Are you mixing business and pleasure? (No. Not like that.) The social media sphere has become a shared space for personal interaction and for business connections, with a high level of crossover between the two; e.g., end users of a product tweeting at their favorite brands. So the million-dollar question is, if you’ve already got a personal Twitter account with a fair number of followers across a variety of interests, should you include tweets about your business as well?

This is an admittedly controversial subject, so there are myriad questions you could ask to try and qualify a “yes” or “no” answer. Your position in the company, your handle, the things you’ve tweeted in the past, what you plan to tweet about, account ownership, whether your company endorses your views … the list goes on.

I’m going to take a firm position that, yes, if you have a personal Twitter account and your company allows you to use it for business, you should do it. But only if you’re willing to do it right.

Authenticity Builds Trust

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Using the same Twitter account for business interactions that you also use to interact with your friends and social influencers introduces a level of authenticity to your business tweets. From the perspective of your target audience, this is a good thing. Authenticity builds trust, and if you’re acting on the behalf of your company while engaging on a number of other levels, you’ll be seen as a real person rather than a strategic arm of your business. There will naturally be an element of strategy in the way you position yourself within and then promote your brand, but it should attempt to engage your followers naturally.

Some things that’ll demonstrate authenticity include:

  • Actually thanking people who follow your company, or who follow you because of content you shared from your company. Take a few minutes, have a conversation with them.
  • @Mentioning your company and RTing their successes.
  • Interacting with the companies your business mentions or follows as a friendly employee and an engaged listener.
  • Sharing your affinity for influencers in your industry. You could even throw a “great job” to your competitors once in a while. It’s not called antisocial media.

You know what a lot of companies lose sight of? Business, any business, all business, even B2B, is still about people. This is great news for you, because you’re a person! A real hero and a real human being.

CEO, Social Specialist, or Humble Twitterer: You’re Not Two People

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Having a vested interest in both your job and your personal life doesn’t make you two people. You’re not Nine-to-Five-You and Pajamas-You. If you’re in an industry that you love and want to succeed, then your position within it coincides with your interests elsewhere. Your business life and personal life are, if not inextricably linked, delicately interlaced.

CEO of Communispace Diane Hessan summed it up so well in The Guardian: “I am not two people … I am careful, but authentic.” The value of being yourself on Twitter is catching on because it’s actually a winning strategy.

Now, this applies more to the CEO of a company using the @Brand identity for personal tweets. But what if you’re just the company’s social media guy, or a humble Twitterer using your @Identity to build your company’s brand? Using your personal Twitter account in a business-ly way does three things.

  1. It demonstrates your commitment to your company and your excitement about the amazing things they’re doing, making you a valuable asset.
  2. It allows you to engage followers outside of your industry who might gain something from the products and services your business can offer.
  3. It establishes you as an industry authority, which benefits you now and as you pursue opportunities in the future.

Be the one person you are: the person who loves your industry and a lot of other things, too.

Help Save the Robots from Themselves

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SMBs take different approaches to Twitter. Some use the CEO as the face and name of the brand. Others establish a Twitter account in the voice of the company. Using your personal Twitter to bolster your company in these instances is smart social. But a third thing that many, many companies do with their social media accounts is turning them into cold, impersonal Cybermen.

Frankly the web is inundated by businesses who act like robots (or whose social media is automated to the point that they may as well be one).

When business Twitter accounts end up becoming Retweet Machines, Robo-Greeters, Daily Digest Drivelers, they’re really not driving engagement. Is this your problem as a working guy or gal with a Twitter account? Yes and no. No because, if that’s the way your company does Twitter and you can’t convince them to hire you to run their social, you might have to live with it. Yes because—if the former happens to be the case—you can help bridge the gap.

Add value to your company’s social media by leveraging your personal Twitter account to help their hobbling social efforts. Be their biggest champion. (This includes other social media as well. Like, comment, and share when appropriate.)

The “Carefully” Part

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Following the above best practices will help you help your brand, and will help your brand help you. But if you’re using your personal Twitter for business, there are definitely some things you should be aware of, lest you harm your own credibility, authority, and your employer.

  1. Don’t tweet, retweet, or favorite things that you wouldn’t want your employer or its target audience to see. If you want to add value in this area, you may have to sacrifice your affinity for Miley’s latest wardrobe no-no.
  2. Make sure your photo is agreeable. A pic of you with your kid may be just as effective as one of you with a suit and tie; gauge it for yourself. But that epic college keg stand won’t fly.
  3. Your profile description matters. Include your areas of expertise and interest, “proud mother,” your personal URL, and a link to your company (or one of their social pages).
  4. To the above point, it’s probably a good idea to protect yourself and your company in your profile description, with just 20 characters: “opinions are my own.”
  5. Your profile design matters. Do you want it to convey your interest in All Things Your Industry or your love for Game of Thrones? Choose wisely.
  6. Watch your mouth, Pilgrim.
  7. Play nice. Dissing anything or anyone, especially influencers within your niche or your business’s competition, is a terrible idea.
  8. Be yourself, but be reasonable. If you’re interested in politics or religion or social causes, share them with grace. Avoid heated debate. And be aware that, even though authenticity matters, your views have the potential to alienate.
  9. Follow the right people, and pay close attention to them. Unfollow anyone who may reflect poorlyon you.
  10. Use common sense with uncommon vigilance. If you hesitate for a moment before sharing something, just don’t.

Using your personal social media account for your business can hugely benefit your employer and you! There’s no reason to be overly cagey about it. What’s required of you is a true understanding of the risks and rewards.

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