Are your personal tweets hurting your company's brand?

I saw this tweet today and, as someone who has managed employee communications for some large, worldwide companies, I thought it was good fodder for a conversation. I'm not sure if these two people in the tweet were just joking or if they really didn't understand why someone would write "all tweets are my own" in their Twitter bio. For the sake of argument, let's assume the latter.

As people utilize social media to put all their opinions out into the world, companies and smart employees are becoming ever more vigilant in protecting their digital footprints. As an employee, if you put your employer's name in your Twitter bio, you should very seriously consider putting a disclaimer similar to the one above. It protects you and the business who writes your paycheck.

Suppose I say in my Twitter bio that I work for Disney (I don't, but I'll happily listen to any job offers!). Then, in one of my tweets, I use some foul language, send a link to a YouTube video with lap dancers, or check in at Knott's Berry Farm on Foursquare. That reflects on my company. I work for them and my tweets have an impact on their brand. Employees represent the values and culture of a business, after all. My public behavior, and especially my conduct on the Web, can have ripple affects in the workplace.

Now, let's take this issue one step further and to another platform. I recently had lunch with a peer who said they had a problem with an employee who put product designs, which were still in development, on their Facebook page. Yes, the person was probably just excited to share his work with his friends. However, this put the company at risk. Releasing the company's plans--and designs--out into the public before the product launch could empower a competitor to develop a similar product. It could also have a serious effect on the company's profits and stockholders.

In this new world of social media, remember, the world is watching! If you say you're affiliated with a brand, your behavior may be scrutinized more closely. For those who don't like to edit themselves prior to tweeting, tread carefully. Making it clear that your opinions do not represent your company's can sometimes be a good idea.

My personal recommendation, however, would be to always use great care and discretion on your social media accounts. Refrain from saying anything that could reflect poorly on you or your employer. A reputation takes a lifetime to build and only minutes to destroy. 

What do you think? Do you put your employer's name in your Twitter bio? If not, why? If so, do you have a disclaimer that separates your actions from those of your employer?


  1. Great question! How far down the line does it go- FOR EXAMPLE - I don't list my job on my Twitter page, but I have my link to my site where I might even mention it?

  2. Todd, even many big time bloggers have disclaimers on their site that disclose their affiliations. Who they're employed with, or have worked for in the past, received perks from, etc. In the new world, transparency is such a big issue that they have obviously made the decision to be 100% honest to avoid any appearance of conflict or indiscretion.

    Lots of time, Twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, etc are not a problem for your employer---until the employer discovers them and realizes they may not like what you're putting out there.

  3. It can be legally vital to offer the disclaimer "Tweets are my own and not my employers". Similar statements sometimes go on emails. I have no problem with that at all and don't value judge based on these statements per se. This said, I entirely agree with you Amber about manner, what is said etc and how this reflects upon your employer and you.

    For example, one person I 'know' regularly goes off on an abuse rant on Twitter and they don't hold their language back. The abuse is really about any minor irritant or annoyance BUT, the expressions actually flag the person as hating anyone elderly, pet owners and so forth. The abuse smacks of INTOLERANCE and perhaps that's the core issue that reflects on their employer. Ironically, I know something of their employer and can see why this person's rants would be ignored by the company (low care factor).

  4. Interesting topic that I believe will continue to become more difficult to address as so much of personal life moves online.

    For example, I don't associate myself w/ my employer anywhere where I'm spouting off my opinion -- but anyone w/ rudimentary search skills will be able to make the connection. While social media is great for helping business develop a "personal touch," the blurring of the lines between public & private is concerning.

    Here's on example of a potential conundrum: I have long held the belief that if I'm posting something online (blog comments, Tweets, posts, ect) I should do so under my own name -- no aliases or handles. I like the sense of accountability associated w/ this -- plus, posting under my own name gives me that extra cause to pause & reflect before hitting submit.

