SLA Europe – Tweeting While You Work

Went to a really interesting discussion on Tuesday, hosted by SLA Europe, on “Tweeting While You Work”. I know others are blogging this – there should be something on the SLA Europe blog about it soon – plus I was too busy on camera duty to take any notes, so I won’t go into masses of detail here. I just wanted to raise what stuck with me as one of the key points of the evening: separating your personal and work personas on Twitter. All three of the panelists had multiple Twitter accounts depending on what they used them for (I think one panelist said she had 5 accounts!), and all placed a great deal of emphasis on keeping their work and personal lives separate online. Now, I do consider my Twitter account to be a professional tool, but I regularly tweet about non-work related stuff. I don’t think I give out too much personal information on my Twitter account (at least, I hope it’s never TMI – you guys’d tell me, right??) but you can get a pretty good idea of who I am and what my interests are from keeping an eye on my Twitter account, and that is not limited to stuff that appears on my CV.

I think it’d be different if I were tweeting on behalf of my employer. I think if you’re the person in charge of your institution’s Twitter account, you do need to think a bit more about what you’re tweeting – there’s nothing wrong with letting some of your personality come across in your Tweets (I would argue that’s a good thing, giving your organisation a human face and all!) but I think you’d probably have to be more careful to be impartial.

Anyway, back to personal accounts. I don’t think I’d be too worried if my employer or a prospective employer saw my Twitter stream – but should I be? The discussion on Tuesday just got me wondering if I’ve got the balance wrong here. If you’re just tweeting as yourself, but tweet about work-related stuff with people working in the same industry, and are open about who you are and where you work, is it worth setting up a separate account?

I’d be interested to hear how other people deal with this. Anyone maintain separate work/personal accounts? Why/why not?


19 comments on “SLA Europe – Tweeting While You Work

  1. This is something I’m still in um, at least two minds about! I’ve had a personal Twitter account for a while and do mention work related issues there as well as personal interests. I sometimes worry that I’m boring my friends or mystifying my colleagues! But so far I’ve not felt the need to divide my identity in two and, as far as I can tell, most of the people I follow don’t either.

    I’ve recently set up, and am one of two contributors to, an official work Twitter account and that is different being more of a ‘voice of the library’. It’s generally informal in tone but not personal.

    As to work colleagues or employers seeing my personal tweets I feel like I’ve been here before to some extent. In the years when I first joined online discussion groups and started blogging and generally putting content up on the web I soon realised that it was quite possible for anyone to find the online trail that I was leaving if they wanted to. It’s something I still have to remind myself of from time to time but, on the whole, I think the benefits of being generally open online outweigh the drawbacks.

    I see Twitter as a more open and public place than, say, Facebook where you friend and be friended as a mutual agreement and where it’s possible to keep communications relatively private to a group of friends if you want to. Although I’ve realised recently that not everyone sees it this way having been told by a student that ‘Twitter is for friends, Facebook is for everyone.’ Just the opposite of how I use them!

    • Really?? Yeah, that’s the exact opposite of how I use Facebook/Twitter too! Do you think they have their tweets set to private, and their Facebook page to public? That’s the only way I could see it working that way round, but even so seems pretty counterintuitive to me!

  2. I tend to agree with Alison here on having one account used for both work and personal. (Not counting the ‘official’ library Twitter stream I also manage).

    But it does raise interesting questions – esp now I have a mobile device to Twitter with so my amount of tweeting has gone up considerably. I’ve found myself self-censoring on occasions as I consider either the content or the timing (!) of a tweet that might well be read by work colleagues – or the boss! And vice versa, I occasionally tweet a dozen times in just an hour or so when tweeting from an event that’s usually of fairly specialized interest to librarians or educationalists and probably pretty tedious for the friends who follow me.

    Not sure I can face the prospect of splitting my personality into two though.

