I’m sure it’s a fairly universal scenario for most Facebook users: You log in. You cast a speculative eye over your news feed. You come across something that causes you to simultaneously face palm and rub your hands together with gleeful delight (if such a thing were physically possible).
What fantastic piece of content could provoke such a reaction? It’s what a recent article by Sophie Boyce in Company Magazine has coined a ‘PDA’ – a public display of attention.
Everybody has one of those Facebook friends. The one whose timeline consists almost entirely of a) a torrent of inane, vomit-inducing posts between them and their drippy boyfriend b) a selection of about a hundred almost identical photos of them posing like a mug in front of their bathroom mirror c) a series of cryptic (in the loosest sense of the word) status updates such as ‘I just can’t take it any more’, ‘I can’t believe you would do this to me’, or d) a mixture of all of the above.
Don’t get me wrong, I love over-sharers, but with a kind of love derived from the sadistic satisfaction of watching someone make a tit of themselves in public (usually reserved for the Jeremy Kyle show and Celebrity Big Brother).
So over-sharing on Facebook is irksome and is likely to lead people to judge you a bit. And possibly unfriend you. And probably laugh amongst their friends at your expense. However, whilst an over-sharer on Facebook can be exasperating, they are only sharing their conceited content with people who they have somehow convinced accept their friend request. Twitter, with its strange mélange of the social and the professional, and where anyone can follow you, is rather more ambiguous and potentially dangerous.
A wise colleague once gave me this sterling advice: ‘Facebook is personal, LinkedIn is professional and Twitter is a strange mixture of the two – be careful what you say!’. Is it possible to cater your tweets to both your mates who are following you and also remain professional at the same time? I decided to come up with a list of 4 questions that professionals on Twitter should consider before they press the ‘Tweet’ button.
1. Who is following me?
It may seem an obvious suggestion, but keeping a beady eye on who is following you is really important. It is more than likely that your clients will be on Twitter – the last thing you want is for any dubious tweets to be popping up on their home page. Moreover, in industries such as PR, you may not just be followed by your clients, but also by journalists working within the field.
These people are probably expecting some degree of professionalism – keeping track of your followers may prevent a serious foot-in-mouth incident. In spite of this, remember everyone can read your tweets. Even the Queen is on Twitter. And you wouldn’t want to go upsetting Liz.
2. Why do people follow me?
I’m not here to be a big fat Twitter killjoy. My point is that your Twitter account should enhance just how intelligent, witty, interesting and downright splendid you are, not make people cringe or want to gouge their eyes out. Think of the industry you work in, think of your potential followers, and think of what they are expecting from you. To use an extreme example, if you’re the CEO of a global financial company, people are likely to be following you for your fiscal wisdom – Tweeting pictures of LOLcats probably won’t cut the mustard.
However if, for example, you’re in one of the creative industries you can get away with a lot more. Indeed, retweeting interesting stories, uploading funny photos and making endearing comments will probably make you seem more approachable and on-the-ball. If you’re searching for a job, consider that potential employers will cast an eye over your Twitter. Okay, they’ll be looking for someone who’s eloquent, but they may also want to see that you have an ounce of personality and wit.
3. Do I have an axe to grind?
If someone is getting on your goat, Twitter is not the place to air your grievances. Whilst it is acceptable to engage in healthy debate with other Twitter members, using tweets to vent your spleen is only ever going to make you look unprofessional. For example, my boss told me about a girl once who contacted her via Twitter to ask for a job. When she clicked on the girl’s profile, she was met with a stream of irate tweets about how much she hated her current boss. Needless to say, she didn’t get called in for an interview.
4. Am I giving too much away?
Oh smartphones. You clever little boxes of app-filled wonder. If only someone could develop an app that at the slightest hint of inebriation asked you the question ‘are you reaaaaally sure you should be Tweeting this?’. Facebook and Facebook alone should be the realm of the check-in at a nightclub, the typo-ridden status update at 3am and the picture of your mate being unceremoniously sick in a bin. Do you really want your clients to know what your local haunt is when you check in on Foursquare on your phone?
Do you really want your followers to see a photo of you necking a bottle of vodka on a Friday night? Do you really want to treat your prospective clients to a gory account of just how many times your god-awful hangover has caused you to wretch this morning? Probably not.
I think my main point here is that Facebook and Twitter are a completely different kettle of fish and should be approached in a different way. Whilst over-sharing on both has repercussions, Twitter over-sharers are potentially skating on very thin ice. As a side note, I would also advise being wary of apps like TweetDeck that automatically update both at the same time – content suitable for your Facebook friends is not necessarily appropriate for your Twitter followers and vice versa.