Choosing wisely on Twitter – it’s all about image

When you have your own personal Twitter, it is fun to follow groups, teams or whatever interests you. You essentially have free roam over what you do on your account. It is probably wise not to follow certain incriminating Twitter accounts that a potential employer could frown upon, since they look into EVERYTHING these days for background checks.

When you’re working for a company or organization that is utilizing Twitter as a marketing tool, you must be incredibly careful in selecting who you follow. I was reading a public relations blog about “Tweeting on behalf of your company/employer” and it discusses some important tips about company representation by way of Twitter.

Many companies are hopping on board with the idea of using Twitter as a public relations or marketing tool. It is an obvious choice for a number of reasons, and now with all those people and organizations using it, there is the opportunity to reach the masses. It has sort of transformed from an informal way of letting your buddies know you’re eating lunch to a formal representation of your image. Tweets and your followings represent the company as a whole now.

In that case, your associations will be noted. It is probably a good idea to follow accounts that you are perhaps partnered with or that your stakeholders take interest in. You don’t want your business to be associated with the wrong people. Just because you like a particular topic and you are moderating the company’s Twitter, doesn’t mean you should follow whichever account remotely interests you. It could not only offend some, but give people the wrong idea about your company.

I know it seems a bit over the top in terms of limitations with something as simple as a Web site, but it has grown so popular that people are indeed judged by their Twitter accounts today. Obviously a Republican-based Twitter account wouldn’t want to be associated with Democratic accounts, for example. It could get them in a lot of hot water if they even followed some organization’s Twitter that was barely tied to Democratic politics, just because it is a part of their image.

While I can’t imagine a person sifting through a company’s extensive list of who they follow, it is just good sense to be careful in that arena. Someone may just do that and not like what they see or get the wrong impression.

Do you think that it is important to closely monitor who you are following if your work for a company? Do you believe companies are judged at all by who they are following on Twitter?

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13 Responses to Choosing wisely on Twitter – it’s all about image

  1. tburns says:

    I love the convenience and possibilities that have been created for PR professionals with social media sites. However, I am more or so aggravated, because to me, I want to have a life outside of my work. I do not want to be that person who is nothing but their job. For that reason, if I want to use my social media accounts for purely social reasons that are outside of work, I should have that freedom. If I want to follow someone on Twitter (for example, Daniel Tosh from Tosh.O on Comedy Central), I should be able to without judgment, because that is me socializing outside of my work.

    This, though, is only belief when it concerns personal Twitter accounts. If you are managing one on behalf of your company, of course you should watch who your company follows. Assumptions, judgments, and stereotypes are going to be made whether we want them to or not.

    I must say, though, I do not think a PR person should have to Tweet on behalf of their client from their own personal account. If they want to, then he or she can go right ahead. However, if you do not want to use your personal account for things like that, I do not think you should have to, and I do not think you should you be discriminated against because you do not want to.

  2. dolson says:

    I think being careful in you who follow applies in who follows you, as well. I go through my followers list every once and while to prune out the spammers and bots. Having a followers list of mostly pornbots can reflect negatively on a Twitter user as much as following questionable personalities.

    Your tweets say a lot about you also. When I first started using Twitter I was unimpressed, because the “What are you doing?” aspect seemed like a self-serving time suck and a false belief that the world cares about what I am doing. Nobody cares if I am in the Starbucks drive-thru. But thinking of Twitter as “What’s going on?” works much better. Tweeting and reading about breaking news or big stories or thoughtful reflections on life is more satisfying than tweeting “I love In-N-Out!” Using Twitter as a 140-character Facebook status update shows a lack of imagination.

    As for tweeting for a client, using a company Twitter account is more appropriate than your own. Tweeting about a client under your name is like being a PR shill. Your work is communicating for a client, but it is not the entirety of your life.

  3. cnaughton says:

    As much as social media has become entwined in our lives, it has helped to blur the line between our personal and professional lives. As a disclaimer, I think that our personal and professional lives should remain separate, not because I have anything to hide from an employer, but for my own personal sanity. Investing your life into your work isn’t exactly healthy.

    I want to be able to follow and tweet about my own PERSONAL interests. I don’t want to feel obligated to tweet about an employer or client from my personal account.

    Like dolson, I am careful about what I do and who I follow on my personal Twitter, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Companies should follow the same guidelines. Their image is much more sensitive so while using Twitter as a marketing tool can be beneficial, there are also risks involved that need to be considered. Companies should be proactive about maintaining their account and monitoring what is said or the entire tactic can have reverse effects.

  4. aguido says:

    tburns, I definitely agree that judgment shouldn’t be made about whomever or whatever we are following on Twitter on our own personal accounts, and that it is unfortunate that some people do judge based on that.
    I agree that personal and corporate accounts should NOT be linked because I think they fall into such different domains. A corporate Twitter account is mostly about a public image whereas your personal account should be far more informal and laidback (unless you are self employed, then I can see where the two would mingle).

    dolson, that is a great idea to go through your own list of followers to get rid of bots and spammers. I also agree that your tweets say a lot about you also, and that it is better to be a bit more imaginative in your tweets. Even though I must say I am guilty of little meaningless status updates on my Twitter, I realize people want to hear about interesting tidbits or news of the day instead of where I am eating lunch.

    cnaughton, you bring up a good point about companies being proactive about maintaining their accounts because I find that is a problem with many businesses today. It almost seems as though one would need to hire a person and create a whole new position to specifically monitor social media because things change so quickly. The people in charge at companies usually don’t have the time necessary to devote to monitoring their Twitters and fan pages, but it is something that is becoming more and more needed within a business.

