Twitter Etiquette – Should You Separate Personal From Professional?

Today, we are talking about Twitter, and how many accounts it is appropriate to maintain. I apologize in advance for a lengthy post, but there’s a lot to say here and it’s a topic that has been in my head for years – literally.

I was urged to join Twitter when I was in high school, but didn’t jump in until I was a freshman in college (shoutouts to Molly Eadie and Mark Trova). Since then, I have embraced it as a way connect with friends, meet new people and share content. If you’ve known me for more than a day or two, you know that I’m a self-admitted Twitter-holic.

Twitter - Follow Me

In those early days, I maintained two separate accounts. While one allowed me to interact socially with friends, the other was a platform to share what I deemed “professional” content – news articles, blog posts, comments on the PR industry, etc. Basically, as a college student and aspiring professional, I wanted to put myself in a light that would make me seem the most hire-able.

I always felt a little strange about having two accounts, though. It seemed just as dirty as living a double life in real life probably does. I know that other people are unsure of how to handle this situation, too. It’s a frequent question asked at professional conferences, and you can find a plethora of advice by searching Google.  After much deliberation, I eventually deleted my “social” Twitter account and opened the flood-gates to my “professional” account.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

“Jim, I have to come clean about something… I unfollowed you on Twitter the other day.”

In my slow (but nonetheless legitimate and obsessive) quest for one million followers, rarely did the thought ever cross my mind that my following could actually decrease. I had heard rumors of people being unfollowed, but really I assumed they were fake – just like low-fat yogurt and weight rooms.

And yet here was real evidence that I had been unfollowed – by someone I had known in real life for years!

Yesterday, I took to (what else?) Twitter to ask my friends if they had any opinions on the polarizing issue. To my not-quite-surprise, all three responses I received were pretty similar – keep personal and professional tweets separate. (**Full disclosure – all three responses were from college-aged individuals who only have one Twitter account, leading me to believe that they simply don’t use Twitter for a professional purpose.)

Let me begin by saying that I completely understand why people would feel this way. On Twitter, you want to be as relevant as possible to your followers. By tweeting an abundance of things that followers aren’t interested in, you’re just asking to be unfollowed and black-listed. But I have no intention of “dividing and conquering.” And here’s why:

Be Authentic

Frequent advice to new users of tools like social networks and blogs is to always, always be authentic. Your social efforts only go as far as your credibility allows, right? This is the reason I had such a negative reaction to Chipotle’s recent staged hacking.

I definitely have a lot of passions: friends, work, music, sports, beer…  and in my opinion, social networks (especially an open one like Twitter) should be a window into a person’s life. Concealing parts of myself from some individuals and other parts from other individuals makes it seem like you have something to hide. Unless you make a huge effort to regularly let all of your followers know that there is another account that you’re tweeting from, using two accounts is less than authentic.

On the web, you ARE what you publish

One of the many lessons I’ve learned from David Meerman Scott is that “On the web, you ARE what you publish.” By the same logic, on the web, what you publish is what you are. And here’s the thing – I’m only one person, so how can I justify using multiple accounts? Wouldn’t doing so essentially be diluting who I really am?

On the web, you are what you publish

Build Relationships

One huge benefit to tweeting about different things under the same account is that it truly allows individuals to get to know you at a more personal level.

Think about the people you know in “real life.” Take co-workers, for example. Chances are, the colleagues that you bond with the most while at work are the ones that you find things to connect on other than work. When you meet someone new, don’t you usually like them more if you have a lot in common?

When I tweet about work-related things, it gives my friends and family a better idea of what I do for a living. Likewise, when I tweet about Dave Matthews Band or the Lakers, it gives my co-workers a better idea of who I truly consider myself to be. Relationships of any sort are able to be built and grown when we can bond with each other over a variety of things. By dividing professional themed content and personal themed content, you are losing a great deal of the ability to meet and engage with new people.

If you read this post thinking that I would soon be taking the professional content out of my Twitter updates (or vice versa), you’re out of luck. But, fortunately for you, ending the relationship that we share on twitter isn’t one that requires us to each turn our key. Don’t feel bad about unfollowing me… I don’t fear it anymore.

I can’t wait to hear where you land on this debate. How many Twitter profiles do you maintain, and why?

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3 PR Lessons from Jay Z and Kanye West

I’m a big fan of rap & hip-hop music, and this summer has featured a number of huge releases from some of my favorite artists. Two that received the most buzz, at least in the mainstream media, were Kanye West’s Yeezus and Jay Z’s Magna Carta… Holy Grail. As much as I love both albums, I think I had fallen in love with each of them before I heard a single track because of the promotional strategies of both artists.

