A Weapon

This post is part of an ongoing series of collaborative conversations. All rights are reserved by the original author, Ryan Burrell.

In my first post in this collaborative series, I worked to develop a broader definition of what Design is – something more than what we tend to think about.  I touched on the idea of Design being a multi-edged sword, a force that can be used for many causes.  Commonly, we think of it as a tool for branding, presentation of ideas, and aesthetic pleasantness.  But can design be used for destruction?  A weapon for good or evil – against the mind or body?

A Branding of War & Nations

German Swastika
US Air Force emblem
Hammer & Sickle

For most of recorded history, nations and tribes have had some form of designating visual symbol.  Empires have had crests, banners, and flags.  Rulers have had signets, sigils, and emblems.  The adornments of soldiers and royalty, the style of weapons, and even the architecture of a culture were all visual decisions designed (consciously or subconsciously) to set a society apart.  The idea is twofold: instill national pride, and make sure your enemies know who you are.  The crest of a warlord or the flag of a nation could strike fear into the hearts of an enemy, or herald the return of hope to a beleaguered country.

In more recent times, we’ve seen the transition from cultural art to dedicated design when it comes to the presentation of power and force.  Ancient symbols have now become sanitized and placed on our flags, with thought put in to their alignment and presentation.  Think of the Nazi swastika, a foreboding cross in a white sphere on a field of red – a brutal herald of an extremist movement.  Or the American military badge that was its contemporary, a shining white star on an expansive blue background, backed by a crimson bar.  The former stereotypical Russian hammer and sickle imparted a sense of pride in strength and power, of struggle and dominance.  To this day, all military units possess some sort of badge that serves to identify their unit affiliation, as well as a herald of sorts that proclaims their past deeds and exploits.  These icons were not casually or idly created, but were designed to install certain thoughts in the viewer’s perception.  Colors, images, shape, line, form, and placement have all been employed to create signs of status – the logos of the world’s societies and military powers.

A Weapon of the Mind

WW2 Propaganda Poster

Whatever the perceived powers of Design may be, the true strength of it remains within the realm of the human psyche.  Design’s results affect those who view them, and the viewer may be irrevocably changed because of it.  A poster cannot will you to fire a rifle, but it may impart a deep emotional response that fires your sense of nationalism – which is perhaps more dangerous.  A billboard sign can’t make you suspicious of your neighbor for treason, but it can instill a sense of the extreme importance of national security and doing your part to keep it.

The term I’m dancing around here is “propaganda”, the famous posters and advertisements of the World War II era perhaps being the most exemplary.  Propaganda is little more than defined rumor, but rumors have so much more weight when a visual element is applied.

A Weapon for Weapons

The industrial design and architecture involved in creating the physical weapons of war cannot be ignored either.  In ancient times, weapons were not only functional but highly stylized.  A great warrior’s heavily embellished sword and scabbard would set him apart from other combatants, bringing fear and respect.  I’m reminded of the fantastic Arms & Armor book I read as a child which contained hundreds of examples of deadly, beautiful, and intriguingly functional weapons.  The brilliance of their designs was not simply in their stylized appearance, but in the fact that they were highly effective as well.

The design behind combat and an arsenal is part utility, part engineering, and part emotional impact.  A weapon must work, it must do its job with a minimum of extra effort and expense, and it must be intimidating.  Think of the sight of Apache helicopters hovering over a battlefield, or the iconic bulky, brooding Russian tanks of the Cold War era.  Imagine the sleek appearance of the first Messerschmitt combat jet in World War II, and the reaction of the enemy pilots in their clunky piston engine flyers trundling through the sky.  In war, the design behind combat can be just as important as the force.

A New Face for Modern Warfare

US Air Force & Army logos

In the modern day, the American armed forces perhaps more than any other military organization before or present have focused on defining themselves to the public via visual presentations and marketing.  The Army and Air Force specifically have developed logos for themselves that obviously attempt to modernize their images.  They have created slogans, and these have been given over to any number of print ads, websites, music videos, and commercials to tout becoming a part of “An army of one” or setting off “Into the blue”.  And driving home the meaning behind these ideas is a huge design force, making sure that the branding has consistency, the presentation is visually engaging, the information is shown clearly, and (above all) that everything that goes out makes the expected impact.

This is the darker side of Design – a creative force for destruction, and a huge contributing factor in the politics, propaganda, execution, and mentality of warfare.  I invite you to take a closer look at the symbolism of the nations of the world, and to research the motives behind those symbols.  Design reaches much further than the idealized notion of printed graphic tees and magazine ads we think of; the tip of the blade can be turned many ways.