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Twitter? Big Brother? No One Cares?


Ah, Twitter. It’s an amazing marketing tool. It’s a bastion of information. It’s so much fun.

I advise my clients, colleagues and friends to use it. I teach workshops on its extraordinary benefits. It seems to be taking over the popular world (I mean Ellen’s on Twitter now.). ‘Everyone’s’ on it. Which is great….I think.

Twitter – and having everyone you know use it and follow you can also cause some interesting issues.

When your clients are following you – and you’re hanging out for 15 minutes or so in the middle of the day waxing poetic with your tweeps about bonobos, chocolate, WordPress, American Idol, hotdog sandwiches or any other fascinating subject – and your clients are watching, what happens? I can see it going a variety of ways:

  1. They join in on your conversation.
  2. They watch closely and learn from you how to have fun and engage on Twitter.
  3. They’re pissed that you aren’t working on their project.
  4. They thought you were too busy to get something done asap and are wondering how you have time to tweet at all.
  5. They are paying absolutely no attention to you, whatsoever.

What an interesting little predicament we’ve gotten ourselves into, eh?

Of course, we’re each entitled to spend our days how we choose as long as we get our work done – but suddenly people can look over our shoulders. (Interestingly, this is exactly what I sought to escape when I left the world of having a boss. You too?) And, it’s weird. Maybe you don’t think anything of this – maybe, wait for it, I’m paranoid and packed full of Jewish guilt!

‘Cause we’re allowed to spend some of our day marketing, right? And we can stop working while we eat lunch, right? And, Twitter has become paramount to our business visibility. And some days are super productive and some aren’t. And we can’t work 24/7/52/365 – or can we? Should we be expected to? After all, the internet never turns off, you know. And my Blackberry gets email all day and all night and doesn’t care for the concept of Saturday.

FYI, turns out my new boss is a relentless slave driver. I’m about to report her to the authorities – but if I sent myself to Mean Boss Jail, who would get all of this work done?

Your thoughts? How do we balance the transparency?

Image by Gerlos

Join the discussion 12 Comments

  • B says:

    I’ve been thinking about this, too. With Facebook was easy. For me it’s a personal tool, and all my ‘friends’ are my real friends. Twitter is a professional tool so I try to keep my posts ‘professional’, or, if they are personal, they make me ‘look good’ (without lying, of course). I would never twitter something like ‘I’m bored of this project’ but I may do that on FB. We should all be more careful. A friend of mine discovered on Twitter that her client didn’t like her proposal.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ouch…I didn’t even explore looking at it the other way! Great point!!!

  • shane says:

    Nice post, I’ve just written a blog about Twitter and openness

    Would be interested to know what you think!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Shane – excellent article, thanks for sharing it. I can’t believe that about the Facebook updates being used as court evidence…I will certainly think a little more before I tweet!

    That said, I think the openness of Twitter is what makes it so amazing – the fact that we can all interact – that ‘twitteratti’ are so available…you know?

  • TJ Hirst says:

    I haven’t commented before here, but this is an interesting discussion. It came to mind after I gave my website/blog address to a prospective employer and I started looking at my posts through his eyes. I even wrote a post about it last week. I think it’s about speaking in one voice in all our online writing. I’ve tried to discover a mix of professionalism and genuine personality. My conclusion: While public communication is about marketing to a specific audience, when I take my private communication out into the public, I’m choosing to not market myself and just be myself.

  • Julie Roads says:

    HI TJ! I concur…when someone follows me that is a client or potential client, that same thought goes right through my head. And you’re right, about finding that one genuine voice. The thing is – if we’re being genuine and we’re good, honest people – should this be an issue?

  • Gil Gonzalez says:

    I think if you’re a business, you can/should keep your Twitter accounts separately. Use your ‘work’ Twitter account to market and promote your business (or yourself as a self-employed individual), but maintain a ‘personal’ Twitter account for all the everyday ramblings, comments, thoughts, etc.

    In much the same way people tend to not mix their personal and work emails, perhaps the boundaries between professional Tweets and personal twittering needs to be more clearly defined.

  • Julie Roads says:

    Gil – I have to say that I completely disagree – and I think the human face does much better business-wise than the company logo. This is what I think the brilliance of social media is – that we connect as people first.

  • Debra Snider says:

    I’ve blogged about this, too. Even though I’m an author without a client base per se, I still don’t blog and tweet about everything that comes to mind. My online persona is genuine, authentic, but it’s not entirely complete. Some topics, ideas, and opinions really do require context and, I think, are suitable only for face-to-face or voice-to-voice conversations with real-life friends. Still more topics, ideas and opinions probably fall into that off-limits category when you have and want to maintain a professional business demeanor and client base.

    If I were a client waiting for a project and I saw the service provider I trusted to handle it for me on Twitter for hours on end or every time I dropped in, I would likely form if not a bad overall opinion, at least some resentment and concern. Maybe fair, maybe not – but I doubt I’m the only person who would react that way.

    This is all too bad in some ways, but it’s part of tending to our reputations, just like the way we carry ourselves when we meet people IRL, say at conferences or workshops or receptions. Authenticity goes a long way, but I think we also need to pay attention to how much time we’re spending on Twitter in full view of our clients, and what we’re saying while we’re there.

    Thought-provoking post, as always, Julie! Thanks!

  • [Charlene] says:

    I’ve been thinking about these issues as well, and I’ve come to a conclusion for myself. I’ve decided that my clients will have to adjust to me. I’m on Twitter. If you check my archives, you get an idea of the frequency of my Twitter stops and their duration.

    If a client takes issue with my Twitter activity, they are not the correct client for me. But if they are watching me on Twitter, I think they are more likely to notice that I put in long working days and I work on weekends.

    As far as tweet content, I already had the ah-ha moment that I must self edit carefully to keep my work and clients anonymous. I’m not going to complain or criticize a client project in tweets. But I am likely to compliment a client for something smart and collaborative they do, or for adopting a smart strategy. I love working on projects and with people where I’m full of compliments, and that will spill into my tweets.

    I do have two Twitter accounts, and I engage two completely different communities with each account. When people ask me about the two accounts, I tell them they are free to follow either or both, but be prepared because on one of them I make plans for events on the weekend, and on the other, I only talk shop. They can choose which conversation they want to join.

    I am completely myself in both accounts, I don’t put on a professional face/voice on the business account. It took me a while to sort out how to use two accounts, and now that I’m rolling along, it’s completely natural to switch between them during the day. In fact, I can see breaking my business account into two accounts down the road, focusing on one line of business in each account. Each topic would have a separate audience, therefore, I can see a separate Twitter account. But I’m not ready to juggle three accounts just yet!

  • Julie Roads says:

    Thank you Debra and Charlene – for these incredibly thoughtful comments…there is so much good info in them, so much to think about…
    I just have to say – I agree with Charlene about Twitter use – I may be on for 30 mins on Tuesday at 1pm, but you’ll also see my stopping in while I’m working just about every night and on weekends…us writers are a funny breed – we write when the muse tells us to sometimes!

  • Mary Lawler says:

    I just went through my Twitter follow list and trimmed it down. Some Twitterers I was following for business reasons tweeted way too much about their stubbed toe, recipes, their workout at the gym, and while I appreciate the human qualities expressed, I was looking for a little more content. Some people I follow post terrific links, quotes, observations and questions. I guess it depends on who you follow and why. As for following me, I always wonder why a total stranger would want to hear about my hangnail, so I try to keep a balance in my tweets of information, opinion and a little personal stuff thrown in just to prove I am real.
    Surprisingly Twitter has been a fabulous source of contacts, information and humor. Everyone has to find their balance.

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