    Yet while I may be very passionate about certain issues in my personal life, I have always been cognizant of the fact that when I'm on the job, I'm not just "me" -- I'm a representative of my organization. I've always taken this very seriously -- again, accountability, responsibility, etc.

    But w/ more of my personal & professional lives taking place in the same (online) space, it's harder & harder to make a clean delineation between what's "just me" and what's "work me."

    Here's hopin' you'll clear all this up in your next post :-)

  5. In David S. Garland's (@TheRiseToTheTop) new book there's a line that reads: "Doing business now is like being on camera 24/7." I can't begin to tell you how true that is. People should act accordingly. If it's something that you think your mama would be offended by, don't do it. If it's something you think your employer would be offended by, don't do it. If it's something you think anyone is going to take the wrong way, be cautious and watch what you tweet.

    Behave as if you there was a camera on your 24/7.

    Me? I have a note that says I work for @DiverseSolution. Why? Because I do marketing, sales and customer service for them. So I make myself accessible to our clients on Twitter (those that are on there anyway). It's more about making myself accessible than anything else. Do I have a disclaimer? I did. I change my bio a lot tho. Currently I have a Willy Wonka quote on there. I'm indecisive that way, heh.

  6. Thanks for adding your thoughts on the subject, Susan. It's true that people like to do business with people they like and trust. If you list who you work prominently in your bio, and then share something the public may disagree with, or worse yet, get angry over, they may think differently of your company by mere association.

    In your example, it sounds as though I'd probably dislike that person enough not to want to support his employer,. If only not to supplement his paycheck! ;-)

  7. Great post, Amber. In my "other" life (as a licensed therapist) they are adding social media to ethics courses. People don't realize how it can be taken wrong, even if it is meant innocently. As they say, you can't hear the tone when it is written.

  8. Great piece Amber! On my personal FB profile, though it is set to friends only viewing, I have a disclaimer. And actually this post has sparked me to change my personal Twitter bio around removing the @ link to my company. While I am proud of my association and work I do with and for them I do value freedom of speech and personal expression.

  9. Hugh, you are so right! The lines are getting blurry and the only thing that's certain is that this issue will only get murkier!

    I have the same conundrum you do. Especially working in communications where I need to have a digital footprint, yet need to ensure it's never crossing the line.

    Your point of accountability is so true. Social media expects us to be real. Yet, the real Sam, Jane, or Joe, might be doing damage to his or her employer's name.

    Thanks so much for weighing in with your thoughts, Hugh! Good stuff to add to the dialogue!

  10. Ricardo, great input. You and David Garland are spot on. Social media is like having your very own reality show!

    When part of your job function is marketing or sales, I think it's very natural to want to list your employer. That's smart. You, for one, are always clear about your affiliations (in your tweets and on your blog), so that puts you in a better position than most. You're also very transparent in all you do, so that undoubtedly serves you well.

    Thanks for adding to the discussion! Always great to hear good input.

  11. That's great to hear about adding social media to ethics courses. I bet those are some interesting lectures and discussions!

    You're so right. It's easy for 140 characters to be taken out of context. And when email first started being used in the workplace there was, and still IS, an occasional problem with tone and misunderstand. Therefore, it's no surprise that those same issues would trickle over to social media.

    Thanks for the interesting comment, Jeanie!

  12. Hey Lindsay! Thanks for commenting.

    You bring up an interesting point. Yes, it's good to support our employers and be proud of the companies we work for, but listing them openly CAN have an impact on personal expression. That's so true.

    I think all of us walk a fine with with the personal me/professional me stuff. And, if not, we're at least thinking about it. Should be interesting to see how it all shakes out in the next few years.

    * Love the new Twitter bio. :-)

  13. Considering one of my hats is being an elected city councilman (a fact that accompanies my bio text in various places online), I'm always cognizant what I write.

    But my question to you is why did you black out the Twitter names in that screenshot?

