The Myth of ‘Professional’ Twitter Accounts

by on 05/16/2011 • 63 Comments | Social Media

I'm a fake person!

If you follow me on Twitter, subscribe to the Outspoken Blog or hang out at any of the other sites I write for like SmallBizTrends, Copyblogger or Duct Tape Marketing, you may feel like you know me a little bit. You may not have grown up with me or know the name of my first grade teacher (Mrs. Pizzardi), but you have a sense of what it’d be like to grab a beer with me. You know I have horrible taste in both TV and music, that I kickbox regularly, and that I use my Twitter account for equal parts educating and amusing. Because I tweet like a human, there’s a relationship where you’d recognize me in a dark alley or maybe a different blog. And through it, you begin to trust me, my content, and the SEO consulting company I represent more than you would if this connection didn’t exist. That’s how you use social media.

 

And it only works because I’m not full of shit.

It works because the version I present to you is authentic. When you talk to me, you get Lisa – the good and the bad, the useful and the ridiculous. You get all of it.

Every Monday night at 9pm EST business owners and marketers swarm Twitter to participate in #SocialChat. If you’re not familiar, Social Chat is an hour-long discussion hosted by Alan K’necht and Michelle Stinson Ross where attendees and a guest host talk about all the different aspects of social media and marketing. Last week’s chat was hosted by our friend Hugo Guzman and focused on basic Twitter etiquette and how businesses can avoid common social media missteps.
Here was one of the topic points and part of Hugo’s response from the chat highlights:

Q2. What is the most important thing to keep in mind that is different between personal tweeting & tweeting for a brand?

@HugoGuzman: “That really depends on the nature of your brand (and employment). Some people like @lisabarone have the luxury to tweet as they please and it connects with her audience… Generally, the agreement was that, when tweeting for a brand/business, it is best to maintain a reasonable degree of professionalism. The human connection and conversation is important, and it’s not wise to become overly stiff or robotic, but there’s no need to pour out your hear to your customers, either.”

I get where Hugo was going and I don’t entirely disagree, but can we stop pretending that it’s possible to have a corporate Twitter account? Because it’s not.

I recognize that I tweet differently than a lot of other brands. My tweets are honest, routinely unprofessional, and range in topics from SEO to social media marketing to the killer tacos I just had for lunch. But I still wouldn’t call my Twitter strategy a luxury. It’s a necessity. It’s how the audience around my brand and my content is built.

We are officially beyond the days where you can have a distinct “personal” and “corporate” tweeting style. You must decide who you are and bleed it. From all accounts.

Matthew Ingram nailed it over at GigaOm last week with a post called News Editors Still Don’t Want Journalists to Be Human. In it, he breaks apart the social media best practices document created by The American Society of News Editors, arguing that most of it teaches the OPPOSITE lessons we want to sharing, perpetuating the “don’t be human under any circumstances” approach to social media.

The problem is that approach doesn’t work. It’s tired, it’s boring, and it’s bullshit.

You cannot expect people to form a relationship with you if you’re not willing to share part of yourself with them. This isn’t rocket science, its human relationships 101. Surely, we’re not so void of real person-to-person contact that we’ve forgotten this. To make a friend, you have to be a friend. Otherwise, WTF are you doing?

My tweets are probably more ridiculous than yours. And that’s fine. I would not encourage anyone to mimic the way I tweet. What you need to do is find your own naked superhero. That’s how you should be delineating; it has nothing to do with what jersey you’re wearing.

That doesn’t mean you need to start filling your Twitter account with the most ridiculous news and tweets you can dream up (really. Don’t do that). It means that you need to decide which version of you is the BEST VERSION of you to get your message heard and out. What parts of your personality make you perfectly suited to excel at your job and to connect with people in the process? What version of your real self can you share with people to do your job better? What traits do you need to amplify to increase your value?

Once you know – that’s your naked superhero and the person you should be – whether you’re tweeting for yourself or a company.

If you work for someone else, define your presence and present it to your boss. Explain why this authentic version of yourself is going to make you a much more powerful evangelist for them and how it’s going to generate interest in your brand because you’re GIVING people something. You’re giving them you. Let them see there’s a thought-out strategy here and you’re not just tweeting your lunch because you went off the deep end. If you do that, a company that’s serious about its social media activity is going to at least give you a shot. Maybe they’ll ask to see a somewhat toned down version until they trust you, but they’ll give you the opportunity. If they don’t, consider why you’re there, what you’re doing, and why you’re investing in a company that won’t invest in you back. [#justsayin]

Social media isn’t a free-for-all for engagement. Not at all. It’s about deciding who you are, how you can best support the company and being that. Therein lies your strategy – regardless of whether you’re tweeting as yourself or a representative of a brand. But you’ll never accomplish anything by cutting the YOU from your social media persona. It’s your job to figure out how to blend it all in a way that benefits everyone.

