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Finding the Balance Between Personal and Professional on Twitter

What's the proper balance?

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[ Social Media]

I had the pleasure of being a guest at the Bliss PR Agency in New York City this week and the staff loaded me up with questions. Here was a particularly interesting one:

What is the proper balance between personal and professional outreach on Twitter? If I am using my account to promote company and client content, is it also appropriate to carry on conversations on a personal level about sports, a great recipe or my favorite charity?

This is a great question and one that I have to address on two levels, philosophical and practical.

At its heart, Twitter is a business networking tool … which is what many companies and individuals don’t understand. They view the platform as just another way to broadcast company press releases. By trying to force-fit old “broadcast” media thinking into this new platform they are sub-optimizing Twitter at best and hurting their brand at worst.
Think of yourself in another networking situation … say an industry conference or a chamber of commerce meeting. Would you stand there and read press releases? No, of course not. You would seek out great people to connect with, discuss subjects that are interesting to you and them, and look for ways to work together. Twitter can work exactly the same way.

So even if you are playing a business “role” on Twitter, there is no reason you can’t be yourself, unless you are a naturally mean and sucky person.  If you are in that category, you either have to not be mean and sucky or not use Twitter. And if you are truly, chronically mean and sucky, you will probably will fail at business any way, let alone Twitter, so it’s better that you find out sooner than later I suppose.

When networking, the most powerful relationships are built on trust and friendship, so it’s OK to let people know a little bit more about what is going on in your life, including your love of sports, charity, and family.  As you go throughout your day, just tweet what is interesting to you, as long it is appropriate and professional.

In most cases, I don’t think it makes sense to have both a personal and business account. You’re not two people and being yourself is not only a great way to build your business network, it humanizes your company brand.

Somebody told me yesterday: “I just do NOT follow a company logo account on Twitter. Why would I?”  I think that sums up the sentiment for many.
Now let’s look at practical realities. Even if you have this concept down, maybe your company doesn’t. If your job is to be your official company Twitterer, you may have marching orders to follow a role or social media policy that has you tweeting behind a logo. Here’s what you should do in that case: follow the company policy. Don’t lose your job over Twitter. You can still work to change attitudes over time.

There are several compromises or hybrid strategies to blending personal and professional approaches on Twitter:

All business all the time. In some cases it is entirely appropriate to “broadcast” over Twitter. Here’s an example: Citi has a site that only broadcasts job openings. They really don’t need to engage in a conversation and they’re not even trying. Notice that they follow nobody. They have jobs, people want them … and they subscribe to the account.  It’s that simple. They could probably work to build a community, but why?

Tweeting under cover – Many of the world’s most important brands have teams of tweeters engaging with the public behind a corporate logo. Like this example from McDonald’s Twitter account, the initials of the tweeter show up at the end of each tweet and following a link in the Twitter bio leads you back to profiles of the individuals providing the tweets. Certainly a great option to humanize the brand and still operate under one brand banner.

Blending personal/corporate — In some cases there are corporate accounts assigned to individuals. When that person moves on, the profile is still owned by the company. One example of this is @sharpiesusan who tweets on behalf of Sharpie pens. Susan has built up a faithful following but when she moves on to another job someday, this brand equity will stay with the parent company Newwell-Rubbermaid and Susan will simply be replaced.

This also works well in a customer service situation. In the example above, ATT has accounts set up for the representatives that can be moved over to other representatives as they change and take on new roles.

So those are a few examples and best practices but I’m sure there are many more. What challenges are you facing blending personal and professional content on Twitter?

Originally published on {grow}

Finding the Balance Between Personal and Professional on Twitter
About Mark Schaefer
Executive Director Mark Schaefer has 28 years of global sales and marketing experience and advanced degrees in business and applied behavioral sciences. He is an award-winning business writer, university lecturer and innovator, receiving seven international patents for new product ideas with Fortune 100 companies. He teaches at Pellissippi State College in Knoxville and serves as an adjunct professor of marketing at Rutgers University. http://www.businessesgrow.com WebProNews Writer
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  • http://youtube.com/michaelqtodd MichaelQTodd

    Great thoughts as always Mark
    So many businesses and charities are smashing their brand to bits by doing twitter terribly.
    I would estimate that 90% or so would be better not to be on it at al
    Those that are doing it well however are cleaning up
    It is all about defining your niche then going out and supporting and promoting and connecting people whilst regularly providing great content
    Self promotional tweets are a hindrance to those activities and should be avoided
    Other people will do it for you and that is much more powerful
    Michael

  • http://www.huntfeneley.co.uk Andy Hunt

    This is a very helpful post, thnks. I’m still trying to understand best way to use twitter for business. I know that some of my clients who don’t use twitter would find personal exchanges on the business account a little odd and may be put off. So f

  • http://twitter.com/NickStamoulis Nick Stamoulis

    Theoretically, on your personal account you should be able to say anything you want when you want to without worrying about how it reflects on your company. If you are managing a corporate account, even if it is your persona being used to do so, you have to fall in line with your brand’s identity. If your Twitter handle is connected with your company, make sure you mind you Ps and Qs!

  • http://signature.eu.com/we-promote/search-engine-marketing/ Kent SEO Company

    This is a really good article and I’m still undecided. My professional image needs to represent not just me, but the values and ethos of my company, so I play it safe and have two twitter accounts (one for the biz and one about me, me, me :-)

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