Social media often blurs the lines between personal and professional, and nowhere is this truer than the very public world of Twitter. If you’re like many users, Twitter is a space to connect with friends and develop your online brand.
Figuring out how to balance these two worlds can challenge even the most socially savvy. You don’t want to share a personal detail that might negatively impact you at work. On the other hand, you don’t want to bore everyone with a robot-like account that can only discuss business matters.
If you’re trying to find the right balance between personal and professional, here are a few tips to maintain a fun yet public-facing Twitter account.
1. Accept that Twitter is public.
The first step in finding the right balance is recognizing the fact that Twitter is a very, very public network. It’s not like a college party or night out with your friends. Rather, the network resembles a professional conference or networking event. The key difference is your actions are visible to anyone (presuming your tweets aren’t protected), not just those who attended the event. Anything you discuss on Twitter is part of your public digital footprint; therefore, you should always assume anything you discuss on Twitter will be seen by a potential client, employer, partner or colleague.
2. Don’t be a robot.
Twitter’s public nature can scare professionals away from sharing anything outside of work topics. However, if you only talk business, you’re not letting anyone get to know you. And ultimately, people do business with people, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t be (a very conscious version of) yourself.
Imagine yourself at a networking event or in the downtime right before a meeting. You’re probably going to talk about a whole range of things: what you did over the weekend, a new restaurant you tried, a hobby, TV show, etc. In other words, you’ll discuss things that are important to you and interesting to others; Twitter should work in the exact same way.
3. Avoid sensitive topics.
As a general rule of thumb, a few areas shouldn’t be discussed on your general Twitter account. Don’t complain about a client or your employer. Unless it’s directly relevant to your job or you don’t care if you alienate members of your community, stay away from any talk of religion or politics. And it probably doesn’t need mentioning, but you should also avoid mentioning any kind of illicit activities.
While avoiding politics is a general rule of thumb, the rule doesn’t apply to everyone. @FranchiseKing mixes resources for franchises with political opinion. He knows his community and is willing to take the risk of alienating some for expressing his views.
4. Know the difference between personal and private.
You’ve probably cringed at some posts that seem to share “too much information.” Avoid TMI yourself by recognizing the difference between personal and private. For example, personal is mentioning your child took her first steps; private is sharing anything diaper-related. Personal is talking about the great dinner you had last night; private is rehashing every detail of the fight you had with your partner on the way to the restaurant.
5. Be considerate of your audience.
It’s one thing to share a few messages about your kids or your favorite baseball team, maybe the occasional post about your car or kitchen remodel. But things will get boring fast if 90% of your posts are singularly focused. No one likes the person who dominates the dinner party conversation by bringing everything back to his recent vacation. Use your general Twitter account to show your diverse interests, and consider forming a private Facebook group to post daily updates of your newborn, or join a dedicated sports social network to discuss the Golden State Warriors to your heart’s content.
6. Interact with others.
One of the most natural ways to let your personality shine involves personal interaction. Never approach Twitter or any other social media network as a one-way broadcast. Join in on what other people are saying. Inject a personal tone or joke into your replies. Keep in mind, however, that some back-and-forth banter between you and your friends is acceptable, but you’ll want to take an in-depth conversation to DM or a phone call before it goes too far and bores everyone else.
7. Don’t take things too seriously.
This last rule can often be the hardest to remember (particularly when it follows a list of dos and don’ts). At the end of the day, Twitter is all about conversations, shared interests and relationships. It’s shouldn’t be overanalyzed.
If you sit there and count every tweet to make sure you’re hitting some magic personal-professional post ratio, you’re sucking all the fun out of the process. Likewise, if you start thinking, “Okay, I need to post something funny today,” it will come across as obvious and awkward. Keep it natural, be yourself, be considerate of others and use some common sense. You should be okay.
Editor’s Note: This was originally written by Nellie Akalp for Mashable.