You want to be successful in social media?

  • Find your naked superhero.
  • Play nice in the sandbox.

There’s your free piece of social media consulting for the day. Because the days of keeping completely separate personal and professional identities are over. It’s all blended and it’s either interesting or it’s not.

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About the Author

Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.

Get social with Lisa at Twitter

63 thoughts on “The Myth of ‘Professional’ Twitter Accounts

  1. ‘at’s pretty much how I does it.

    (It’d be way too exhausting for me to try to be all corporate and professional on twitter. I don’t know how people do it)

  2. I’ve been wanting to read something like this for a long time, have wanted someone to validate my approach. I don’t own my own brand, unlike you, but I have tried to find that honest, real me w/o going too far. The ‘naked superhero’ is a really good way of putting that.

  3. Couldn’t agree more, Lisa.

    I’m not sure if this is even something you can teach to companies or even regular people. It seems that there are two kinds of people in the world, those that are naturally authentic and don’t mind giving that away to people, and those that aren’t.

    Obviously, those that don’t mind sharing pieces of themselves authentically will do the best as an online spokesperson, be it via Twitter an email newsletter or any other medium. You see it over and over again with the people who become popular online.

    • I agree – I see it as related to what I said here – when hiring, people skills are more important than technical skills, cause only one of them can be learned.

    • It seems that there are two kinds of people in the world, those that are naturally authentic and don’t mind giving that away to people, and those that aren’t.

      I could not agree MORE with that statement. When did we start seeing eye to eye on things? It surely didn’t start out that way. ;)

  4. I believe a duo use of twitter is the most beneficial. When your tweeting on behalf of a company it can still be “real” but it still needs to be professional and hopefully somewhat relevant to your industry. When discussing amazing taco’s you may have inadvertently given the message that your to not be taken seriously. A little bit of a stretch but I think you get my point.

    In order to “fix” this, I think its best to run with a duo or more twitter accounts. Have an official account with your brand name but then also run a personal account yourself. While most people will know your associated with your company, your smart ass, or even ridiculous tweets don’t always get associated with your brand. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to build your own personal branding opportunity. For example, I hid under the alias “@DKS_Systems for well over a year. I found out that because my interest was in SEO that the username was being associated with SEO and not web development/design as the company is known for. I also found that I had to bite my tongue as everything I said was through the lips of the company. No funny jokes, no personal messages,.. I was pretty much a human robot. Not to mention I had no brand recognition for my name or myself as a whole.

    that was long… hopefully it made some sense. I’m a big fan of multiple accounts involving personal and “professional” accounts. Just my take.

    • I disagree, Nick. The tweet about the amazing tacos is what makes you a human. And it doesn’t matter if your company sells B2B chrome awnings. Having a human as your twitter voice is key. Why would it be a problem to mention your lunch (obviously that’s not all you want to talk about).

      • Jill, I agree with your assessment and I guess it’s just finding the right combination of business and personal tweets. I think at times companies get too focused on the off beat tweets that it takes away from their authority within their niche.

    • Hey Nick,

      Thanks for the comment and for taking a different stance. We appreciate that around here. :) For me, I’d think separating accounts by personality is only going to make things more confusing. If tweeting about tacos is going to hurt your brand, then why are you doing it anyway? Your best bet is to figure out who you want to be and then BE it. What’s going to make you and the company more successful? Those are the parts of you that you want to amplify, IMHO. I look at my Twitter account and it’s definitely not a perfect representation of me. There are parts of my personal life that I will simply not put on Twitter. But everything that is there is there for a purpose.

      That said, I know a lot of people who do keep dual accounts. You gotta do what works for you.

      Thanks again for chiming in :)

      • Lisa, maybe I get this wrong, but it sounds like you are saying (you are amongst many others that share this opinion) “be authentic as a tactic”.

        Gary V. preaches this too, I think you are both amazing, but I have a problem with understanding how being genuine/thoughtful/generous can be linked to a tactic…

        Jeff

    • I am a 50 year old entrepreneur working on my fifth company. I point out my age because I think that it might be relevant with respect to this particular topic. I.e., a good many of us in the business world are in transition from a long period of starched shirts and ties so to speak.