The traditional method for getting fans hyped about a new album is to pick the catchiest song that appeals to the most people and release it before the rest of the album. Distributing the song widely via internet channels and radio stations that act as gatekeepers, listeners hope that the rest of the album is similar to the hit-single and purchase it accordingly.

At this point in their careers, though, that’s not the route that Jay and ‘Ye took. Those of us in the field of public relations could learn a few things from the non-traditional tactics that the artists employed this time around.

1. Form partnerships.

Jay Z - Magna Carta Holy Grail

Image sourced from Flickr user DjAOne

Regardless of what industry you work in, there are bound to be related companies who have an interest in yours. Forming partnerships with them can often result in a positive experience for all involved.

In Jay Z’s case, he was able to team up with Samsung, who purchased 1 million copies of Magna Carta at $5 each just to turn around and give them all  away for free a few days ahead of the public release date.

  • One million Jay Z fans get a free album before it’s commercially available.
  • Jay Z puts out an album that goes platinum before it hits shelves.
  • Samsung builds some serious loyalty among existing customers and, more importantly, gets iPhone users thinking, “Hmm. Apple doesn’t do stuff like that for me…”

Who doesn’t love a win:win:win scenario like that?

2. Be big, be bright.

Kanye West - Yeezus

Image sourced from Flickr user Why_phil

It’s easy to land some top-of-line media coverage when you turn heads.

Kanye west debuted one of the songs from his album by projecting it onto 66 skyscrapers in cities around the globe on May 17. Have you ever heard of that being done before? Can you even imagine the logistical operation that must have been?! Check out the video below.

Jay Z also did something that had people talking. During halftime of the pivotal game 5 of the NBA finals, a three minute behind the scenes look at the making of Magna Carta Holy Grail was aired, featuring samples of some of the beats and Jay Z himself talking about his strategy and direction of the project.

Watching myself, I literally stopped what I was doing and gazed at my TV for the complete three minutes before taking to Twitter and unleashing the passionate excitement the ad had created for me.

3. Prepare for anything.

Unfortunately, both artists’ high profile releases were damaged by issues with new technology.

Though Samsung deserves the blame rather than Jay Z, the app that was to provide the free copy of Magna Carta Holy Grail failed for many individuals. A search of app store reviews reveals that Apple may have benefited more from Samsung’s botched promotion! 

While many Jay Z fans were unable to get his album, Kanye West faced the opposite problem: his fans got it too soon! Yeezus leaked about four days prior to its official release. On the Internet today, it’s pretty rare for albums not to be leaked early. It’s incredibly damaging for artists and their record labels, but this Huffington Post article explains that West was anticipating the leak and was not at all bent out of shape over it.

Although you might not want to admit it, we can all learn a few things from rap moguls Jay Z and Kanye West. The next time your client is launching a new product or service, maybe you could focus less on the traditional press release, but do something that will really generate some buzz and get the media talking.

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Public Relations Then and Now: Perspective and Predictions From Richard Laermer

Full Frontal PRMy former PR professor, Karen Olson, retired from The College at Brockport last year. She gave me a few of her books while I was helping her move some things out of her office, explaining that I would get more out of reading them as a young student than she would.

Well, I finally got around to reading one of those books. Full Frontal PR, written by Richard Laermer, was published almost a decade ago in 2004. Today, in a time where articles are published on the Internet and considered “old news” in a matter of days (if not hours), a decade seems more like a lifetime. Despite the constant evolution of modern technology, the vast majority of Laermer’s book is still relevant to PR professionals today.

I was fortunate enough to get Laermer’s take on the state of the industry today as well as where he sees it ending up ten years from now. Below, hear perspectives on public relations from a veteran who has survived and thrived through one communications revolution and anticipates another.

When you were writing Full Frontal PR, would you have ever guessed how different things would be ten years later?

When I was writing the book, all I kept thinking was “gosh the texts out there right now are dull and useless. All about ‘the press release.'” I wanted to change that. A lot of kids coming out of college were telling me about these dusty collections of nonsense they were reading!  I remember a Swiss reporter colleague coming into my office and asking me what I was up to. I’d done a book on “future trends” and now wanted to “do one on PR.” He said “What about PR?” I said “PR. All of it.” The dude laughed. “You can’t do that.” Well you can. As long as you make it funny…

Now, 10  years later, it still sells healthily  — particularly on Kindle, where I updated it a year and a half ago and through a two-hour audiobook via Audible where I spoke the darn thing with hilarious ad libs in 2010. And via a performance art piece I do at Greenwich Village’s Village Gate… Just Kidding!

