Small Business Tip Tuesday: Don’t Get Caught in the Two Twitter Trap

by Ken Mueller on February 7, 2012 · 45 comments

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“My tweets are my own and not that of my employer”

Have you ever seen a statement like that in anyone’s Twitter profile?

I see it a lot. Usually it’s someone who runs a Twitter account for their business, and then they have their own personal account. I’ve seen this situation from everyone from the owner of a business to an employee who is in charge of marketing or social media for that business. Their point is that their business account is business, and their personal account is their own, and has no bearing on the business. I’ve even seen people using their business account profile to say:

“Tweets provided by @personalusername”

Which lets you know who is actually doing the tweeting. Then if you check out their personal profile, this is where you’ll find:

“I also tweet for @NameOfBusiness, though my tweets here are my own and not that of my employer.”

I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. It doesn’t work that way, especially from a local or small business point of view.

The moment people make the connection between the two, you ARE your business. The things you say on your personal account WILL color how people think about your business.

If you keep your business account all business, that’s one thing, but if you use your personal account to talk about politics or religion, or tell off-color jokes, or even just be generally nasty or whiny, people won’t separate the two. How you behave on your personal account will have an effect on how others view your business.

Here’s another way of looking at it:

Think of a celebrity or athlete whom you just can’t stand. Now, if you saw that person promoting a product, how would you feel about the product?

Better yet, think of a “regular” person of whom you’re not very fond. When they recommend something to you, how do you react? Do you weigh that recommendation differently than if it came from a trusted friend?

Who you are affects how we view your business. If we view you positively, that’s great and you have nothing to worry about. But if we view you negatively, we might view your business the same way.

I know that’s how it works with me. There are a few local businesses I’ve decided not to work with because the person handling their Twitter account rubs me the wrong way. (And I’m sure there are some who feel that way about me, but I am my business and I understand the risks).

So be careful, and don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that you can keep the two separate.

Do you think it’s possible to separate your feelings for a person from your feelings for their business? How do you manage this in your own business life?

 

 Small Business Tip Tuesday: Dont Get Caught in the Two Twitter Trap
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45 comments
Bread lee
Bread lee

If you want to keep your personal and work lives separate, don't tell us in your personal account who you tweet for, then try to say "but my tweets are my own". Sure they are, but it will color how others view your business when you spend your online life telling us who you work for. Read more: Small Business 

Shonali
Shonali

I get what you're saying. But I think some people, particularly those who are also charged with tweeting for their employers/businesses, do this as a way of disclosure. And I don't think that's bad. For example, when I was @iabcdc chapter president, we listed the Twitter handles of the people managing that account in the bio, because we wanted people to know who was behind the tweets.

I know quite a few people who I respect, who are prominently identified with their employers' handles, who also have their personal handles and tweet more personal stuff from there. Though I certainly make the connection between them and their organizations, I don't think any worse of them for being upfront. However, I will say that I haven't seen (or noticed) them tweeting anything off-color/that could be perceived as inappropriate from their personal handles... so maybe that plays into it as well.

Tinu
Tinu

I completely get what you're saying. It's a wilder wild web - what you do/say in your personal account Will affect your business account, particularly if you connect them. My partners and I don't bother to separate - I'm not two people, why should I have two accounts? And I try to keep the conversation appropriate for the time of day, and when I'm being casual, I'm still myself but like anyone else, the way I talk will depend on my environment. If I was at a networking mixer, I wouldn't get drunk and scream about my dating life - I'm in public. And that's how I think we need to behave when we share on the web, like we're in public. Some areas are certainly going to be more intimate, but they're still public. But unlike an in-person encounter, what we say online, even in emails, can live forever. Being careful is just smart.

RubyChan228
RubyChan228

You are annoyingly light on details here (i.e. "small business" is *painfully* generic and you likewise don't actually explain WHAT on the private accounts is so awful you change your shopping(?) habits based in it), but I've seen enough in this issue that I have a feeling I know what you're saying...