      I find Lisa’s post to be genuine, real, exciting and even liberating to a degree. That said however I really beleive Nick is on the mark here. It is too dangerous in my view for a corporate brand to appear inconsistent. There is a way to be honest and straightforward without baring your soul I think.

  5. I understand that we should tweet for a brand on our own but sometimes that personality don’t mix with the personal tweets. Our personal tweets are little bit overboard & way beyond ridiculous. I’ll go with creating another account on twitter for brand because in that we are tweeting sensible & something related to brands which keep a nice image of our brand.

    Even if you post or tweet something ridiculous we know that it is something actionable as you are treating for your brand like a leader.

    Thanks.

  6. Great stuff here, Lisa.

    Just to add some context to that #socialchat exchange, one of the analogies I offered at the end of my response to that particular question was that one should post in the same manner that they would if they were talking with an executive.

    Now granted, that leaves a ton of room for interpretation (I like to curse and talk about veiled psychedelic inferences when I talk with executives) but the general idea is to be yourself first and foremost but also make sure that you don’t do anything you wouldn’t do in front of people that make or break your business (e.g. your own executives or executives from companies you work with).

    This last piece likely applies most to large organizations, mainly due to legal considerations.

    That said, the best social profiles are the ones that completely blur the line between personal and professional.

    • Hey Hugo, Yes, I definitely took that statement out of context and ran with it. :) I think we probably agree on everything said there, I just wanted to dig into a bit deeper for people who maybe only saw the soundbites. I was quietly watching along when you guys were talking last week :)

      • I’m glad that you did (dig a bit deeper) because the social sphere could use some more humans instead of marketing fabricated personas.

  7. Part of me isn’t sure this can work for the (large) corporate world, but the rest of me thinks that’s more a statement about the corporate world than social media. Whatever the tax code says, corporations ARE NOT people. That makes corporate social media a bit of a paradox, and very few people have figured it out yet.

    Personally, I’ve gotten a lot more mileage being authentic than I have from trying to push my company brand. I could tweet as User Effect and put “we” in every sentence to make it sound like I have 100 employees, but I don’t, and eventually people would figure that out.

    • I think saying that corporations are not people is bad, and that mentality is what gives corporations a bad rep and makes they so stodgy.

      Corporations, just like anything, are run by people. Just like you don’t like to bulk up your efforts to make it look like you have 100 employees, they can’t pretend they are one person. How do they do the opposite and simplify it?

      Once a large corporation is set up to run and present itself a certain way, it would take Godzilla to move it in a different direction. It takes a whole lot more effort to move a boulder than it does a pebble. So in that sense, I agree with you. It’s going to take a lot long for large corporations to figure it out.

      But don’t say they aren’t people! There are some companies out there who have integrated relationship marketing techniques successfully, and we can only hope it continues. Have faith! :)

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean that no one working for a corporation is human, just that a corporation isn’t a single entity that can be equated to a person. I was actually agreeing with Lisa, for the most part – if you try to treat a social media account as an amalgam, and let NO ONE’S individual personality through, you’ll end up with something fundamentally impersonal. The corporation itself can’t be personal.

        Of course, you can create a personality, like a mascot or even a brand statement that’s strong enough to resonate certain core values and behaviors. I just find that very few companies do that well, and most of those companies are start-ups and/or have non-traditional cultures that really speak to people.

        • Well, I agree with your thinking – but I don’t think it has to get to the point where you have to create a personality. If a corporation has a certain culture and values structure, all employees should be apprised of that and hired based on it.

          That combined with giving some guidelines for the social space while they are representing the company should give them the tools for navigating the social space as themselves *and* as a representative of the company.

          But, that involves trust in their employees and confidence in their hiring practices. Which, I am not sure many corporations have. That’s just my opinion…but, let’s not get into that since that is a whole other Oprah!

  8. I really do see both sides of this issue – it’s a tough one because personally, I’m very WYSIWYG and cherish others I know that are as well. But I think it’s important to consider the customers’ expectations of a brand, and the twitter account needs to align with them. Some brands can (and should) have a much more casual style – for others it would be inappropriate. Ultimately it goes to what you mentioned about finding the right fit – for the person managing the twitter account and for the brand.

  9. A timely post for me. I use my Twitter account to post about stuff I’m passionate about. That might be search etc, it might be coding etc, or it might be something in the world that makes me smile, laugh, cry or scream with anger.

    I figured I was best being me no matter what because I am who I am irrespective of what my business does. Then I started to doubt this approach, then I decided no, this is the best approach, then I read this post and a few people, who I respect, agree with me.

