There are roughly 230 million active users on Twitter and approximately 500 million tweets per day. With numbers like this, it’s reasonable to think there are more than a few diverse and equally compelling opinions on what you should and should not tweet.
Over the past several years, I’ve been a very active user of Twitter, applying the basic principles of public relations in the process. As a user, I’ve also had the chance to see how others develop and implement their own philosophies on how to best use the site.
It’s with this in mind that here I will not tell you what you should or should not tweet. What I will say is that like any and every other form of communication, what you decide to tweet will come to represent both you and your organization.
It’s not uncommon for someone’s profile page on Twitter to include language such as, “My tweets are my own and do not reflect those of my employer.”
I’m not sure how that will hold up legally, but in the minds of most visitors to your page, it will in fact more closely align you with your employer. Fact is, like it or not, where you work and what you do says a lot about you. And what you say and what you do when you are away from work says a lot about the kind of people your employer hires. What you say online does indeed provide a reflection on your employer, intentional or not.
That said, a digital native gave advice online recently that reflected his enthusiasm for social media but also his lack of understanding of the discipline of professional communications – the operative word being “discipline.”
His comments did not take into account the intentional nature of strategic communication. His advice was that our tweets should show all facets of our personalities, whether the Twitter account is for an individual or an organization. Again, it must show all aspects of the person or organization’s personality.
His assumption is that by showing “all aspects” the visitor will get an accurate and therefore favorable impression of you and/or your organization.
While such advice may sound good on its surface, what it overlooks is that just giving someone an accurate or well-rounded representation does not automatically lead to a favorable impression. That is a great leap of faith and a mistake that is all too easy to make.
Consider this analogy. Let’s say you’re speed dating. You tell every person you meet, in five or ten minutes, your whole life story, warts and all. By the time’s up, the other people may know a lot about you, but is it what they really wanted to know? Is it what they needed to know if you were to have any chance of turning that speed date into a real date?
The same principles apply to Twitter and other social media. A strategic communications approach would take into consideration who you are trying to target, knowing in advance what they want to know, and knowing what they need to know so that you can begin for forge a lasting relationship that only starts with social media.
This approach requires a good deal of thought on who you want to be on Twitter. What types of messages you need to deliver to achieve your objectives. An understanding of the kind of online persona you need to create to achieve your goals. Once you go through the process to arrive at some reasonable conclusions, chances are, you won’t want to show “all aspects” of your personality, or if the Twitter account is for an organization, all aspects of that organization.
You will need to prioritize and focus. Your tweets will need to be intentional. Chances are they won’t show all aspects. They will leave something to the imagination, something yet to be revealed. Still, they should be accurate and credible.
How often should you tweet? What types of tweets should you use? How many should be humorous versus serious? The answers to these questions must come from you.
But it is safe to say you shouldn’t tweet without a plan, and without knowing what you are trying to achieve and how you will achieve it. To do so, you must know what to put online and what not to put online. A good Twitter strategy is an intentional one.