  14. Ari, as a government official, that sounds like a very smart approach!

    As for the names, I saw no reason to embarrass or call out the two people. They're not folks I follow or have a relationship with, however showing their names provides no value to the conversation.

  15. Hi Amber,

    I can't speak to my own Twitter bio at the moment since I don't have a specific company I am affiliated with. As you know my purpose for being on Twitter is to connect with PR people, share information, and help when I can by retweeting.

    There are people that I follow who are PR people but for whatever reason I found their personal account first. I like the fact they are upfront and say I work for "Company X" and tweets are my own. This tells me that we likely have common interests but they are not speaking on behalf of their company. A lot of times I will also follow their "work" accounts and/or company accounts and usually see a pretty distinct difference.

    I also follow people who have "multipurpose" accounts (personal and professional on one page) those people do a great job of being upfront when their tweets are client related. Because they are transparent about client tweets I don't mind seeing them and at least some of the time will retweet good client news on their behalf.

    To me this is the most important distinction: transparency begets honesty, honesty begets discretion, discretion begets success personally and professionally.

  16. Thanks for contributing to the discussion, Katie. Good points! And, for sure, there is much to be said about maintaining multiple accounts.

    As I see it, at the heart of it, your comment goes to the issue of good judgment. People who conduct themselves with integrity are destined to enjoy more success than those who don't. Transparency, honesty, and discretion is a good combination for most anything, isn't it?

    Thanks for sharing your personal experiences, Katie!

  17. This is one juicy can of worms, thanks for opening it!

    I spent my first year or so in my industry being pretty protective of my professional identity. Sometimes I might complain about work, or make some snarky remarks, and having HR track that back to me at the office would be a bit of a headache. The company wasn't actively engaging in social media at all, but with all the horror stories of being fired over tweets and such I just didn't want to risk it.

    Sidenote: sure, there's the option to just not say snarky stuff online, but how fun is that?

    After I started building up my network, and especially after getting into the #custserv chats it got to be cumbersome trying to sort people out and manage who knew me, how they knew me, and what I could get away with. Around the same time the company decided to ramp up a social media effort and finally put out some clear policies about an employee's online identity. The basic idea is that you can be yourself online, but you should be honest about it. The policy is aimed very directly at preventing astroturfers, where an employee goes and makes all sorts of positive comments without disclosing their affiliation.

    So with a slightly adjusted attitude, and a little bit of direction from the official social media team I "came out" online about my work. It's really been nothing but good times since then. I can still be myself, and when I do good it reflects nicely on the company. On the other hand, my bio disclaimer is clear enough that I don't look totally two-faced about it. I don't feel limited at all about what I can do or say online, and that's just plain awesome.

  18. Jay, I say liberate those worms, baby!

    Your comment is an absolutely delightful tale! What a great success story! Heck, I'd do business with your company if I could deal with you----the you I've met and come to enjoy thanks to the world of social media!

    Folks, if you haven't done so already, read Jay's comment (and check out his bio on Twitter at @action_jay). It's a wonderful illustration of how employees can be motivated by social media instead of squashed ;-)

    Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Jay!

  19. My pleasure Amber and yes it does go to good judgement and integrity.
    I'm human like everyone else and none of us are perfect: it's about intentions and (insert humor here) maintaining multiple accounts :)

  20. Thank you for bringing attention to this. As a journalist, transparency is vital, and I never gave much thought to listing my employer in my bio. I don't think I've ever given them reason to take issue with my tweets but as we train staff on social media this deserves serious consideration.
    For now, I've added the disclaimer to my bio, right next to all my professional contact info. :)

  21. Dorrine, thanks for adding to the discussion! Since you work for a news agency, I think this is an especially important issue.

    When I was at the Los Angeles Times, they instituted a change that people in the newsroom couldn't even have any wording in their personal Twitter handles that implied association with the news organization (e.g. @JohnLATimes).

    It should be interesting to see how more newsrooms address the issue of social media guidelines...

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