Chances are your staff are already using social media, whether or not you choose to use Twitter for business in your firm. They may be networking online with clients, potential clients, prospects and their friends.

You may have asked them to manage your firm’s Twitter account but worry about unprofessional content. As a result, you may want to ban them from using it at all!

Using Twitter for business attracts slightly less attention among small firms than it did a couple of years ago but we have updated this post because owners of small professional firms still often ask:

If I use Twitter for business, how can I make sure my staff are professional?

Twitter for business and tweeting professionally

Twitter comments are much more public than comments on Facebook or LinkedIn. Therefore, this raises the danger of a clash between the personal and professional. Successfully using Twitter for business means you must always consider the content and level of professionalism in your tweets.

The problem may just be perception

Traditional corporate communications to clients and prospects never used to discuss non-work topics. Twitter can be perceived as unprofessional as a result of the different communication style (and understanding of social media). The truth is that Twitter, and social media more generally, often relies on conversation, or ‘social media engagement‘.

Can I stop my staff using Twitter for business?

You could stop your staff from using Twitter on your behalf, or in any way that can be connected with your firm. You could probably block it from your IT system. But this has downsides:

  • Your staff might think you don’t trust them.
  • It will stop your staff from using it to benefit your firm (and there are big potential benefits here).
  • If your team want to use Twitter at work, they will! With mobile phones, they can tweet anyway.

Twitter and mobile phones

  • You could ask them to use Twitter from a private account. Now they can tweet about work and how they help clients, but their tweets can only be seen by their connections. This option has some merits, but it doesn’t help you build trust (or market your firm).
  • You could ask them to completely disassociate themselves from the firm. Never mention by name where they work, or what they do for work – and to not use their own name in their Twitter details. If you decide to go down this draconian route, they will use it anyway, but completely anonymously. This gets around any perceived problems, but will prevent your firm getting the business development or networking benefits that are there for the taking

I am worried about the unprofessional use of Twitter

What rarely works  is telling your staff, ‘you must tweet like this‘ because of my reputation’. Giving them a strict list of what they can or cannot do on Twitter creates resistance and discontent. Discuss what is appropriate to tweet or not tweet (e.g. keep away from politics, religion, anything which may annoy our clients, swearing, online bullying or racist comments).

Consider these points to discuss with your team.

  1. Their own personal online reputation: Your team may not have fully considered who reads their tweets (suppliers, prospects, clients and future employers). Ask them what reputation they want to create. Do they want a future employer (or client) to read they ‘went out on the lash last night, had a wicked time, and hungover today at work‘? Rephrasing as ‘had a few cheeky beers with friends last night‘ may work. Good staff will understand how social media comments can affect their future career prospects.
  2. Discuss “appropriateness”: What is OK to tweet, when associated with your firm’s name? Ask what enhances the firm’s brand and what does the opposite. Agree what is, and isn’t, appropriate to be tweeted (if associated with the firm’s name).
  3. Protecting their tweets: If your team wants the freedom to post everything and anything, even after you have helped them understand the importance of their online footprint, ask them to  not to communicate anything online which could associate them with your firm. That includes not saying where they work on their profile; which means that they won’t be able to use Twitter in this way to build their personal reputation or career.
  4. Relationship building needs a personal aspect: Tweets about last night’s TV may not be professional (your opinion), but can be great small talk when building relationships with potential clients. It might not be your style, but clients may want to work with the personal brand of your staff. Trying to remove online (and offline) individuality often doesn’t work.
  5. The employment contract: If nothing else works, remind them their employment contract says they may not bring the firm into disrepute. This is one of the reasons your firm needs a social media policy.

Twitter for business

If you are interested in using Twitter for business (if it doesn’t damage you, and helps grow your firm), your key considerations are:

How will you ensure this change in the workplace can benefit your firm?

Written by Heather Townsend helps professionals and firms become the Go-To-Expert. If you want to grow your firm, and get more from your team, download Leading your team to new heights: Five essentials that every professional should be doing , click for your copy.