    In a joined up world the days of respectable accountant by day, S&M demon by night are becoming blurred, I kinda quite fancy having my books done by an S&M loving accountant, crikey, I never thought I’d ever even say S&M loving accountant and now I’ve said it three times.

    Great work, thanks. d

  10. I do think Lisa’s tweeting style is a luxury but its a luxury afforded to her by the company and field in which she works. Most businesses can’t get away with having someone be more than a human robot when tweeting. But a corporate twitter account should not be completely stoic and devoid of humanity. Its a delicate balance. If I was the face of twitter for something like State Farm, then tweeting about my taco lunch would be unprofessional and looked down on. If I was the face of twitter for Bacardi and tweeted about a Bacardi based drink I’m having at happy hour on Friday (followed with a “Drink responsibly”) then it could work. It depends on your job and your brand. When your brand is yourself, as is the case with Lisa, you can be open, personable and approachable on twitter through tweeting about kickboxing, tacos and moving to a new apartment if that is the persona you want out there and it’s working for you with respects to building the correct audience.

    • @M_Roberts82 I know it’s been used as an example ad nauseum, but if you look at what Frank Eliason did over at Comcast, you can see that it can work. I don’t know if he tweeted about his lunch, but I seem to recall he did post personal tidbits, even though he was the voice of comcastcares. And the other comcast “personalities” do that as well. I seem to remember one of them talking about her upcoming wedding, or something like that.

      To me, it puts a human face on what might otherwise appear like an inhuman company. It makes me think, well, I really enjoy ole comcast bonnie and comcast steve, I’m really glad that I use comcast as my ISP because they hire likable, real, people.

  11. You absolutely made the point we were trying to make with the 140 character limitation. The whole idea is to be HUMAN, be genuine. But the noobs do need a good rule of thumb when they first get started. People have gotten in serious trouble with the boss for crossing those professional lines.

    The take away was to be authentic and REAL, without being robotic, stiff, or stupid.

    Thanks so much for reading the recap of last week’s #SocialChat and adding your voice to the conversation. You’re welcome to join us anytime :)

  12. I like the blended approach – mostly because I don’t trust companies who don’t have peoples names and faces associated with their products and services. I think a business that is funny, engaging, personable, honest and helpful will earn my business. I’m not sure you can do that with a strictly corporate outlook on your social media interactions.

    I feel much more comfortable about the possible outcome of asking a question via Facebook or Twitter if I’m asking @ravenarienne or @ravejon rather than just @facelesscompany.

  13. Depends…are you a large Corporate stick-up-your-arse corporation or a “let it all fly” duct tape marketing” off- kilter, way out there brand. Who ya want to be when ya grow up.? You can not work for a large firm and talk about your moving apartments and BF’s and dogs and cats without getting static. BUT if you are trying to be a VOICE and be yourself, well you only need ONE identity.

    Maybe the question you need to ask is who’s identity is it?

    • Or, putting it another way, do you want to cultivate the image of “suits” or something else? The “suits” image can be very informational and useful, but it isn’t very “human” and it is definitely not “fun” to follow. Some businesses want that “suits” image, so they don’t really want an individual’s personality.

      However, I would venture that a higher proportion of those on Twitter will prefer the personality – which is where humanity and idiosyncracies come into play.

      From personal experience, I would rather follow someone who is “fun” to follow, as well as providing useful information, than someone who is just an info-fountain. That said, as was mentioned above, there is a fine line somewhere, which, if crossed, can become too much irrelevant or silly stuff, and then maybe it is time to unfollow.

  14. Thanks for a great blog post!
    I’d like to add two comments:

    I run two twitter accounts – my own and my company’s. But my company consists only of two people, so I’ve made it very transparent that I’m the one tweeting from the corporate account too. My own account definitely is the one that works best for me. But I think that the corporate can be the one people search for – and through that eventually find me…

    Whether it is a luxury to be tweeting like you are Lisa – I don’t think so, but maybe it is both a means to and a result of your succes on social media. I mean, maybe you didn’t tweet as much about small failures in the beginning as you do know? ;)

    Anne (Personally very happy to hear about both ups and downs!)
    @AnneJensen_

  15. Man, this debate has been raging in my head for the past year. How to separate and also how to discern what should remain private? Thanks for sharing your thoughts today. Its definitely something that each of us in the web world need to figure out.

  16. Hey Lisa! Awesome post once again!

    Maybe you can help me with something. Let’s see, I have my Twitter account (my personal brand), one for my company brand (SEO consulting) , one for my dog persona (I own a online dog store) and one for my organ transplant awareness persona (I own an organ donation awareness website). As you can see, I have a number of split personalities and it is driving me crazy. However, I don’t know how to join them all under my personal brand Twitter account because some followers want SEO advice, some only want to read about my dogs and others only want to read about organ donation stuff (very touchy subject).

