Public v. Private

I love social media and I’ve been tracking the growth of Web 2.0 since its inception. My independent study in graduate school focused on blogging when many people still considered it a wasteland of angsty teenagers, geeky technophiles and middle-aged women posting updates about their cat(s).

Although, companies have slowly– and reluctantly– embraced social media in recent years, we’re still in a pivotal transition period. Industry leaders are still tripping over themselves to keep up with the competition while trying to fully understand why their Fortune 500 companies need social media strategists in the first place.

We are at a watershed moment.

Part of the reason I value social media is because it expands my professional presence beyond my title, beyond my desk. I’m not just a number cruncher; I’m not just the logistics manager. I have traveled around the world; my squash game needs [a lot] of improvement; I enjoy the humour of How I Met Your Mother.  Nonetheless, wait for it- there is a line, and that is where management is should be paying attention.

The question is not if we should incorporate social media into business. We’re way past that point. The question we need to ask is how?

Simply arming the staff with corporate Twitter and Facebook accounts is simply careless. Guidelines need to be put into place so employees understand what is in/appropriate and expected. What employees write publicly reflects on the companies which employ them. Even if their bios read, “My thoughts my own.” As Dorie Clark wrote in “It’s Not a Job Search, It’s a Permanent Campaign” (HBR): [Everyone] is also now expected to perform round-the-clock personal brand maintenance, and most people don’t even realize it.

As we move forward into the next phase of business conduct, we need to educate not only veterans of industry, but also newly minted graduates who have not known a world without the internet. I recall being shocked by a Wall Street article years after business casual dress codes had been adopted across the board. Apparently, some of the self-selecting audience of the newspaper did not realize that they ought not dress for work as if they were undergraduates ready for a hedonistic night in fraternity basements. Even as recent as two days ago, the newspaper ran an article titled, “Yes, Mark Zuckerberg Does Wear Ties Sometimes”. The Facebook CEO substituted his signature hoodie for a suit jacket and tie to meet President Obama.

I am definitely not saying, don’t have fun or don’t be yourself. I love fun and think there should be much more of it in the office. Just be mindful of your audience. Impressions count. Do your clients really need to see you dressed as a pirate dinosaur and chugging a bottle of vodka while riding a mechanical bull? Is it worth possibly losing a million dollar account or contract? (In both cases, probably not.)

 
Lisa Chau has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. In 2012, she launched GothamGreen212 to pursue social media strategy projects. You can follow her on Twitter.

Photo courtesy Doug Woods.

Twelve Twitter Tips

Twitter Tips to help you make the most of your time. Yes, there are actually strategies for maximizing your 140 character missives. My advice won’t apply to every case, but I hope it will serve as a good guide for helping you craft a personalized approach for your needs. The suggestions below are primarily geared towards businesses, but can used for personal accounts, too.

1. SMILE
As I mentioned, there are exceptions to my advice. So, if you’re a haute couture fashion model, you might want to skip to step two. Everyone else, you’re here to engage and collaborate. Project approachability. Smile! Be the “person I’d like to have lunch with,” not “person I’d rather walk up 20 flights of stairs to avoid rather than share an elevator with.” Be a confident, compassionate leader, not a dull, disinterested slacker.

If you’re really camera shy, you can use a logo or photo of an inanimate object. I wouldn’t advise it, though. People want to put a face to the tweets. Either option is still infinitely better than the default Twitter egg, however. If you can’t bother to put up any profile image, why should anyone bother to take you seriously?

 
2. PERSONALIZE
This step is an extension of picking a good profile photo to represent you. Whenever I look at a new Twitter profile, I look at the photo first [out of instinct], then the bio. Who is this person? Why would I care what s/he has to say? Tell your audience who you are — Concisely & directly: What is your function? What is your expertise?

I highly advise a link to a fuller bio for people who want to know more about you. My suggestions are LinkedIn or About.me If you have various social media accounts, the latter will neatly organize all of your redirects in one place.
 