But really, are things that different? Those PR people who say they are no longer pitching content providers are wrong. They may just see it more like sidling up to folks as a commenter inside a blog post or via video posted on a client’s dusty press page. And yes, I get that “media” has changed. But our job — no, PR in general — is about taking an idea that is a lump of clay and molding it into a sell-able, believable and trustworthy story that you feel great about.

Has the PR business changed?  Well, thankfully most of my competitors are dead (I’m talking firms, not people, unless you’re counting wishes). Today it is unbearably hard to get anyone to sit still. My Grandma would say, “They have no sitz·fleisch!” Before Facebook–which I want out of business, because reading about people’s gross food habits ruined my appetite–that attention span we had, man, it was a device we all possessed. We didn’t have to multi-task because we FOCUSED on what we were doing and it satisfied us. We didn’t NEED to be in a Starbucks or have Matt Lauer on in the background or wear Dr. Dre’s Beats to get us in the mood to work. We owned it in spades.  Now it’s like we left it on the bus.

I can’t get my own employees to finish sentences.

What I like about 2010s Public Relations (a coupling of words as insensible now as Radio Shack or Car Warehouse) is precisely what I despised about it the 1990s. In those Caligula-like days, everyone was a “journalist” at a well-funded but forgettable magazine.

The Story Way Back: These people were not into it, they just wanted to write because it seemed like a good way not to sit at a desk. Everyone was being clever and insightful to reach these nice people, but in the end whatever they wrote ended up in the trash anyway.

The Story On This Day: Every blogger, podcaster, Tumblr-er, chat runner–and those pesky reporters, editors and producers who wants access to information or data in my hands, is still being sought out, but now it’s worth finding them! Finally, I am glad to report the days of PR people against journalists (“Hacks V. Flacks”) died in its sleep during The Grate (sic) Recession. From ‘07 on I got more so-called reporters calling me for a job at RLM PR than actual PR people.

Sign of The Times, baby.

What advancement in technology has changed PR most significantly?

The final acceptance of the smartphone as a device you can have with you everywhere.

I used to walk around in the mid 90s with a RIM pager, the precursor to the BlackBerry. People of all types (even high flying business guys and women) made fun of me. “Look at Richard and his Game Boy!” They could not understand why I wouldn’t want to just sit at my desk to get email. Imagine!

It’s hard for me to imagine anything else coming close. I guess the pen that writes upside down, but…

No, Seriously. The iPhone is how most people in the PR business work now, and I don’t have to explain why. “Think Different” is more than a slogan. Kicking or screaming, we’ll all be there. It’s like kids with the Disney channel.

Has journalism, and in turn media relations, gotten less important now that organizations can publish their own information on blogs and share it on networks like Twitter?

Journalism does not exist; Journalism is everywhere.

I never thought of journalism as the quote-unquote be-all. I think if someone writes a tremendous story that gives me knowledge, it has been reported. Journalism is the big umbrella over all the crap — I mean, for Christ’s sake, the National Enquirer is journalism!  The rules of journalism are laughable. The snooty idea that somehow there is an enforceable wall between the big J and the big A (“advertising”) seemed kind of stupid to me. A good story is a good bla-bla-bla.  Newspapers would still be living the high life if they had loosened those rules.

Back to reporting.

Anyone can report. If you hear valuable gossip (gossip was the original “news,” after all) and transport that gossip to a collection of men who eat it up…you’re a reporter. Do that exponentially and you have today’s news bringers. I love it when a guy in his undershorts beats The New York Times to news of a groundbreaking feature in a gaming console. This reaches millions in a heartbeat. (I was at a major corporation last year where the PR person said “Oh, it’s 5 PM, got to see if any of the papers need anything by deadline.” I spit out my coffee.)

In terms of Twitter, just recently the world learned about the Asiana flight first from odd tweets from people who wondered about crazy flight patterns. When it crashed, burned and twirled — Twitter first. Then, David Euen deplaned and ran all the while going all Twittery. So who was the reporter in this case? Mostly it was David’s followers. (And those of the others who freely tweeted live.)

