Balancing the personal and professional on Twitter

By: Bryony Thomas

Date: 5 April 2011

I regularly give talks for entrepreneurial businesses on how to make their marketing pay. Top of my list for most is to try social media as part of their marketing toolkit. And within that, I almost always recommend Twitter.

Particularly if the business in question is one where authentic one-to-one relationships count (which is most).

Despite being on public display, Twitter is a remarkably intimate medium — in as much as people seem willing to share all sorts of personal information. Now, I don’t mean those girls who seem intent on sharing everything… that’s what the block button is for. I mean business people being willing to share that they’re having a bad day, or that their children are ill or that they’re not in the best mood, or whatever. And, vice versa, people share great news from a child winning a painting competition, to their love of the view from their window, to closing a fab new business deal. Which is why it is such a great tool for building genuine relationships with real people.

But, there’s a balance to strike. Now, this isn’t an exact science, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re using Twitter as a business tool, I suggest a mix of about 80 per cent professional and 20 per cent personal. And, of the professional tweets, I’d make at least half of that sharing content that is not your own. Of the personal, remember your audience.

I have a few rules to keep it comfortable:

  • Be yourself. Don’t try to effect an image or give an impression of someone you’d like to be, be yourself. Talk honestly about your business, your goals, and what’s important to you. It’s much easier to maintain being yourself than to put yourself under pressure to maintain some sort of character you’ve created.
  • Don’t Tweet when drunk or angry! I know it’s tempting with smart phones to always be online, but there really are times when it’s best to keep yourself to yourself.
  • Would you say it at a networking event? I think of Twitter as a bit like a professional networking event. So, I might talk about the dresses on Strictly, who won X Factor, or the weather… I might even talk about something interesting (!) But, I personally tend to steer clear of religious beliefs, deeply political conversations, or flirtation.
  • Would you be happy for your most important client to see it? If you Tweet it, it’s out there. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable for your most important client to see it, don’t say it.

So, should you show a bit of personality? Yes, definitely. People like talking to real people. Should you use it as a confessional or dating service? No, not if you’re using it as a business tool.


Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and is Chief Clear Thinker at Clear Thought Consulting.