    Do you think there is a way I could combine them all under @ShanSteffen (personal brand) without alienating followers or is this one of those times a “corporate” brand for each is best? I can see each part of my life (my personas) adding to the quality of “me” and who I truly am but I don’t want to alienate followers at the same time.

    Would love your feedback. Thanks a million!

  17. Hmm. So creating a persona around what’s “best” about you isn’t the same as separating your life into personal and professional tweets? If you’re consciously giving everybody your best (which is what you seem to suggest in this blog and in your post on naked superheroes), that’s just as false as the personal/professional divide, and even less transparent.

    If I follow my financial advisor on Twitter as a financial advisor, I don’t want to hear about his escapades with too many beers or his sex life. I also don’t want him showing off the number of swear words he knows. Ditto my doctor, my lawyer, and even — gasp! — the reporters whose work I read. If they’re on Twitter as themselves, and there’s no mention of their occupation in their profiles, that’s a different matter. I’ll make the call based on my preferences.

    But please don’t pass along the equally tired advice that no one should separate personal from professional. Some people absolutely must, and some people prefer to. That doesn’t make them obscurantist monsters, it just makes them different from you — and that’s never a bad thing.

    • Yes and no to what’s said above. I know plenty of reporters who have colorful Twitter profiles–and enjoy flexible career options largely due to their ability to manage/engage a thriving Twitter following.

      However, LCreasy is right that if certain people are on Twitter for a reason (a doctor who wants to be known for the advice he gives out; the SEO who wants to be known for the advice she gives out; and so on), perhaps that color needs to approach greyscale more than anything else. It certainly can’t eclipse their area of specialty.

      I always think back to the Chrysler Twitter guy: He’s an example of why people should manage two separate Twitter accounts.

      • Just because you include your personal stuff into your Twitter account doesn’t mean you have to be tweeting about tacos and who was in your bed last night. I feel like that maybe got lost in translation somewhere. My fault. Whether it’s personal or professional, you’re still tweeting with a goal in mind, or at least in MY head. What is that goal and how are your tweets helping you get there?

        In the case of the Chrysler guy, that was just sloppy tweeting. It had nothing to do with having a professional or personal style. He wasn’t paying attention.

        • (wanted to chime in as myself and not just an alias!)

          Thank you for bringing up the idea of goal-oriented Twittering because I think that’s where many users need to ask themselves, “If I want to tweet nonsense, but I also want to build a professional reputation, would I be better off with multiple accounts?”

          Also agree with you on taco tweets. While some (very few!) social media professionals can get away with taco tweets as building their brands, most of us can’t. And even if our goal was to amuse just a couple of friends to follow us, we’d have to ask if taco tweets would accomplish that (they usually don’t!) Because even a little social media engagement can have significant ripples, perhaps casual users need to be more goal-oriented in their usage of tools like Twitter.

          This post is great, though-it got a lot of us discussing the need to critically examine their tweeting habits. I think it’s that kind of engagement that’s going to be instrumental to Twitter’s longevity.

    • Hey – we may be looking at this from different angles.

      For me, whether you’re using Twitter for your business or for your personal brand – either way there’s a business “goal” in mind. You’re on Twitter for some purpose. When I talk about crafting a version of you that’s going to allow you to reach that goal, that’s what I’m talking about. If you’re on Twitter to shoot the shit with your local friends or people into the same comic books as you, than that’s totally different. But for me, that’s not why I’m t here.

      You bring up the example of your financial adviser. No one wants to hear about his sexcapades. No, absolutely. But why is he/she even tweeting about that to begin with? How is that helping them toward any type of goal?

      Down below @bluephoenixnyc mentions the case of the doctor that wants to build his or her professional brand. If that’s the case than that physician needs to understand WHAT he/she wants to be known for and tweet content that portrays that image. i don’t see that as inauthentic. We all have different sides to our personality. It’s about playing up the one that makes sense for what you’re doing.

      I don’t think I’m explaining this as well as I need to. :(

    • I think this post came off as dictum although it may not have been intentional. I share the same sentiments as LCreasy, although I can see from your comments Lisa that you’re trying to clarify.

