It always makes me laugh when people put something in their Twitter description that attempts to provide a break between personal opinion and terms of employment.
You know the kind of thing: “These tweets are personal and are not reflective of my employer.” I mean, is that sort of line legally binding? As a representative of your company, isn’t everything you do or say – online and offline, at work and at play – reflective of your organisation?
If you work for a company, the things you say will – directly or indirectly – be associated with your employer. Your tweets will also reflect on your personal brand. Twitter succeeds through its open nature but too many executives seem to tweet without thinking of the implications.
Here are 10 of the most common mistakes made by executives on Twitter, though the list could be extended to just about everyone online:
- Breakfast – Don’t be mundane; don’t tweet about mid-morning snacks and evening meals. So, you fancy a coffee? Who cares.
- Grammar – You’ll only look as smart as the comments you make. Too many business leaders limit their influence through spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. And the plural of CIO is CIOs, not CIO’s. OK?
- Diarrhoea – Too many people on Twitter suffer from verbal diarrhoea. I don’t care if you had a great meeting this morning and I really don’t want a verbatim run-down of every comment made in a keynote session at a storage conference.
- Glory-hunting – Don’t bask in the reflected glory of others. People can tell when you’re re-tweeting the thoughts of others in an attempt to look smart. And it doesn’t look clever; it just looks rubbish.
- Quotes – A horror, basically. Twitter is full of business leaders providing quotes from other, more famous, people. Here’s one example I’ve just concoted for you to tweet to all your followers: “Using quotes by other people is tedious and shows you suffer from a lack of imagination.”
- Massive head syndrome – No one likes a big head, so why is Twitter home to so many people who are keen to talk about how wonderful they are? From ‘client wins’ to ‘successful roll outs’, massive head syndrome is a major illness associated to social networking. The cause is either true brilliance or tragic insecurity. In many cases, the second cause is almost always the explanation.
- Being too green – So, you ride a bike? Well done. And you recycle stuff? Oh, fantastic. I do a lot of work for sustainability, too – I just don’t like to talk about it. And neither should you.
- Getting personal – How much do I really want to know about you? In fact, how much do you really want to tell me about your interests? I have learnt some awful things about people, things that individuals wouldn’t tell their partner but are eager to broadcast to online strangers. Have a thought, eh?
- The business – Don’t just talk business. Have an opinion but keep it non-specific. Don’t talk about your boss or your boss’s boss. That route to conversation will only end in one result: failure.
- Having an opinion – Get the balance right. Have an opinion and inform wider debates that you find interesting. If possible, lead the conversation. Don’t just become an RSS feed, using interesting links as an excuse for engagement.
What do you think? Are these the most common mistakes made on Twitter or are there other issues you find more annoying? Can executives really create an effective online break between personal opinion and employment contract? And how will errant tweeting affect your personal brand?