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April 24, 2009

18

The Lines are Getting Blurry

by deirdrewalsh

Today, I saw a tweet from @omarg, journalist and contributor to NPRs All Tech Considered, about the new Twitter Directory on the Austin-American Statesman‘s Web site.  I was immediately excited.  Finally, a quality site to find cool, local Tweeple!!  I clicked on the budurl and was instantly disappointed.  I couldn’t even get past the first question. 

personal-or-business-twitter2

 

BUSINESS OR PERSONAL? BUSINESS OR PERSONAL? BUSINESS OR PERSONAL? 

 

 

I feel like this question haunts me.  As the Social Media Manager at National Instruments, I get asked at least once a week questions like, “Do I have to become our VP’s friend on Facebook? (Sorry, John).  How do I block my boss from seeing my pictures from the party last Friday night? Do I need to create two Twitter accounts – one for “work me” and one for “home me.”  In my opinion, the answer is a resounding no.  

Gone our the days of the headshot.  I’m both professional and goofy.  This is the ying and the yang of me.  And I’m not alone.  

My friend Morgan and I often dream of a world where we have one email account (preferably Gmail) for all of our communications.  Of course, I’ll always keep my spam account as well, but for the rest of the communications, streamlining systems would make me more efficient.  Yes, I admit that I sometimes answer personal emails at the office, but I also respond to LabVIEW tweets on the weekends.  As a social media professional, the 9-5 work schedule is not an option, and I love that!  

twophones

Recently, my friend/coworker (another blurry line) Jenn asked if she should create a separate Twitter account for her role as the Embedded Campaign Manager at NI.  When I asked why she wanted to do so, she responded by saying, “well, I tweet a lot about running.”  While I’m not sure of the exact demographic overlap of embedded engineers with runners, I do know that I enjoy following people that are open about who they are and what they are doing.  

Many companies may feel different about this.  After reading posts like Facebook Post Gets Worker Fired on ESPN.com and following the recent Dominos incident, it’s clear that institutions must have a mantra of hiring the best and the brightest for this model to work.  By trusting your employees, you can build an army of intelligent folks discussing your products and engaging in meaningful dialog online.  

Let me know your thoughts!

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18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Apr 24 2009

    So true! I think the best blends are work and personal together. That’s what makes brands and employees real (check out P’s blog if you want the ultimate work/life mix: http://blog.penelopetrunk.com/). If your question is, “is this ok for the people I work for to see?” Maybe instead, you should ask yourself, “Is this something I should be doing in the first place?” (example: Dominos videos: no, and no. an update about having a drink with friends after work: yes, and yes. Though, I do see where the lines are blurred (Photos of you going to town with 80s karaoke. While you are wearing an 80s hairband wig. And drinking Miller High Life: hmm. I would err on go for it! Embarrassing? yes. Career limiting? no.)

    And on balancing work vs personal? For me, social media brings work stuff into personal time 10x more than it brings personal time into work; and for Deirdre, I think it is probably about 50x. I’m just saying. Work is getting the better end of the deal.

    Anywho, the bottom line is: Be yourself. In one place. Appropriately.

  2. emiliekopp
    Apr 24 2009

    Good words from morgan and deirdre. Perhaps the Austin American Statesman will consider having a 3rd option in the first question’s pull down menu: Work, Personal, or BOTH.

  3. Apr 24 2009

    Ooh, good topic. One thing employers are going to have to remember is that, yes, they are going to have to endure a little bit of embarassment as people figure things out.

    I wonder – will social media tact become a critical skill as companies hire new employees?

  4. Apr 24 2009

    Deirdre, I struggled with that very question. A lot of people use Twitter for personal and business. In fact, several of our staff members tweet news and personal life material (such as @omarg and @broylesa).

    Ultimately, though, I needed this database to be as useful as possible. I decided (perhaps wrongly) that forcing someone to choose between the two will lead to more reliable searches. For example, if someone were to search “Restaurants” right now on the database, without filtering for business vs. personal, you’ll find there are several accounts on there that are *not * restaurants, but people who just enjoy restaurants. I wanted to make it so you can truly find restaurants using Twitter. When you add the extra filter of clicking on “business” accounts and restaurant category, it finds restaurants only.

    Not every account can be a perfect mix of business vs. personal. I don’t think @statesman’s followers would appreciate constant twitpics of my kids playing T-ball. Same is true with just about any official corporate twitter account (such as @DellOutlet or @wholefoods). The lines are blurring, but there are still clear-cut examples of business accounts. That why I did what I did.

    Cheers,
    Robert

  5. Apr 24 2009

    Great post, Deirdre! I have two Twitter accounts, but admit it is often hard to split my personality. I have way more fun on my personal Twitter account … don’t know why I don’t think I can do the same with my 3M account. Might have to seriously think about combining them.

  6. Apr 24 2009

    Robert — thanks for the great response and insight. After reading your restaurant example, I agree that there is a clear need for a strong local Twitter directory that will showcase both corporations and individuals. I deemed “business” to mean professional and not necessarily company. Thanks for the clarification.

    I also agree that there is a place in the Twittersphere for official corporate accounts. As a B2B marketing manager, I’ve found that Twitter is a great way for me to engage in meaningful dialogue directly with engineers using our products; however, I want to do more. Starting next week, I will be co-authoring the official LabVIEW Twitter account with my technical counterpart @toddsierer. Through this new outlet, we will better support our graphical programming customers as well as provide them with the latest technical resources on our site. Hence, I will have both a “personal” and “business” Twitter account for the directory.

    Keep up the great work at the Statesman! It’s so nice to live in a city were “old media” gets “new media.”