      I thought long and hard about my personas and the “single or many” dilemma. I chose to keep my personal and business separate because I didn’t want to overwhelm either audience. It’s really no different than having a personal and work phone number. Or a separate Facebook profile and Facebook page. I didn’t want to be that annoying friend who constantly talks about work, or that person at work with a running commentary of the Jags game. There are some business accounts I follow where I feel like there’s just too much noise and I wish they did have multiple accounts. If someone is truly interested in both aspects of me, then they can follow both accounts. And this gives me free range to actually be more transparent. This same dilemma came up in blogging. I have several accounts that I have created as I’ve evolved. I started with Live Journal and the intention was and still is to journal, not blog. WordPress didn’t exist yet! My WordPress blog I randomly share stuff on tech & internet, and now I have a third o Flow Simple. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having multiple accounts. It reflects my multi-faceted personality a lot better than having just one stream.

      And the integrations with separate accounts just make more sense to me. My pashmina account connects to my FB profile and various personal profiles like Yelp, Foursquare, Tumblr and my Flow Simple connects with my FB page and other business stuff like SEO Moz, and during various SEO events.

      Sometimes I’ll retweet myself from one account to another. I know it seems weird, but I think of it as being no different than repeating a story from work at a bar. Usually the retweets go from business to personal, rarely vice versa.

  18. @LCreasy do you really want to read about anyone’s drinking or sexcapades on Twitter, regardless of whether they’re someone you’ve hired or not?

    I think Lisa did mention that even as personal as she sometimes gets, she doesn’t tweet everything. Most of us learn pretty quickly not to do that, while still being our authentic selves.

  19. Really thought-provoking article and comments! Like many others, I’m a fan of the dual approach. I feel that having just one personal/professional account is one thing if you’re a solo entrepreneur or a very small company, but larger companies/brands do need a Twitter account to reflect their culture/branding. I run my company’s Twitter account which is fairly straight forward, but do try to inject some humor into it when appropriate. Then our Director of Product Marketing also has a twitter account, which is very focused on our company, but much more “personal”, and really allows for a human face. And then finally, I have my own twitter account where I rarely talk about work at all! I think this approach hits most of the bases.

  20. Has anyone talked about how the more popular a ‘personality’ on twitter, the more that account has gotten less and less personal? Lisa and several commenting here excluded from that, since as far as I can tell you’re all rather authentic when I read your tweets. I figure it’s either self censorship or someone has hired others to manage their accounts.

    • I think a great many people will develop their accounts using a certain personality angle – and once they’ve amassed a significant following – become a bit more buttoned down with what they say and share. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that it’s done tactically – build by being ‘edgy’ then monetize your following, or attempt to settle in as an “authority” of some type. But unless you are the authority of tacos and beer, it’s likely you’ll change your tweet style to attract a broader, more diverse audience ;)

      That being said – I still think there’s a difference in the type of account that is developed – a personal one vs. a brand account. If you are the brand – one account makes sense. If you are not, but your are the brand representative on Twitter, then yes, you should understand that dialing down your personality may be needed to best effectively represent the brand.

      Disney would be harmed, not benefited by a Twitter stream full of happy hour updates, regardless of how authentic, real and personal they were.

    • That’s an ENTIRELY different post and once I’ve often stay away from to avoid the “boo hoo you have a lot of followers” comments. But since you asked. :)

      I think that definitely happens and not even for the (very valid) reasons Michelle lists below. For example people who have been following me for awhile (meaning years) may have noticed that my tweeting style is a lot less than personal than it used to be. I still share my life and what I”m up to but there are certain topics now that I don’t talk about. I used to blog about my relationships (dating and personal) than I do now. When you develop a larger following it’s really easy for people to form opinions on things they have no right to have an opinion on or they use your personal life to take jabs at you. That’s something I’m very aware of now and I try and shield parts of my life away from the Twitter gallery. I know a lot of other people with large followings (way, way larger than mine) that do the same thing. It’s not a marketing ploy it’s a “okay, I need to protect myself now” thing.

      • Yep more good points. I think most of us who’ve been tweeting for awhile have definitely evolved our accounts. I remember when a trusted employee/friend told me I might want to consider not mentioning drinking quite so much in my tweets. Which was smart and perceptive of them. I did tone things down and I think it’s made for a better, more profession account while still being authentically me.

        That’s what’s cool about twitter you can definitely evolve.

        • I think your comfort level with certain things definitely changes over time and your actions then change to reflect that. I’m still pretty share-happy but there are now subjects and people that are off limits.

  21. For many companies, Twitter is a huge brand management tool. Lisa makes a great point- that you are your brand! If your brand considers itself creative, edgy, humorous, engaging, etc then making your tweets interesting/funny/random is an absolute must, especially considering how many awful Twitter accounts there are out there. Consider commercials- some of them are hilarious, but what’s appropriate for BMW wouldn’t be okay for Geico.

