Tweeting with Your Best Foot Forward

I’ve been tweeting for about five months now and loving it. It’s become a regular part of my day and work life and I’ve gained boatloads of insight, access to information and more, which I wrote about earlier.

I’ve noticed a somewhat disturbing trend in some tweeting though, something that brings me back to Business Communications 101 with a heaping dose of Internet Etiquette 101: you are your own PR team, and anything you put on The Internets can and will come back to haunt you. Or at the very least, could leave your followers with a less than golden impression.

Case in point: I’d been following a certain tweeter’s posts since Day 1 of signing up for Twitter. This person has a rather ascerbic style which I didn’t particularly like, but I found enough of her tweets interesting (at first) that I decided to keep her on my follow list.

Over time, what seemed at first to be a slightly sharp personality felt more and more like negativity. When I tweeted about a very fun evening I’d had out (a somewhat rare personal tweet for me, I keep it strictly business, for the most part), she promptly tweeted back with a cutting remark, trashing what I’d tweeted about. It was then I decided that was enough.

Oversensitive? I don’t think so. Had it only been that one tweet, I’d agree with anyone who said that. But it wasn’t. It was all of her tweets. Rarely a positive or helpful thing did she have to say. A lot of griping though. A LOT of griping.

I should mention that — thanks to TweetDeck, a must-have app for Twitter lovers — I had even moved her out of my ‘favorites’ in order to get less exposure. She was a prolific tweeter, so the influx of bad vibes was pretty heavy. Nonetheless, I understand the power of networking and there were aspects of her presence in my circle that I valued.

On the day she totally trashed my tweet however… she tipped the scales and I decided that her value wasn’t worth all the negativity I had to wade through to get to the good stuff. Did she mean it that way? Was it something I’d misunderstood? Well, at this point, it didn’t really matter because my overall perception of her was that she was not someone I wanted to communicate with. Life is short, and all that.

I removed her from my network. And proactively searched for lots of other tweeters. And found so many, with such useful, funny, insightful and enthusiastic things to say. And I haven’t looked back. And tweeting is fun and worthwhile again.

What is particularly unfortunate for this consultant is that she is someone I would have potentially hired. She is well-respected, talented and probably does her job very well. But what would working with her really be like? What if something went wrong on the project? Her overall down attitude gave me a lot of insight into how she really ticked, and I didn’t like what I saw. So not only did she lose a follower… she lost future jobs.

With the rise of social media tools such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., I am seeing what I call the ‘Do All — Tell All’ mentality. Because there is some gray area between personal and business usage of social media tools, I believe there is a danger of forgetting the basics of good business communication. If we’re not careful, it can be really easy to let a little loose and say and do things we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing before Social Media gained the foothold it has firmly wedged for itself in the world of marketing.

So… be careful, Tweeps. Keep it positive, informative and helpful most of the time. Occasional bellyaching is okay (and can be good, if done well), but if the majority of your posts in a 24 period (or longer) are negative in tone, you might want to take a little break and realign your tweets with a different outlook that presents your most attractive face to the public at large. You never know who might be paying attention.' About Rachel Cary

Rachel Cary is the Founder and Creative Director of Elevata Incorporated, a full-service print and web design firm in Oakland, CA. She has worked in the advertising & design industries since 1990 and her firm has won numerous awards for its work in both print and web design. Elevata specializes in corporate identity, print collateral, web design and custom web applications, including iPhone design and development.


  1. Bravo Rachel! Well said.

    I have to admit that I’m constantly amazed at what people will do and say in the electronic realm. I’ve been fascinated by it, actually, since the advent of email (it’s that nerdy communication major in me) ;-). They will make extremely rude, mean, negative, etc. comments that they would never dream of doing in face-to-face communication or even over the phone.

    Conversely, because electronic communication lacks the nonverbal cues that help us understand the true nature of a communication exchange, it’s easy to misinterpret messages, too. I find it equally intriguing that given an equivalent opportunity to take a message positively or negatively most people will interpret it negatively. You combine that with the first item above, and you have ample chances for miscommunication, defensiveness, and plain old “bad press” happening.

    It definitely pays to reread any message before clicking send/enter to make sure you’ve stripped any potential negative misinterpretation as much as possible. Given point # 2 above, there will likely always be someone who will take it the wrong way, but most people won’t; and if you do double check your responses, the majority of your messages won’t end up coming across negatively.

    Thanks for the post!

  2. Yes, Rachel, half the joy of Twitter is having a great tweetstream. Jeannette Maw (@GoodVibeCoach) just blogged about Twitter from a different vantage point that you might find interesting:

    While I fought joining Twitter for years, I now love it and the amazing people that fill my tweetstream. However, much of that positive experience is because I do the work upfront: I check people’s websites and tweets before following them. Usually, if they are negative, you can see that right up front. I even have a page on my blog about Who I Follow on Twitter (and Why/Why Not) that I refer to new followers. In some cases, it’s a heads-up what they’ll need to do for me to follow them.

    If you are looking for positive, uplifting, self-motivated people, there are TONS of them on Twitter—if you know where to look. I can certainly point you in the right direction!

    Many blessings,

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