    • Ah yes, the timing of tweets/blog posts can be crucial! Think I mainly rely on the fact that my boss is not on Twitter, and none of my colleagues are particularly interested in social networking generally. They know about my blog, and that I’m on Twitter, but I don’t think they’re especially bothered about it… Suspect that as far as my boss is concerned, as long as I get my work done he probably wouldn’t worry about my tweeting!

  3. I have one work/personal account. Initially, I considered splitting, but I’m not allowed to download any of the clients that would allow me to run both alongside each other to my work pc, so I decided to go with one account. I started off following other law or library professionals, but now I follow a varied group of people (although mainly still library and law people).

    I won’t let my boss add me (we’ve discussed it, and we’re happy with it that way – we have a great working relationship and friendship, but some things you just don’t want your boss reading), and I treat it as a personal stream, with some bonus networking contacts for work. I’ve met lots of very interesting people on it, had really useful help for my work as well, when stuck and tweeting my frustration, but I see it mainly as a way for me to keep sane while I sit at an isolated desk, with the rest of my “team” in another city.

    I’ve protected my account, so I can control who sees what I say, and I feel comfortable with the people I talk to. My tweets certainly get a lot more casual in weekends and evenings, and that’s probably actually when people can get to know me best.

    So, as a work tool it’s been great, but it’s really evolved into a more social thing for me.

  4. I was going to quote bits of your post back at you and say ‘I agree’ but I agree with all of it, really, so I won’t bother…

    As you know I was skeptical about Twitter for ages, so that colours my judgement, but for me having two accounts defeats the object. (A ‘you’ account and a ‘your organisation’ account is a different argument entirely, and totally fine in my book.) I am on Twitter for work, and a few of my non-work friends follow me and I don’t follow them back. I’ll text or email or ring them instead. Where the work / personal line blurs, for me, is that I am now friends with quite a lot of people I interact with on Twitter, so I will tweet a lot of stuff that has nothing to do with LIS because I get swept up in that unarticulatable joy of sharing stuff with nice people – but they are still work-related friends, which is key to me, for some reason… I actually really like that side of things, seeing the personal side of people in a professional context.

    Having two accounts would undermine what I use Twitter *for* – it would be a bit of a hassle, and it would add to the possibility of my suffering from information overload. The value I get from Twitter is links, concensus guaging (that looks very badly spelled, sorry!), promotion of events or blog posts, ‘lazy web’ question asking, and a little head-start with people I network in real life with, if I’ve networked with them online previously. Pretty much none of that stuff would come from a ‘personal only’ style account, so I think the balance you and I have in our accounts is a good one. Five accounts, for me, equals Twitter using you rather than you using Twitter. Too busy narrating life in 140 characters rather than actually LIVING it, like missing a party because you get people to pose for photos every 3 secconds.

    As far as the boss conundrum goes – my boss is on Twitter, we don’t follow one-another although we could, probably, and I’ve never written anything I’d be uncomfortable with her reading. That balance seems to work for me.

    Sorry one last thing as well (this’ll be longer than your original post..) – I believe that unless you are a total buffoon, you are unlikely to scupper potential employment by revealing a bit of who you are on Twitter. The way I see it, if I ever work anywhere then the people there will get to know what I’m really like eventually, anyway. So if they don’t like that, I’m not right for their organisation in the first place, so it’s all worked out rather well…

    • Haha, I LOVE long comments! Have a tendency to ramble myself, makes me feel in good company…

      Yeah, I do actually think it would be pretty hard to abuse your Twitter account to the point where it makes you unemployable. Unless of course the person doing the hiring has an irrational hatred of social networking and web 2.0, in which case the mere fact of having a Twitter account or a blog would probably disqualify you from employment with them anyway… But then, nobody would think like that really, would they..? 😉

  5. […] presentations is available here. So far the event’s been covered by VIP, WoodsieGirl and will feature on the SLA Europe […]

  6. All I can add to this discussion, other than a “me too” to most of it, is a rule I adopted for myself at the beginning of this month: to stay clear of Twitter at work unless my email inbox is completely empty. The thinking is that, if I’m so absorbed in a task that I’m letting the email pile up, which is addressed to me & may be asking me to do things, then I’m too busy for tweets also. It’s an effort, sticking to this rule, but it reduced my inbox from 261 to 0 in a single day.