    Obviously, there has to be a line drawn between what is appropriate and what’s not, and some companies won’t want to take a risk. But for small business owners like me, adding personality into my tweets is simply good marketing.

  22. The bottom line is we all (brands & people) have a different ‘naked superhero’. Typically in the workplace politics can be a bad topic. I recently went off on a Fox news attack rant over the whole ‘ rapper/ poet: Common’ controversy, realizing that professionally it could offend some who love fox news. It was a national discussion, and I have a passion for music and politics.. so the topic reverberated with my naked superhero (please avoid visual). On the flipside, it ignited discussion with those equally passionate on both sides of the issue . I started dialogue with people whom I only speak with on a rare occassion over “business related” topics… as long as you remain respectful, and respectable to yourself, i think social is the place to break down traditional “political correctness” boundaries. Your superhero is super for a reason … so stay true to that, and then bear nakedness 2nd – to promote engagement.

  23. I too tweet for my company – and actually gave up my personal Twitter account because it got too time consuming and I was often duplicating updates and a bit nervous of one day getting them confused! I agree with your stance Lisa, and with many of the commenters. I think that between faceless corporate tweets and personal rants and intimacies there is is a huge range available. Depending on what organisation we work for, we should find ourselves naturally adjusting the mix, the hot and cold tap if you like. For me, it’s a bit like being at a conference. I’m representing my company, talking about work issues, being nice to folks and watching my language. But I’m still me, and if I bump into someone I know, or the conversation gettings onto moving house or childcare issues – well, I’ll talk about them too. I once wrote a blog post about what makes you follow a Twitter account, and that mixture of the personal and professional was a big factor. We all like to feel we have some small insight into people’s lives and personalities. It makes us feel we are connecting with humans. Long live the occasional taco tweet, I say :-)

  24. I never pretended to have a “neutral” business-y mood on Twitter or on other social media, I think as well it’s kinda impossible. Actually, the fact I do have a business account for my company (@esimplestudios) makes me uncomfortable for this reason, I don’t really know what mood to keep on that, or well I didn’t at start, now I kinda go with the flow and don’t take myself too seriously. People connect with people, not with brands.

  25. Still trying to decide which angle to respond from. I think issue #1 is that Lisa co-owns her company. She helped to set the identity of the company up front, so she now tweets securely from the knowledge that she’s fulfilling her vision.

    I definitely think doctors and politicians have a narrow path to follow. A little personality is great. Too much and we’re unable to continue seeing you as the objective specialist or guru we want you to be.

    I have too many twitter accounts, just like I have too many blogs. I’m now in the process of consolidating, but they exist because I faced this very same issue. I have broad and diverse interests, but most people who would follow me on a sports blog or twitter account don’t want to hear about religion, philosophy, marketing, or permaculture.

    I think there’s a line between being a person and being a channel. I chose to become a channel, and it was successful for tweeting and blogging. People who came to read got what they were expecting. But my mistake was by starting as a channel rather than a personality. I can get quicker results as a channel because you get what you expect.

    I think I consider Lisa a hybrid. She’s a channeled person. She shares her personality in her blog, but it’s always within the context of a channel. She established herself as a blogger first, so by the time Twitter came around, she wasn’t having to prove herself to every new potential follower. Had Lisa started tweeting and blogging at the same time, her approach would have delayed her business growth. It would take people longer to approve of her personality and simultaneously consider her an expert in her field.

    I could probably expand and clarify this a lot, but I won’t. :)

  26. This is an excellent post, and I’m enjoying the discussion in the comments as well. I tweet for a brand that has a certain “professional reputation” to uphold… I like to think I strike the balance between maintaining that reputation while also being real and occasionally personal. I use a mixture of “I” and “we” statements, talk about my kids (it’s a parenting brand), talk about some of the fun we have at the home office, and have back and forth conversations with our customers and other brands. I blogged about tweeting for a brand a few months ago– I honestly feel it’s an art and a science, and your success will depend on how well you understand the nuances of the twittersphere.

  27. I operated two accounts at one job, as I tend to mix in a good amount of ridiculous tweets through my personal account. But, over time, many of my professional connections started to find my personal account, as it had more followers, was more active, and had a better mix of education & entertainment.

    Now I maintain the single account, but understand that it also followed by clients, partners, and my executive team. As a result, I’ve cut down on the cursing (although I do reserve the right to expletives while watching Boston sports), and have also reduced the number of tweets about my drinking & whoring.