  7. Apr 24 2009

    Aaron – It’s something I’ve started looking for in my intern candidates. Just last week, I had a student say “I’m interviewing for a position at National Instruments where they pay me to use Twitter, lol.” While not the worst comment, the LOL bothered me. Is he laughing that I would pay him to use a valuable social media tool? Did he realize that I monitor for mentions of the company constantly? Anybody can write 140 characters, but very few folks can make it valuable, interesting, and direct.

  8. Apr 24 2009

    Jane — I thought about you as I wrote this post. You were the one exception I could think of.

    I love your Twitter accounts — both of them! In large part because your personality shows through on the 3MJane. Everything from your profile pic to hilarious tweets like, “Getting ready to brainstorm new name for embedded capacitance material … hoping for something short and easier to spell,” show that you are a real person and not a corporate drone.

    Twitter marketing strategy is not formalized yet, so I hope we can continue to experiment and learn from each other.

  9. Apr 25 2009

    Robert–

    I am glad you’re trying to do this, can’t wait to see how it turns out!

    @morgannorris

  10. Apr 25 2009

    Deirdre- Thanks for the excellent article. The topic on how to “name” yourself on Twitter has puzzled me as well. I work for Galil Motion Control-a high-tech company that makes motion controllers, and I am also on the board of ImpactAVillage-a non-profit that builds schools in Southern Sudan. The conversations and followers for both are very different! I originally just had a Twitter account under my own name but because of the different audiences, decided it was best to create two different accounts, one named Galil and the other named ImpactAVillage. I ended up deleting my personal account (I guess I dont have a life!). In the non-profit world, having an account with an organization name is important to give branding especially for smaller organizations. I find it’s still important to make personal tweets so that people know there is a real, living person behind the organization logo. While there is abundant chatter between NGOs in Africa, there is still not much of a twitter audience for motion control. I dont like strictly “company” tweets that pitch new products, etc and I think its important to include real conversation. It’s what Twitter is all about.
    Lisa

  11. Lucas
    Apr 28 2009

    Hello Deirdre,

    Just spoke about a lot of things on Omegle (gummy’s, Austin and JIF peanut butter!).

    I am sure to contact you when I need tips for my TX-visit this September.

    Cheers from the Netherlands!

  12. Lucas
    Apr 28 2009

    My previous comment is gone…

    Happy to talk to you on Omegle!

    Cheers,

    Lucas

    (Note: JIF rules!)

  13. Apr 28 2009

    Lisa — thanks for the awesome use cases. I agree that there is a place for corporate or organization Twitter accounts, as long as they don’t just repurpose an RSS feed.

    I’m also interesting in learning more about your ImpactAVillage account. Are you using it to encourage social action, donations, etc? How does that compare to your corporate account?

    We should chat soon!

  14. Apr 28 2009

    I use the ImpactAVillage twitter account to find out who is doing what in Sudan and what is going on. I do a daily search on “Sudan” to monitor conversations. There are lots of conversations and it has helped me keep my finger on the pulse in a volatile country. Just last week I found someone from NY who tweeted that they were building a school in Malek, Southern Sudan (very small village!). That is where we are about to build our 1st school. One tweet lead to another and now Deng Jongkuch (a “Lost Boy of Sudan” who is on our board) is going to meet Adeui (a Lost Girl of Sudan at the other non profit in NY) in Malek this June to talk to the elders of the village together. Twitter helped connect two organizations on opposite sides of the US that will now work together in Malek to build a school. Amazing!

    Mostly my tweets are informational and conversational but every now and again I send a tweet asking for donations to help us improve education in Southern Sudan. (www.ImpactAVillage.org).

    I am trying to establish similar connections with the Galil account but havent had as much success because the motion control community and chatter is so much smaller than the chatter in Sudan. I dont think the motion control community has embraced Twitter yet.

    I see that you have established quite a community on LabView which is fantastic! Galil does have some customers who use our motion controllers with LabView.

    Keep on Tweeting!
    Lisa

  15. Apr 28 2009

    LUCAS — Great to see you on my blog. Just wrote a post about our conversation!! Glad to see you are a “real” person. Look forward to chatting more as real people and not “strangers.” 🙂

  16. May 7 2009

    Deirdre,

    While I enjoy following colleagues’ “hybrid” twitter accounts I think there are many good reasons to maintain separate personal and business accounts. My Facebook friends are my friends, and while I discuss my NI life there I also discuss politics and religion there. I suspect I might lose some twitter followers on my “business” accounts if I maintained a single list of contacts.

    I think what we agree on is that even a “business” twitter account should be personal in nature, and provide insight into the personality, humor, etc. of the author.

    My basic (tentative) approach is to accept most/all connections from friends / colleagues on LinkedIn, @measure, and @nivision, and limit Facebook and @buterbaugh friends to those who believe to be comfortable with my strong opinions on a wide variety of topics, pictures of my kids, childhood wackiness, etc.

    I think another dimension to this discussion, especially on the Facebook side of things, is the fact that other people can post and tag material that is linked to you. While diligent monitoring allows you to “untag” material, it is still possible that career-limiting content could be posted ABOUT you on Facebook. I don’t have any examples of this, but it is a concern. Thanks for tackling this.

    PS — @niweek is a good example of an account that probably should be kept pretty cleanly on topic

  17. Erin
    May 28 2009

    Such an interesting debate, and I dig your stance. Ever since I started tweeting on behalf of my company (@t3thinktank), my personal feed has been suffering, as I post most of the good stuff on the company’s feed.

    Just another juice COW (Can Of Worms) in the social media saga. I love it.

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