  5. kwashburn says:

    I think that if you are working for a company and they give you the task of keeping up with Twitter and selecting people to follow, you need to think of your account as a work tool and not a personal social media site. I believe you should definitely keep your stakeholders in mind when making Twitter following selections. It is in the best interest of your company, and ultimately the future of your job to seek out companies/people that are relevant to the company you are working for. It makes sense that companies are now checking what sites are being followed by their employees because they need to make sure responsible decisions are being made,especially regarding social media sites because it is such a public outlet. You would not want certain Twitter choices to create a negative reflection on your company.

  6. kmcnally says:

    I completely agree that you should be cautious of who you are following when you work for a company. I think that who you follow or who your friends are, if their image is negative it can badly reflect on you, and you wouldn’t want that to happen in front of your employer. Also, if you have future employers that are searching you and they find something that is inappropriate it can hinder them from hiring you. And personally, i would want to not be hired based on lack of qualifications rather than what is found on my personal social media sites.

    But, like cnaughton said, our personal and profession lives should be separate, but unfortunately i don’t think that happens most of the time. And i think that we still need to be cautious about what we choose to post because you never know who is looking.

    • aguido says:

      Yes, unfortunately I do think we need to be very cautious about what we post on our social media sites because it is open to the public entirely. We may not think someone is judging us based on what we say or who we follow, but potential employers might be. Twitter has grown into a professional tool so it is something we must keep in mind when we post. It is sad we have to filter our own lives and cannot be more open online, but I have a feeling it will only get more and more strict in the future.

  7. ahart says:

    As social media has become such a big part of professional lives, it has become increasingly difficult to keep the personal side separate. Employers and potential employers use social media sites to learn about people and to make sure that the people they are hiring represent their companies well.

    cnaughton I do agree with you that we should be able to tweet about our personal interests but I think there should be a line drawn on the personal side as well. Personally, as soon as professional individuals started to follow me I started to carefully watch what I tweeted about, even though I haven’t quite jumped on the twitter wagon and don’t tweet very often.

    It is very important to watch not only twitter, but facebook, as many professionals have lost their jobs because of pictures they have posted. It is important to have a separation of work and personal interests but one should always be mindful that you are representing your company. You make a conscious decision to become a part of a company and so you must act accordingly and not showcase inappropriate behavior if there is a possibility your employer could see it.

    • aguido says:

      I also agree with the idea of keeping your accounts rather clean and somewhat professional looking to adhere to your employer’s standards. It is completely possible that they are perhaps logging in and checking on their employee’s Facebook and Twitter pages to see how they are representing themselves and whether they are associating with the company in an appropriate manner.

      I really believe there should almost be some social media class to teach students how to use the sites appropriately and professionally, along with how to keep it up responsibly. Again, I think it is very sad that we have to monitor our own sites so much. It almost detracts from our specific personalities just so we can fit in with what a professional SHOULD look like.

  8. srugeris says:

    A client once tasked my group with the duty of creating and managing a twitter account. We found it difficult to come up with daily information relative to the stakeholders. Since we were the only ones managing the account, we didn’t want to tweet about anything that would develop a negative personal image. It was hard to ghostwrite every day since the CEO only provided us with updates weekly. I think it is important to choose carefully who the company follows because it does build a certain image for viewers to judge.

  9. acarlin says:

    I can completely relate to this blog post. I am in the process of searching/applying for jobs, and my parents keep telling me to clean up my facebook so potential employers don’t see inappropriate pictures or posts about me. I don’t use Twitter, but if I did, I’m positive employers would track me down and try to follow me. I really feel like I want to have a life outside work, and that I am still in college right now. I know I need to grow up, but I still want to enjoy the last semester of my college years with my friends (even if that does mean getting drunk and having fun). But I completely agree with monitoring who you follow and what you are tweeting, because if you work for a company, then you are representing them.

    If you are using Twitter to tweet on behalf of the company you work for, that is a completely different story. You really need to be careful what you tweet and who you follow because you are doing it on behalf of your company.

  10. cmcelroy says:

    It’s so crazy to me how fast social media is growing. When I got my Twitter account, I wanted it to be a place for me to post things that I thought were funny for my friends to read. Now, every time I think about tweeting something, I find myself thinking about who might read it, who will definitely read it, and if it’s even worth it to post whatever I was thinking about posting. Nine times out of ten, I end up nixing the entire operation. And that’s just a personal twitter. Tweeting for a client becomes an even more complicated issue. You can’t just follow everyone because that might reflect badly. But if follow no one then what does that say? It’s such a delicate balance, and to say you have to be cautious is an insane understatement. It’s kind of crazy, but I think being able to be the voice of an organization through Twitter takes a kind of artistry. I’m not so sure I’m ready for the responsibility, but I have a lot of respect for companies that manage to do it well.

  11. jmetz says:

    When using twitter for a company it is important to remember you are not only representing yourself as a writer, but also your boss and the company you are working for. When writing tweets you are putting out an image for your company. One news outlet may not know much about your PR firm, and if you are not careful about what you are writing on twitter you have the potential to give the wrong impression. When I had an internship with a certain company last summer/fall, the social media intern needed to submit his ideas for tweets to the PR practitioner of the company before hand. She had to read every tweet before submitting it, because she wanted to make sure the company would be represented in a respectable way.

    I also agree with acarlin that my parents and professors have told me that it is important to make sure our social media websites are free from obscene pictures and status updates. I am a college student right now, but I am also in the process of looking for a job. I know that whenever I get a friend request or follower request, and I do not know the person I will deny them. I do not know what stranger or potential job interviewer is trying to look at my private facebook. We had a guest speaker in my class today, for PR campaigns, and he mentioned that if someone is a good journalist they will be able to get around the privacy settings on facebook. Nothing ever leaves the web. Your facebook and myspace are nearly impossible to delete, so it is important to be careful about what you write and post.

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