On Freelance Switch, Will Kenny ponders whether online professionals are turning off prospective clients with personal tweeting. Freelancers have found blogs, social networks and microblogging services to be effective means to market one’s services virally. But the question here is whether one is effectively distinguishing between the social and professional aspect of having an online presence.
Unfortunately, many freelancers, particularly, have seized upon the concept of “social media networking for business” without taking the time to find the appropriate boundaries between “social” and “business.” This is in part because people who do, say, copywriting or website design tend to be “early adopters” of new tools and technology.
The idea is very much similar to running different blogs for personal posts and business-oriented ones. I subscribe to this idea myself, running blogs focusing on commercial and a creative or personal aspects of my writing. Both have their respective audience share, and I am able to differentiate and delineate from personal and business-related writings on those blogs.
But what about Twitter? When you build your personal brand, more often than not that brand is attached to your identity. Say Problogger and I think Darren Rowse. Say Copyblogger and I think Brian Clark. Sometimes it’s not that easy to separate the person from the brand. But in these cases, many of the people who have built a brand around their persona also post on both business and personal matters on Twitter.
Mr. Kenny has it right that reading the online ramblings of a potential contractor might be a turn-off, particularly if those tweets involve rants about work, clients or business. He goes on to suggest that online professionals use a separate account for work, and another one for social or personal use.
The problem here lies with building up a network. When you run separate accounts for work and socialization, you might have to double your effort in establishing a following. If you already have 10,000 followers on your personal Twitter account, would you be willing to forego posting about your business there, and open a new account just for work? What about 100,000? Or 1,000,000 followers?
There’s also the social aspect of business. We cannot always establish a dichotomy between the two. For online professionals, you can usually count on online friends to bring new business your way, whether it’s through word of mouth (such as recommendations), or their hiring your services themselves. Should you rule out that possibility? Should you keep personal relationships strictly personal?
And then there’s the aspect of trust, and knowing a potential client or contractor on a deeper basis than just viewing his online portfolio. We online pros, after all, like to window-dress. Designers feature their best work on their portfolios. Writers highlight their best articles or columns. Developers are proud of their best software and applications. We put our best foot forward as professionals. But with the honesty, straightforwardness and candor you often see on Twitter, it’s easier to see who a potential partner in business really is, and whether you can work with that person based on his habits and personality. And in my opinion, it’s a good thing to start and build business relationships this way.
Still, a lot of people tweet without being mindful of the fact that if you maintain a public account, you are under public scrutiny. This means you can count on complete strangers being able to read whatever material you publish on Twitter. Therefore, it makes sense to be mindful of your tweets, and to think twice before hitting that update button, whether it’s meant for business or personal use.