Twitter is an engaging place, one that, when surrounded by various commentary on universal happenings, becomes a tempting place to chime in. This makes social media sites the perfect place to engage with people on a personal level.

That said, when you’re representing your business on these channels, the rules are a little bit different.

Business vs. Personal

It’s important to understand the distinction between what kind of content belongs on a business account and which is really only appropriate for a personal one. Matters unrelated to your business should be separate so as to not pollute your followers’ feeds with information they may not be following you to receive.

There are several topics that really never belong on a business page. While it is important to engage in conversation with followers and potential customers, certain matters just really aren’t suitable when speaking on behalf of your professional organization.

There’s a destination marketing organization I follow on Twitter that has caught my attention by posting a lot of off-color tweets. For the sake of example, let’s call this city “Debsville” (because I’m that lacking in originality ;)).

With this in mind:

5 Rules for Managing a Professional Twitter Account

  1. Stay on topic. Anyone following a travel-related account for Debsville is probably following it to attain information about the destination, its offerings, its attractions, its deals, etc. Accordingly, while the occasional off-topic tweet may be fine in certain contexts, followers of Debsville probably aren’t looking for regular photos of what the person behind the account is having for lunch, where they’re going this weekend or that there’s a beer truck parked in front of the office.
  2. Avoid controversial topics. Political comments or other potentially “controversial” subjects also don’t belong on a business page. While the person behind the page is certainly entitled to their opinion, followers of that page aren’t expecting to learn the latest celebrity gossip from it (again, they’re simply expecting to learn of Debsville). On the same token, be conscious of word choice: Phrases like “holy crap” along with words like “hell” and “sucks” don’t belong either.
  3. Remain Professional. While there’s a lot of hilarious content circling the web, your business page probably isn’t the best place to post an article on how to delete drunk Facebook and Twitter posts nor an outline of a freeway’s satirical Twitter account. Social media articles are definitely relevant to anyone on those channels, so general information in that regard is totally fine, but it still should remain information that’s useful to your audience.
  4. Don’t over-do hashtags. Hashtags are a great tool for Twitter users. They allow you to classify information contained in your tweets to people who are specifically looking for those topics. That said, you don’t need to add a ton of hashtags to a single tweet, nor do you need to add the same ones to several tweets in a row. Usually, a maximum of three relevant hashtags per tweet is reasonable, and if you’re going to tweet about the same thing again using the same hashtags (which is fine), be sure to space them out a bit so you’re not overdoing it. When more characters in recent tweets are attributed to hashtags than actual information, there’s a problem.
  5. Tie in Other Channels Usefully. For example, there are many benefits to Foursquare for business. However, mindlessly linking it to your Twitter account and sending every check-in through to your followers isn’t necessarily a good thing. If you’re going to use it, make your check-ins relevant to your followers —¬†Simply relaying, “Debsville is at McDonald’s” probably doesn’t matter to Joe Schmo following your account. However, when checking into places in your city, you could highlight certain specials they currently have going on, or snap a photo of a certain dish worth trying. Using Foursquare can certainly be a creative way to get local specials and events out to your audience. On the same token, if you’re visiting a city other than the one you represent, it really doesn’t make sense to check in there from your business’ Foursquare account. It could actually create confusion: Say the Debsville rep is on a trip to NYC, and checks into an NY restaurant, noting she just had a delicious meal there. A follower who may see that tweet in their stream, with no other context than that it was posted by Debsville, may, understandably so, assume the restaurant being discussed is one that is located in Debsville, and become confused and/or disappointed to learn that it isn’t.

All of the rules revert back to the same bottom line: be relevant. Give your audience what they came for, what they expect from you. The above things are fine from a personal account — the difference lies in the fact that those following a personal account come to learn the kind of content to expect from that person, and choose to follow accordingly. Likewise, when someone follows a business account, they’re not doing so for the personal escapades or opinions of the account manager.

Has a brand’s online etiquette ever altered your perception of that brand?