For small business owners getting started on Twitter, trash your personal account. Concentrate on your work account. I don’t feel that having a personal Twitter is necessary. First, after a spending all day with TweetDeck open on my work computer the last thing I want to do when I get home is fire off some personal tweets. Really, do you come home and want to fire up Quicken®? Didn’t think so.
Second, though you may not mention that you are explicitly affiliated with a company, as long as you are a figurehead you will be inexorable from that company. We all do industry events, they are important (as much as we sometimes wish they weren’t) so people know your name, they know what you look like, they might even find out that you have a Twitter account. This is especially important for those of you that use your name in your brand! Don’t think that Google isn’t going to pull up your Twitter stream just because your client searched for Dingbat Planning instead of Leslie Dingbat, in fact, I’d wager that dear Leslie’s Twitter account shows up above her planning business.
If you are so compelled to maintain both a personal and a work Twitter account bare the following in mind.
Just as you should moderate your Twitter stream to avoid mentioning religion or politics for your business, you should moderate your personal stream. As mentioned before, if you are a figurehead at your business and other people know your name, your stream is bound to be intermingled. Case in point, I follow a certain bakery- they make amazing cakes and I was very impressed with some of the philanthropic work they were doing. I also like cake. I often engaged them and helped promote their brand via my Twitter stream. I’d often retweet news for them, share their events etc. However, I was also following one of the owner’s personal account on Twitter. At first they weren’t heavy users and there was an occasional generic tweet. Then, they got hooked. Tweets were coming out hourly on bad days and every 20 minutes on good days, or was it the other way around? Anyways, there was a shift in content over time as the owner began to treat this account as a soap box. The occasional bland tweet transformed into a nonstop feed of vitriol, religion and politics. This may seem like a far fetched example, but think about the way you talk with your friends and the way you talk at an association meeting. Would you ever dream of telling a fellow vendor who you voted for? Telling them your views on unions? Quoting the bible to them? Well, yeah okay, I’ve gotten drunk and gone a little too far with fellow vendors- which reminds me, don’t tweet drunk. These are all things that are fine in private, and in 140 characters may seem too short to matter, but they are also too short to have any finesse. Something that you find funny may come off as seriously antagonistic to others.
If you absolutely insist on being an ass online, fine, but set your Twitter account to private, use a fake name and don’t let anyone friend you. Or, keep a diary so everyone can see what a jerk you were after you die instead of right now.
I’ve included this note specifically about Twitter because on Facebook we can make the privacy settings a little more fine grained, but I’d still suggest a heavy dose of moderation, even if your privacy settings make the iron curtain look open.
Check out They Might Be Giant’s song Racist Friend for a mind break.