    At the end of the day, I think you need to look at the channel like a bullhorn: you wouldn’t stand outside your company’s front door slinging mud about coworkers, competition, bosses, or clients, so don’t do it on Twitter. That stuff is for Facebook messages.

  28. Lisa, I love the personality that comes out in all your writing. Whether blog post or tweet, your words are you and I appreciate that you are not hiding behind a facade. I feel I know you because of the reality you bring and I like that.

  29. I have to say I generally agree with Lisa’s point of view, and this time is no different. When I first started using Twitter I decided to have a single stream much like Lisa’s. It sometimes causes me to reword something here and there, but generally has served me well and allowed me to grow my personal and professional social network simultaneously.

    • You make an interesting point Phil:

      “…served me well and allowed me to grow my personal and professional social network simultaneously.”

      “me”. “my”. Assuming you are tweeting during work hours has it also served your company well? I mean that’s what this debate is about right?

  30. The two Twitter topics that no one seems to have yet touched on are also the two most controversial: politics and religion. If a company (it’s owners) has strong political or religious leanings, and this is conveyed in their tweets, it could most certainly alienate followers and cause the company to lose business.

    On the flip side, to avoid talking about either of these issues if the company is dedicated to them would be inauthentic and lose some of personality of who the company is and what values they stand for.

    Thoughts?

  31. Comment #55! What do I win?

    Lisa: This post is filled with soundbite nuggets (the good kind)…

    “It works because the version I present to you is authentic. When you talk to me, you get Lisa – the good and the bad, the useful and the ridiculous. You get all of it.” – I love that. LOVE. That’s what makes me keep coming back. We’ve still never met face to face (need to change that), but I *do* feel like I know you. Crap. Is that creepy? My dad was asking me about his new business and how he should “do” this social media/online/21st century stuff. I started talking to him about the importance of SEO. Who did I think of first? Nope, not SEO.com (even though they are located here in the 801 AND I know their CEO AND I was just at their offices this morning). No way. I thought of Outspoken Media. I thought of you, Ms. Lisa Barone. It also helps that he splits time between FL and Rochester, NY (not all that far from you). Bottom line is that I thought of you because I read this blog, follow your tweets, etc and I know exactly what to expect.

    “You cannot expect people to form a relationship with you if you’re not willing to share part of yourself with them.” – BOOM. Sometimes relationship 101 is a nice reminder. Just like in life, it’s a 2-way deal. Thanks for the reminder.

    More on this point, “but can we stop pretending that it’s possible to have a corporate Twitter account? Because it’s not.” – Yes and no. I tweet from the @blueskyfactory (corporate) account AND from @djwaldow (personal). Sometimes the tweets are the same/similar. Other times, they are very very different. I could care less which account gets RT’d, shared or replied to the most. However, I do know that my stuff gets more action (funny phrase out of context). What matters most to me – from a business perspective is this: If I can associate my name and avatar with my company (Blue Sky Factory) and industry (Email Marketing), then I’m doing something right.

    Here’s to hoping we meet face to face in 2011 … and that it’s not overly awkward.

  32. Seth, I purposely used a politics example in my first comment – because it is the most tedious info to put out there – you break all perception of neutrality with your audience. I think by watching most of my associates, they do safely avoid these topics. The way i see it, If Barry Schwartz can fashionably sport a yamaka in all his public and youtube appearances – we can all fashion our religious & political leanings… why not? Because first and foremost we love Barry not because we associate him as Jewish & he rocks a yamaka (although some might) but because he helps us remain informed & is a pro. So, Why be afraid to speak on what you are passionate about? Especially, if it aligns with the nakedness of your superhero? Just prescribe to Lisa’s #2 rule – ‘Play nice in the sandbox’ or better described by a bumper sticker “mean people suck.”

  33. Great post. I love the concept of naked superhero. I feel we all have one.
    Me, I just happen to identify as my “inner rockstar”. We all have that inner child that we have to allow to blend with our adult self and persona.
    I agree with you – we cannot be two different personalities.
    What you see is what you get, and you exemplify that beautifully, Ms. Barone!
    And shame on you for being such an inconsiderate daughter!

  34. 100% agree with this article. I struggled for a while trying to figure out if my Twitter needed to be completely professional/social media related or if I could sprinkle bits of my personal life into it. I decided that while I do somewhat consider myself a “brand” I am still a person. I’m a social media professional that plays tennis and reads way too much Perez Hilton, so why can’t I tweet about that too. As long as you don’t stray too far away from the reason you’re on Twitter in the first place, I don’t see a problem.

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