Thursday, August 6, 2009
What not to tweet
I am a Twitter evangelist. I love the social networking site for many reasons: its forced message efficiency (140 characters and you’re done); the way it gives you the opportunity to connect with people from all over the globe, whether you’ve ever met them or not; the way it fosters the development of communities of interest; and, most importantly, the way it has widened my horizons on all things PR.
I’m not talking about just the impact of Twitter and all social media (a favourite topic on Twitter, at least among the people I follow) on PR; I’m also talking about the vast resources brought to my attention by the PR people I follow. I firmly believe that, through the connections I’ve made on the site, Twitter has made me a more effective PR counselor and teacher.
PR people should use Twitter – but use it wisely
While my use of Twitter has mostly been to share PR-related links and resources with colleagues, students and others interested in the field, Twitter also provides an outstanding platform for publicity and relationship-building between organizations and the people they serve. For a great (free) primer on Twitter, check out Mashable.com's The Twitter Guide Book.
Whether you think of it that way or not, Twitter also helps its users build a public online presence and “persona.”
One of the fundamental differences between Twitter and Facebook is that, unless you proactively "lock" or restrict access to your messages, everything you post on Twitter (i.e., everything you “tweet”) is public. And because your (unlocked) Twitter profile can be accessed publicly by anyone using the www.twitter.com/yourtwitterid pattern, your tweets are available for anyone (not just your friends, but also your boss, parents, prospective employers) to read – and are easy to find if you use your name as your user id (e.g. www.twitter.com/melanieleelockhart).
What you tweet doesn't only communicate what interests you – but also how you see the world, your work ethic, your discretion, and your professionalism. So before you tweet, think: “would this tweet reflect well on me if my boss, or a future employer, were to read it?”
I've read tweets from aspiring communicators that wouldn't. So I offer for your consideration:
- anything offensive or discriminatory
- your drunken escapades/how late you stayed out last night (especially if you are working today)
- how you’d rather be partying than working
- how you’re less than committed to your work (either on the job or in school)
- your boss’ or colleagues' personal or professional deficiencies
- negative comments about your employer's product or service or operations
- how your employer’s customers are idiots
- inside jokes, more than occasionally – if you’re tweeting publicly, you’re saying “I’m sending this because I think you’d enjoy reading it.” If you widely distribute messages intended for narrow audiences on a regular basis, you’re saying “I'm happy to waste your time; look how witty I think I am; and by the way, you’re an outsider.”
You may have your friends in mind when you write your tweets – just remember that anyone can read them. What sounds hilarious to you in the bar on Friday night may not come off as brilliantly in the office on Monday morning.
If you wouldn't want to see it attributed to you on the front page of the local paper, don't tweet it.