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Twitter is a Public Way to Have a Private Conversation

Twitter is a Public Way to Have a Private Conversation

Exploring Social Media article series badgeMy husband was doing his best to explain Twitter to non-techy friends of ours. As the experienced web user and teacher, I was fascinated to hear how he would explain something he’s never used.

Twitter is a public way to have a private conversation.

He’s very right. In “Silly Out-of-Context Tweets — Can They Hurt? brings up the “elephant in the room” that describes much of what Twitter is, does, and can do, especially when meets search engine, exposing your tweets to the world.

Ever heard someone describe something you weren’t prepared to hear about? Ever had it happen online? Ever had one of your random “tweets” show up in a Google Search or a Google Alert?

…It can be weird. It can be funny. But the potential of words out of context doesn’t feel good. We know what we meant, but not everyone who see those out-of-context words would.

…Imagine how a random tweet might seem to folks who just dropped in to see who we are, to get reference, or to explore some social media topic our comment was in. It’s probably a good thing most clients or family wouldn’t start with Google Blog Search or a Google Alert.

Or do they? If someone is researching your credibility, reputation, and identity, especially if they want to do business with you, isn’t the first spot they hit usually Google? It used to be enough that they found your old college pranks and drunken episodes on YouTube or Flickr. What are they going to think if they find your tweets? Especially your tweets out of context.

As Liz goes on to say:

Can silly out-of-context Tweets hurt? The Internet has a long memory and no eraser.

Twitter is one big party, a giant social gathering you wander through, catching ear fulls of things you might just smile at, others ignore, and even more likely, over hear bits and pieces of a conversation that shock.

We’ve all done that. While some liken Twitter to the “Some Enchanted Evening” phenomenon where “you may see a stranger across a crowded room” – in this case, across a crowded room could mean a life long lover or a destroyed reputation.

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Here are a few tips and twitiquette to help you avoid that over-heard-misunderstood and out-of-context online statement.

  1. Your Grandmother Will Read This: Pretend or assume that your grandparents, parents, or people whose trust and respect you desire will read what you tweet.
  2. Your Boss or Client Will Read This: What if someone you depend upon for your income will read your tweet out of context. What will they think? What will they assume about you? How will they react? Is it worth your job?
  3. Your Kids Will Read This: What you say today may haunt you forever. Online data is being preserved at a phenomenal rate and what you say today online may be found by your children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and beyond. Think about what a historian or anthropologist finding your tweet 200 years from now will think. Tweet for posterity.
  4. Does This Really Represent YOU: There are two ways to think about this. Does your tweet really represent you, the real you, or does it represent the you that you want the world to see? The professional you? The one who gets out of the sweats and into the business suit, ready to make the money roll in? Remember, there are different sides of ourselves we show the world. Which one do you want the virtual world to see in your tweets?
  5. Will This Enhance My Reputation: If what you are about to submit to the world will enhance or build your credibility and reputation, then hit submit. If it will hurt, don’t.
  6. Your Reputation is Based Upon You and Job Performance, Not Your Tweets: In the end, it’s what others say about you that makes or breaks your reputation, not just what you say online. Make sure your tweets are retweetable and you and your online content are worth tweeting about.
  7. What You Say Can Be Held Against You: Libel and defamation from online conversations and public postings are making their way through the courts. What you say on Twitter or other social media sites can be held against you in a court of law if what you say breaks, or even just bends, the law. Tweet carefully and know the laws about freedom of speech and expression in your country and around the world. What you say in one country could be against the law in another. The Internet is breaking down those barriers, as is the international court system.
  8. If In Doubt, DM: If you are ever worried about how something you tweet might be interpreted, or misinterpreted, direct message or email it. Keep it out of the public eye.

Remember, it’s okay to have fun. It’s okay to make jokes online. It’s even okay to play with satire. Just remember that you are writing words with only emoticons for emotional punch. Twitter and online social networks are no different from email, blog comments, and live chat. What you may think is funny can easily be interpreted by others to be mean.

Liz ends with the following that we also need to remember:

Twitter is more than 140 characters that float away on the stream.

explore social mediaCheck out the rest of the posts in this series on Exploring Social Media on the .

View Comments (3)
  • The headline is really great! And as a real twitter fan I must remark, that it truly says what twitter is in only such a few words. Hope, you agree quoting this.

  • I love the title too and the great explanations here.
    You’re things to think about, especially the Grandma part, is great :-)

    Thank You,
    Maria Reyes-McDavis
    Social Marketing with Impact

    P.S. Great quote from @lizstrauss, always good to remember in the end, if nothing else!

  • Great article and how true. Loved the bit about the web having no eraser.

    I recently came across a comment I made in a good old fashioned Bulletin Board back in 1996. The annoying thing is that I now totally disagree with my own comment. Sobering! Take heed of this article.

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