So, basically, people are no longer allowed to have private lives? Or, if they do they must keep them hidden away from their world, least be seen by full-grow adults so immature they base what stores they go to, not on any rational assessment of the store's product and services, but how they felt about an employee's personal Twitter account?!

And, people here honestly and truly think that's a rational position to take?

Dear God, companies *employ* people, they don't *own* them. What they do and who they are OFF THE CLOCK, is their own business and NO ONE eles'. Least of all their employer's or customers. If they want to leave work on Friday and, on their own personal time, go out to a club and get drunk, here in America, they are allowed to do so! And if they want to Tweet their own, personal Twitter account to invite their friends out of whatever, they are also allowed to do so, because, guess what? This is a free country!

The idea that they shouldn't be permitted to speak of this in their own personal online space, because OMG!!1! a customer that disapproves may see it and be so childish as to not buy from their craft store because an employee Tweeted about getting drunk on their time off over the weekend...

I'm sorry, but that is pure lunacy.

sigmaweb
sigmaweb

This is a great point, Ken. I tweet under my business name, @sigmawebmktg, and have often thought about setting up a personal account... but I really don't need yet ANOTHER social media stream to keep up with, so I haven't done it. But several of my clients have this "two-tweeter" conundrum, and I know businesses try to separate the "personal" from the "business" all the time. I think you really hit the nail on the head by saying that this is impossible.

This is sort of like "No personal phone calls!" from the era in which I grew up. Who were they kidding?!

Amy Peveto
Amy Peveto

I love the technology age we're in, but this is one of the frustrating aspects; there just isn't much of a line between personal and business anymore, and I think there should be. For most people, they work FOR a company, but they are not THE company. I'm essentially the same person at work as at home, but there are of course aspects of my life (family, relationships, etc.) that I don't want to have splashed everywhere, or associated with my company. Not because I think it will reflect badly on me, but because it's really nobody's business.

That's why I like splitting people along platform lines. I connect to my closest friends on Facebook. They're free to follow me on Twitter, but I use that space more as a way to connect with book bloggers and other bookish people — I don't usually post anything insanely personal there, because my personal Twitter account is linked on my profile on my company's website.

As kind of lame as Google is being recently, the Google+ circles are a really great idea. I love being able to separate people along business/professional lines.

Great article, Ken, and another reminder that in this age, we may always be under a microscope.

John_Trader1
John_Trader1

I personally think its a bad idea to include this description in a personal profile as if it gives you permission to act like a jackwagon. Are their any legal stipulations of putting this language on your profile?

elizacultivate
elizacultivate

Hi Ken, it's Eliza from Cultivate Wines. A little off-topic, but I'd love your opinion -I have in our twitter profile that the tweets are "by Eliza" -- I did this so that people would feel like they know it's a real person, who actually works for the company and they can find on the company website, doing the tweeting -- not a PR machine churning stuff out. What do you think of that approach?

CheriLesueur1
CheriLesueur1

People do business with people they know like and trust. I think that sums it up.

katskrieger
katskrieger

Do you think this applies to everything? Bigger businesses included? I know since I tweet corporately and personally, there are some things I share through one account and not the other. For instance, my personal twitter is where I shares thoughts on motherhood AND marketing. Clearly, some topics wouldn't be appropriate for the corporate account. I definitely still sensor myself in certain ways even on the personal twitter because I view it as more public than say my FB account. I don't think I'm alone here. But I do still agree to a certain extent. I know that anyone who looks at our corporate account, can and often does look at my personal account, and that's okay.

TheJonMartin
TheJonMartin

I agree with @BestRoofer , this is not the 90's anymore - there is very little, if any, line left separating personal and business even for those of us that are not business owners. Get over it. This is 2012 things are different now.