    • Oh, totally agree. I don’t Twitter if I have actual work piling up! I tend to check Twitter at set intervals – when I get to work, on my lunchbreak, and whenever I’ve finished a particular task I was working on (I find a mini-break between tasks helps me concentrate). Other than that, I’ll tweet if I’ve just seen/done something interesting that I want to share. I’d probably keep an eye on Twitter more throughout the day if I could use a third-part app like Tweetdeck or Echofon from my work PC, but I can’t install anything like that one here so I’m stuck with the Twitter homepage. Actually navigating to that page and scrolling through tweets feels more disruptive than having an application open in the background, the way I do when I’m at home.

  7. I think this problem partly arises for us because we have the middle ground between work and personal – professional. Chances are, if you’ve chosen to be an information professional, it’s because you enjoy the work and are interested in the wider professional context. ‘Work’ becomes ‘personal’, because you’re not just interested in things because it’s your job to follow them. So it’s difficult to separate out a work persona from a personal one unless you have a clearly defined, fairly discrete purpose for each account

    • I love it when more articulate people turn up and put my thoughts into words for me… Cheers Annie, that’s exactly how I think of it! My twitter account isn’t purely a work account, same as this blog isn’t purely a work blog, because I’m lucky enough to have a personal interest in what I do for a living. Definitely one of the best things about being an information professional!

  8. This is a really interesting topic! I set up our library Twitter account several months ago which is used mainly for sending out updates about the library, resources, news etc. I try to put aside a little time every week to update our Twitter, blog account etc but this doesn’t always happen :/ We don’t have many of our users following us yet (this is not helped by the fact that Twitter is currently ‘banned’ on our internal network) but I think it’s important to have a presence on there and I certainly find it helpful for keeping up with news in other health-related orgs and libraries. I even carried out a little research using Twitter a few months back for a presentation I had to give at a conference.
    At the same time I have a personal Twitter account which I use to keep tabs on people and organisations and friends I’m personally interested in. I actually check and update my personal account a lot less than the work one. I do see Twitter as more of a professional tool and tend to turn to Facebook when I want a little ‘down’ time!

    • Ugh, don’t get me started on social networking sites being blocked at work…

      Yeah, I use Facebook for personal stuff too. Kinda think that makes more sense than juggling several Twitter accounts!

  9. […] Perhaps this is because it suits our interests so much – I was struck by a comment on Woodsiegirl’s recent blog post about Twitter, where she debated the merits of seperate accounts for work and personal. Annie (is that Annie_me […]

  10. FIVE twtiter accounts? whatever for? I struggle with how much personal info to share on my twitter account (librarianbyday) I’ve considered getting a second 1 for personal stuff, but never made the leap it seems like too much work.

    • As far as I remember (and anyone else who was at the event, please correct me if I’m wrong – was busy taking photos so I didn’t actually write any of this down), she had one “institutional” account where she tweeted on behalf of her employer; one for her own business startup; one for a review site she ran (“all about chocolate”!); one personal but public account; and one private public account. The last one was only viewable by people she knew well, and was where she did all the ranting she wouldn’t dare post on her professional accounts. To me, that sounds completely unmanagable, but I guess it worked for her!

  11. Just a quick thought on this. I started with two accounts: one personal and one professional, and I merged them (which is why my current account says I joined Twitter after I’d been tweeting for a while). This was prompted by a discussion with someone who strongly believed that the strength of Twitter was mixing personal and professional.

    I think it’s about what you do with your Twitter account. For me, Twitter is like a coffee break at work or a conference. You exchange work related chat, but it’s also about making connections and getting to know each other. But there are lots of other ‘modes’ of Twitter use, and I guess you’d need a different account for each one, if you were supporting multiple incompatible styles of communication.

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