I had to laugh that day because CNN still devoted its homepage to that prove-nothing Zimmerman trial (an extremely cynical show of hands proving cable news hates its audience) with a front banner stating: BREAKING NEWS!  So, you had to click to find out about the crash–away from the page.  A banner ad is thus selling the biggest story of the day?  I would not call that journalism.

CNN is slick. With this strange hybrid, they offer its biggest customers the opportunity of a lifetime: pay through the nose to reach biggest numbers we’ll likely get this year!  It was a premium, I can guarantee.  And DISASTER ON THE RUNWAY became a big hit for CNN.

What will communications be like ten years from now?

I have a feeling in 10 years every person making a living will want to be his own corporation. I can’t imagine the current generation coming out of college and spending their lives working for a single boss. It doesn’t compute, doesn’t use their exceptional digital skills or, yeah, ability to multitask like a genius octopus.  No one in this demo is going to be trained to be a freelancer or a consultant, it will happen naturally.

I wrote about it a little in my book 2011: Trendspotting. Consulting is the wave coming at us–even if you work for one client. It makes insurance easier, flex hours are your decision and you get to balance home and work lives however you want.

For guys like me there is no balance. I didn’t choose it… like my forefathers, my habits crept up on me.

The coolest concept about the future is that our upcoming workforce will be able to ethically start their own companies while working for another. They’re not on payroll! They may choose the office life, or they may want to be closer to the Sony PlayStation XBox (didn’t I tell you? BloombergMicrosoft has merged with Sony at this point!) and be at home.

Choices. We always say we got ‘em.  “I could leave here tomorrow.” That sounds like a slogan. If your ideology from day one is you gotta work to pay the bills. then that’s how you do it.

Ask most people and they will tell you, if they’re being honest, they fell into their careers and stayed kaput.  The new worker-bee has none of these notions and has the chance to jump around at will.

And they may be forced to!

Richard LaermerRichard Laermer is the CEO of RLMpr and an often-quoted source on media and marketing trends. His titles include author, blogger, lecturer, trainer and TV show host, among others.

Follow him on his BadPitchBlog or on Twitter.

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Cal-Mum Strong Twitter Campaign Grabs Attention, Relieves Devastation

Cal-Mum StrongLast Tuesday, a tragic accident in Caledonia took the lives of two of five passengers immediately and severely injured three others, one of which passed away three days later on Friday. Although I’ve never had a personal relationship with any of those involved, I did go to high school in Leroy, the neighboring town and biggest sports rival to Caledonia-Mumford.

On Saturday, I was reminded of some of the reasons why I love social media.

Emily Peterson, the third victim of the accident to pass away, was a passionate Boston Celtics fan and Rajon Rondo was her favorite player. I don’t know who had the idea, but members of the small-town community began tweeting at the NBA point guard, including #RondoforCMstrong, in an attempt for him to show his support for Peterson and the other young individuals involved in the accident.

The campaign was incredible.

Grabbed the attention and action of Peterson’s favorite professional athlete.

Obviously the circumstances are upsetting. But when Rondo retweeted one of the messages sent to him and then sent an original tweet containing the hashtag, it meant that he knew about Peterson’s love for him as an athlete, and he showed his support for her.

It’s been retweeted over 1,300 times.

Grabbed the attention of some other high-profile stars Eventually, the campaign was broadened to target other athletes and stars. And a number of them listened, including Stevie Johnson – Buffalo Bills wide receiver and Dustin Zito – VH1 reality TV star.



Grabbed the attention of traditional media outlets.

A number of news sources reported on the Twitter campaign including some television time on 13 WHAM. Other print coverage was published by the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Genesee Sun and The Batavian.

Brought a devastated community together.

My Twitter feed was absolutely inundated with this trend on Saturday. It was really incredible to see so many people from so many area towns all united by the same cause.

I couldn’t help but feel like I was taking part in something of a digital funeral service. Because so many were thinking about the victims at the same time and talking to each other about their lives, it had essentially the same effect on people: it relieved some of the pain.

Of course, there can be no substitution for an actual funeral or wake for a passed away friend or family member, but I do think there is something to be said for the added ability that social media provide for groups that are grieving. Additionally, Twitter served as a communication vehicle to Rajon Rondo – someone who likely wouldn’t have known about the tragic accident otherwise.

Remembrance and celebration of a life are important when anyone passes away. In this case, though, the Twitter campaign could be responsible for some other more tangible effects as well. Perhaps the added awareness and coverage of the accident will ensure that the intersection that was the scene of the crime has a traffic light added to it, or perhaps there will be more donations to the fund set up for the families of the victims. 

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