Hijacked! (Or, why you shouldn’t use your personal Twitter account for work)

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Let’s say you love your job. And let’s say you’ve got a whole bunch of Twitter followers, and you want to tell them about the new and exciting things happening at your job. It’s only natural to tweet whatever news you have to the public to spread the word.

Recently I’ve noticed a surprising number of folks on Twitter who not only tweet about their jobs, but tweet for their jobs using their personal accounts. There are two big reasons why this happens, and several reasons why it shouldn’t.

Business tweets come from your personal account because:

  1. You are a well-meaning employee who really wants to help your company or organization, and you feel you can do that through your Twitter feed.
  2. Your company expects you to use your Twitter feed and clout to further the company’s goals.

Here’s why you should strongly consider ending the practice:

  1. In most cases, your Twitter account is your account. If it existed before your job did, the first risk you take is alienating your followers, who are there to follow you — not to get your work spam. You wouldn’t (usually) send emails or postcards about your company’s services to your friends and family. And most employees would take offense if they were instructed to do so.
  2. You’re confusing people. There are cases in which the tweeter becomes the public face of the organization on Twitter. That’s a good thing. A very good thing. An organization should have a personality people identify with. Unfortunately, a good communications professional will continuously spread the positive news about the company — all the way up until they change jobs. When the new job starts and the subject matter changes, you’ve suddenly begun to tell folks about things they never signed up to hear about. Imagine @comcastcares suddenly tweeting support messages about Little Debbie snack cakes.
  3. Your personal brand is tied too closely with the company brand. When you love your job, this is not a problem, as long as things go right. But if your company is in the midst of a PR nightmare, your personal reputation is immediately on the line. Today you could extol the virtues of your company’s philanthropic endeavors, only to find tomorrow’s headlines about your boss being charged with stealing from senior citizens. In the end, you appear either complicit or ignorant.
  4. You’re being used. Nine times out of 10, you’re asked to use your personal account because nobody follows the company account. Odds are there’s a reason for that — maybe several. The truth is most people just aren’t interested in engaging with a brand. Rather than creating interesting content, companies like to take the easy way out by hijacking your account. If the company wants to build a Twitter following, your challenge is to help do that — not to loan them yours.
  5. If you’re doing all the talking, why do I need to follow the company? Tell me you love your job. Tell me I should follow your company’s Twitter feed if I want updates. But if you’re already giving me all the updates I’d ever want, your company’s feed will suffer.

 

Don’t get me wrong. Even I’ve tweeted about work. When I’m excited about an event or a bit of media I’ve created I let people know. But my personal vs. business tweets are probably 500 to 1. I save business tweeting for the business Twitter account, where people expect to see it, and where it will be seen only by those who want it.

Bottom line: Be careful out there. It’s easy to get caught up in creating a role for yourself in your company’s social media campaign. But you and your followers must come first. Don’t turn your followers into unwitting customers. And don’t turn yourself into a shill.

 

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