I’ve been having a couple of interesting (albeit quick) discussions with some friends recently who are very passionate about their positions at their day jobs and use their own personal Twitter and Facebook accounts as channels to release agenda items, press releases, and other ‘work related’ pieces of content, almost even more so than info pertaining to their life. I also chatted with Chris Brogan briefly about how he uses different tools for different messages (Facebook for more personal, Twitter and his blog for his own branding and connecting people, and his newsletter which is geared mostly towards business). He sees different audiences in different tools and wants to provide different users with content that is most relevant to them on that channel. I think it’s a good philosophy.
When I inquired about why they were using their own personal profiles as distribution channels, a few of them said they felt obligated to spread company or corporate information through them…that it’s part of their position as PR or media people. It seemed strange to me…. and kinda intrusive. I mean, I’m guilty of shameless self promotion on my Facebook and Twitter profile, and I also do highlight or retweet things we do at the office that I think people will enjoy…but that’s because I WANT to, not because I have to. In fact, I feel very strongly that your employer has no business editing, suggesting, or (god forbid) forbidding what you can post on your personal social media channels. I think it’s very important to have your own voice online. On the other hand I think I have a responsibility to use common sense and not say things that may get me fired from a job or reflect poorly on my company, or disrespecting others (loving my day gig now so thank God I don’t even worry about that stuff).
As a Side Note: A very common fear that I run into when talking to clients about Social Media is, “What if we have employees posting inappropriate material that reflects poorly on our business?” Seems to me if you find that happening, you don’t have a social media policy problem, you have an employee problem. It’s not Twitter’s fault that your employees are douchebags, it just exposes them.
But back to the point I was trying to make earlier… I’d like to raise a couple important issues. First, when I’m reading posts on Twitter or Facebook, who is really doing the talking? Where do the company’s talking points stop and yours start? Since authenticity is one of the most important tenants of social media, this kind of behavior makes me want to trust you less.
Second, what happens when you change jobs? Does then the content of your tweets, blog posts, and status updates pull a 180? For instance, if I worked at Coke and used my own profiles to talk about how kick-ass Coke was, but then got laid off and took a job at Pepsi, do I have to start saying that Pepsi is now mayor of Cola-ville? And if I DID, what would that do to the way people perceive me in the social sphere.
I’m not saying that the answers are cut and dry. It’s completely fine to talk about projects or events that happen at work. After all, your job is a huge part of who you are….but it’s not the only thing that defines you. Brands are still struggling with ways to show that there is a real person behind their posts (authenticity), and balance that with projecting the ‘official voice’ of the brand. Lots of larger companies have decided to have an official blog / FB fan page and Twitter account that is that official voice instead of having Bill from the IT department handle company interactions through his shiny new Twitter account. But while people are interacting with brands and business in the social sphere, it all comes back to people. Conversations with actual people will always win over conversations with ‘The Home Depot’ What do YOU think? Have you ever felt pressure to stay on message with your own social networks? I’d like to know….