3. HUMANIZE
Yes, there is a definitely a place for Twitter accounts that just broadcast news. They are called news outlets, like The Wall Street Journal or CNN. For most other companies, I believe it’s much more effective to humanize your Tweets. Because there will be some people who are only interested in corporate updates, I urge keeping two accounts. One that is business-oriented (Product launches, formal announcements and the such) and a second that allows for more creativity (Employee stories, thoughts about other industries, etc.). Humanize yourself and your staff. Who works at your company? What are they interested in outside of the office? Build an emotional attachment to your brand.

Hootsuite makes managing multiple accounts very easy, even on an Android phone.
 

4. BALANCE
If you plan to keep a business account that is not limited to formal corporate announcements, make sure you balance the ratio of personal to professional tweets.  I would aim to keep work-related updates around 70%.
 

5. SCHEDULE
Decide when you want to send out your updates. If your company is international, but based in the U.S. you might want to schedule tweets to out at 9PM US time to appear on an Asian timeline at 9AM. Figure out what time slots work best for your company and plan accordingly.

I’m currently experimenting based on Dan Zarrella’s concept of “contra-competitive timing.” In numerous cases, he discovered that the most successful times and days to publish new content are off-peak times. “It’s like when you’re at a noisy party and it’s hard to hear the person talking to you 2 feet away, but… When there is less other noise to compete with (ie fewer tweets, emails, blog posts, etc) your content can gain attention more easily.”

Again, I recommend Hootsuite for this job. Huge fan.
 

6. DISTRIBUTE
Now that you’ve decided XYZ day at XYZ time is optimal for you to tweet, don’t bombard your followers with all your insights at once. I don’t think that anyone needs to send out more than one tweet an hour. Any more than that, you’re should either be classified as a good friend (in which case, you should just text my personal phone number or email me directly) or a spammer (in which case, just stop. Stop now- seriously).
 

7. SPECIFY
You have 140 characters to tell me something. Give me details.

Pointless: Checked out some clothes. Totally going shopping.

Much improved: Went to Hermes fashion show with @heatherpixley. Must buy green cashmere turtleneck Heidi Klum wore.

Quality tweets attract quality followers.
 

8. CHOOSE
Don’t blindly follow everyone who follows you. Yes, it might feel a little rude, but it’s better than cluttering up your feed with updates that are completely irrelevant to you. I have no interest in buying real estate in Florida. Sorry.
 

9. ORGANIZE
The more time you spend on Twitter, the more feeds you will follow. Make organized lists and use them. Otherwise, things have the potential to become very messy and overwhelming after your feed tops 50 unless you only follow very niche accounts which don’t update often.

It’s also a great public service. I’ve found some great lists compiled by others. I can follow 36 new photographers or 63 CEOs in just one click.
 

10. ENGAGE
Give. Receive. Share.

Exchange information and build relationships. This is how you will make the most of your time on Twitter.

Empower yourself and others. Remember, we’re here to be social. In fact, Social Media Week’s theme in 2012 focuses on “Empowering Change through Collaboration. This theme is designed as a call to action, allowing individuals- like you- and organizations around the world to explore how social media empowers citizens, increases mobility, enables mass collaboration, develops hyperlocalism, maximizes interconnectedness, fosters knowledge creation & sharing, bolsters leadership, and encourages global empathy.
 

11. EXPERIMENT
Twitter is best understood and used by those who do. Experiment. Everyone needs a different strategy. Find the approach that works best for your specific case. I would be remiss not to tell you to heed caution in your activities, though. This is a very powerful vehicle for communication. The larger the corporation, the higher up in management, the more visible you will be. Be vigilant in your messaging choices and stay on course.
 

12. ENJOY
Of course!
 

I hope this list helped you. I could go on, but I like the alliteration of Twelve Twitter Tips. Also, I reached my word limit for this post.
 

Lisa Chau has been involved with Web 2.0 since graduate school at Dartmouth College, where she completed an independent study on blogging. She was subsequently highlighted as a woman blogger in Wellesley Magazine, published by her alma mater. Since 2009, Lisa has worked as an Assistant Director at the Tuck School of Business. In 2012, she launched GothamGreen212 to pursue social media strategy projects. You can follow her on Twitter