BestRoofer
BestRoofer

I wouldn't even know how to begin to separate the two. I think that people should just be authentic. It sounds like way too much work to be two different people.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Shonali@iabcdc I think that's part of it...how they handle themselves. Most of the one's I see don't do it out of disclosure. They do it because they want the best of both worlds: They want to let people know that they tweet for such and such a company, but then they think that by saying "my tweets are my own" that they are protecting themselves. I'd be curious what an employer would think if they didn't agree with their political rants, or what not. I think they think it gets them off the hook.

If you want to know who is behind the tweets, put your name in the business profile, not your twitter handle. Then in your personal account, don't put your business profile in the handle at the same time.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@RubyChan228 I'm not saying this is the way it should be, it's how it is. I agree, what employees do on their own time is their own business. But when you use your personal Twitter account profile to tell people that you tweet for such and such business, and then go out of your way to then try to separate yourself, people won't buy it.

My point is, don't advertise that. If you want to keep your personal and work lives separate, don't tell us in your personal account who you tweet for, then try to say "but my tweets are my own". Sure they are, but it will color how others view your business when you spend your online life telling us who you work for.

This is especially true if you own the business and aren't just employed by them. This is reality and it's how people think and view things.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ShakirahDawud I think for most it's an attempt to separate themselves, and possibly protect themselves.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@sigmaweb I have two accounts, but if I were to start over today, I would just have my personal account which is the one I use most of the time for both business and personal.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@Amy Peveto Thanks, Amy, and I hear what you're saying. It's something that we all have to work out for ourselves. For me, I've chosen to be pretty open along all platforms, but I'm also very selective in what I share.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@C_Pappas I don't mind that so much. I just don't think we should expect to do that and then tell people that "my tweets are my own"...as if that gets them off the hook somehow.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@John_Trader1 no legal stipulations, but I would I can guarantee it does nothing to get you off the hook with your boss is you say something stupid.

hanelly
hanelly

@kmueller62 This has been a central theme for me in 2012. You are where you work.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@hanelly Great post, Andrew, thanks for sharing it. It's so true. So many of the lines we used to draw are now being blurred or completely obliterated. We need to recognize that and adapt.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@elizacultivate I'm fully on board with that approach. I think it makes sense. We do want to feel that there is a real person on the other end. And I'll be emailing you in the next few days. Have some questions for you. Love your business model!

Mark_Harai
Mark_Harai

@kmueller62 Yes sir, my pleasure Ken! What you say is so true, you cant separate the two - inquiring minds want to know the 'who' in social

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@katskrieger I think it is less of an issue for a bigger corporation, but it could apply. I think small businesses are at a greater risk. But on the other hand, my opinion of Steve Jobs might color my thoughts on Apple. Same with Bill Gates and Microsoft. But then again they are much higher profile business people. We certainly have to be aware and be careful.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@TheJonMartin@BestRoofer Agreed, Jon. Things are very different, and I think that's actually a good thing, that forces us to be better people and to be better at business.

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@BestRoofer I'm the same way, Joe. And it's not even a matter of being two different people. It's filtering one while not necessarily filtering the other. If you start talking about certain things on your personal account, it will color how others view your business.

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

@KenMueller@RubyChan228 I am reminded of professional athlete who says, "I'm not a role model". Yes, you may not want to be a role model, and you may have a personal life that isn't "role model worthy", but it doesn't change the fact that you are on TV and children look up to you.

Latest blog post: Two Decades and Counting: Ch 5

KenMueller
KenMueller moderator

@ExtremelyAvg@RubyChan228 Agreed. We have to face up to reality. I was just reading a quote from Ze Frank in Amber Naslund and Jay Baer's "The Now Revolution" - He says "Your brand is the emotional aftertaste that's conjured up by, but not necessarily dependent on, a series of experiences." That may not be what you want, but it's true, and our interactions with employees in their private time, whether on or offline, can be a factor, both positively or negatively.

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