3 Feb

Laying Down the Twitter Law

Twitter has fundamentally changed our lives, whether we like it or not.

And people have written miles of books, blog posts and even tweets about best practices and what matters on Twitter. One of the biggest things that is almost universally agreed upon is to be genuine. So how do we as public relations professionals remain genuine when we’re asked to tweet about a client?

The precedent

Fundamentally you are free to talk about whatever the hell you want with your Twitter stream. It’s your content. It’s your copyright. It’s your reputation.

Your reputation? Yeah, your reputation. You put it on the line each and every time you post something to the public domain. When I hit publish on this post, I was subjecting myself to the judgment of past, present and future employers. It’s the same thing with Twitter.

If your precedent is to include links to client announcements or blog posts, then that’s fine. You’ve willingly shared that information. After all, without clients we wouldn’t be able to pay the electric bill so we could tweet, right? There is a conception that all posts in a social network should be neutral and objective. If you have a relationship, some feel it should be disclosed either up front or by using hash tags or other microsyntax. For example, James Governor from the analyst firm Redmonk uses “$client” to denote posts to his Twitter stream about his paying clients.

And that’s a judgement call you will have to make.

But what about when your employer says you must tweet on a client’s behalf?

Mandated tweeting

I see a potential for conflict when an employer mandates that an employee tweet on its behalf. Making a choice to share the announcement of a project you’ve worked on or a blog post from a co-worker is one thing.

Being told what to tweet and when to tweet it is another beast. The argument is that it’s not genuine. If you don’t want to post it, then why should you be obligated to? I’m all for being a team player. But sometimes you need to protect the community and precedent you have created. I don’t know what the right answer is. So, I’m asking you.

How would you respond to being given a pre-written tweet and being asked to post it? Would you? Why or why not?

5 thoughts on “Laying Down the Twitter Law

  1. Very interesting question…

    I suppose the answer depends on your relationship with your employer or client. If you’re an hourly employee, or a low-level person who really can’t be said to “represent” the company, then yeah… private time is private time.

    If you’re the CEO, however, I think you can see how that might be different.

    Bottomline, I suppose, is that employment is voluntary on both sides. It strikes me as fundamentally fair for the employee/consultant to refuse to tweet or blog for the employer/client; it strikes me as equally fair for the employer or client to part ways with that employee/consultant.

    As long as both sides have that freedom, I see no problem either way.


  2. This is actually a bit more tricky than I would like to think. It greatly depends on the position. In some company’s and in some roles, people are hired with a great deal of weight placed on the personal network they bring as leverage. The expectation is that the employee will utilize this personal network for the betterment of projects/company/clients/etc. That being said, I am inclined to believe that this is rare. As of now. Being forced to utilize my personal network for the betterment of the brand IMHO is inappropriate. It is akin to asking me to go door to door to all of my friends and family. If I choose to do so, that is up to me. I take great care in maintaining trust around my “personal brand” and when I feel it is appropriate to tweet something for my employer that I feel my network can find value in I will do so. At my discretion. But force me? Uhm no.

  3. Very soon all companies will have to fundamentally change org culture, and make processes participatory, and more inclusive in nature.

    IBM is deploying enterprise social media, among others like Cisco, Zappos). Interesting times ahead. Thanks for your insights 🙂


  4. My Twitter profile bio clearly states “I don’t tweet for clients.”

    If I was given a pre-written tweet, I would treat it as a retweet situation. If I truly found it interesting I might tweet it to my followers and state where it originally came from. (I do a lot of retweets!)

    Nothing ticks me off more than someone assuming that my relationship to them comes before the proper maintenance of my personal brand. What that action says to me is “it’s not personal.” But it IS personal to me.

    My personal brand is my personality in a digital wrapper. It’s not a pawn they can use for their purposes.

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