Tweeting: private vs. professional

When Laura Kuenssberg left BBC where she was news editor, there was something that she apparently liked to take with her – her official BBC Twitter account where she had 67,000 followers. As Twitter is such a relatively new ‘channel’ for journalists, there hasn’t been any established guideline whereby an employer will allow their employee to depart together with their official ‘profile’ page. Afterall, ‘followers’ are almost identical to ‘audience’ these days and command the same value to a corporation like BBC. Laura also commented on the importance of the Twitter account, she said: ‘having started tweeting as an experiment two years ago during the party conference season, it became almost as important to me to break stories on Twitter as it did to get them on air on the BBC rolling news.’

In fact according to the BBC social media guideline dated June 2011, under the category ‘Activity for core news (e.g. breaking news), programmes or genres carried out officially in the name of BBC News’ it actually stated “…if you move to do a different job or are off sick, someone else will have to take over.”

However, at the end, BBC let her took the profile away and in return for a plug for their new business editor Norman Smith’s account. Her profile apparently has now rebranded as @ITVLauraK.

I guess afterall, the boundary between ‘private’ and ‘public’ activities is largely blurred nowadays. The Reuters Handbook of Journalism have very clear and simple advice in this area:

The distinction between the private and the professional has largely broken down online and you should assume that your professional and personal social media activity will be treated as one no matter how hard you try to keep them separate. You should also be aware that even if you make use of privacy settings, anything you post on a social media site may be made public.

As far as I am concerned, I follow very strict personal guideline when I engage in social media. I do mention that I am working for my current company and my capacity in my twitter profile, partly because I think it adds context to what I do and clearly indicates what my tweets will most likely be about. It helps people who don’t know me yet decide whether they will follow me or not.

Here are a few rather common sense advice I like to share with you:

  • Make clear that the views expressed are personal, and not those of your employer
  • Focus on tweeting about topics that are, directly or indirectly, related to your core business, expertise and roles at the moment – that’s usually why people follow you
  • If the message is impossible to be communicated clearly in 140 characters, do it with other form of communication or post a link to your blog – subtly may not be the best policy on twitter
  • It’s perfectly fine to tweet about activities or personal pursuits that you actively engage in, it shows what drives you and what you are passionate about – all adds to you as a personal brand
  • If there are any remarks you like to make about your current clients’ business activities, always do this with supports and evidence and link to official source
  • Follow your current clients’ competitors because you need to know what’s happening on their side in order to input efficiently for your clients’ business
  • If there are any negative news or comments either on your clients’ or their competitors’ business, always cross check with other established sources before you retweet it
  • Do not avoid responding to comments since it will appear as avoiding the topics – people generally don’t like talking to the wall

Oh yes, don’t always tweet about the weather, how low you feel on a Monday morning and how much you thank god on a Friday – it is not fun. (I unfollowed quite a few profiles simply because of this!)

Do you tweet under your company’s brand? Any advice you like to share?

Are there any specific guidelines that is relevant to your country?

Drop me a line in the comments below and let’s continue the discussion.

Useful resources:

Journalist blogging and commenting guidelines:

Reuters Handbook of Journalism: