Tweeting: Personal, Professional or just Life?

by TheSourceress on March 26, 2009


Do you use Twitter professionally or socially? Do you make a distinction?

As I become more sociable with folks I’ve met through Twitter in real life, I have been giving this a lot of thought. How much trivia, joking, teasing – even flirting, do you let spill over into your twitter stream?

My online life is an intrinsic part of my job. I have Tweetdeck running in the office all day. This allows me to look out for references to our company, run searches for industry news as it breaks and see what others in similar professions are saying. It’s great as a tool for learning from others and staying ahead of the game. It also means that I can see what my twitter friends are up to and I naturally join in the conversation, after all, it’s just the odd minute here and there, 140 characters don’t take long to type.

So far my rule has been “Keep it clean and don’t worry too much.”

That’s all well and good when you are talking to a bunch of strangers, I am British after all. There are certain lines that don’t get crossed.

As I start to actually have friends on twitter though, I am noticing a change. Instead of my @ replies only being useful links to help people out or encouragement for tricky projects, I am also chit-chatting about the minutia of life. It’s now about coffee and milkshakes, phrases like “How are you feeling?” are being used more and more.

I appreciate that these conversations will not spring up in everyone’s twitter stream, depending on their chosen settings, but is this long string of personal @ replies helping people to decide whether or not to follow me? Am I providing good value to the folks that started following me 3 or 6 months ago?

Don’t get me wrong.

I firmly believe that Twitter is all about conversation and discovery; people and brands communicating to get more out of everyday experiences.
While standing in the queue at Tesco to get my lunch I considered setting up two twitter accounts, one personal and one professional. I didn’t like the notion. Who would be ‘TheSourceress’? After all, Katharine Robinson doesn’t use a different name when she’s at work. My friends, colleagues, family, enemies (if I have any) and business contacts all refer to me by the same name. Why should my online life be any different?

Twitter is a very public forum, though.

Anything I say can be taken down in evidence… It’s not like chatting with a friend in a pub or in the privacy of your own living room. It’s like chatting with a friend in the corner of your office with the boss listening. While an employer may understand that you need a private life and have the right to one outside of work hours, a lot of us are still openly representing brands. That representation doesn’t stop when we leave the office.

Increasingly I have been taking the conversation out of the public eye and using direct messaging when chit-chatting. There are some people that I only interact with via Twitter and to let them cross over into email, IM and other social networks would seem strange at this stage.

Perhaps it is time for some rules:

So here is my ‘Personal Tweeting Policy’…

Priority tweet topics:

  1. I am an Internet Researcher and dabble in Social Media Marketing.
  2. I follow and am followed by many people that live locally to me. I am invested in this network and these folks have to be my priority for interaction.
  3. EcoSearch (my employer) works exclusively in Renewable Energy. I have a window into the industry that few will ever be privy to. The threat of Climate Change is something I don’t talk a lot about outside of the office but I do like to share the odd thought or news item that I see go past.


I would like to always be aiming for a 90-10 split (ninety percent to add value for others and 10 percent for my own personal gain). Not easy, but nice to aim for.


I think “keep it clean” is good advice. Profanity, when it’s called for, is quite acceptable to me in everyday life. But when new people are present (as they inevitable always are on twitter) I prefer to keep things out of the verbal gutter. I expect everyone has their own take on this and I promise not to look down on anyone with a potty-mouth (should that be potty-fingers? No – that just sounds wrong). That said, I have been known to use a few carefully selected special characters (!*&£) to express myself now and again.

But, trickiest of all, How much of my personal life should be broadcast or shared via twitter? This is what I am fighting with the most. Just how much should I share? It’s very easy to get carried away.

(This post has been copied with the permission of the author, the original is online at