New to twitter? Good, now you know enough to kill yourself.

A long while back, my good friend took a class and earned his diving (SCUBA) certification. In his proud moment of achievement, his dad, an experienced diver, said to him, “Good. Now you know enough to kill yourself.” 

His dad knew that getting into the water and using technology to breathe in it did not make you a competent diver.  In fact, he knew that the false sense of security that most beginning divers have is what really ends up putting them in harm’s way.  I think this is where I throw the same advice for those of us hopping on Twitter (myself included).

“But wait”, you say, “What’s the danger?”  Simply put, it’s the same risk you take on all online, social media activities: reputation and brand management.  “Well, I don’t know, it doesn’t look so bad.  All I do is tell people what I’m doing, right?  Or Maybe I think of clever, witty things to say and that’s all I need, right?” Yeah, and then all your friends think you’re even weirder than before, or worse, you damage the image of your company.

Don’t forget that when you’re blogging, tweeting, commenting or rating, you are still communicating and sending a message out to the world.  Often, in this new era of burst communication and rapid response, we’ve lowered our standards of thinking through our communications to evaluate how they might be received or what other messages we may be unintentionally sending.

If you are tweeting, chirping, burping or blogging, consider the following:

If you are an Organization: You are either well-known, or you are not.  If you are well-known, you either rise to the expectations of your audience / stakeholders, or immediately tank in their perceptions and the entire effort ends up wallowing in a reputation recovery campaign.  If you are an unknown organization (and this applies just as much to a known organization), you are potentially creating a new voice and brand extension by tweeting, and that brand best be intentional and deliberate.  Your tweets and followers will not be many at first, and quite honestly, it’s really not how many followers you have, it’s how many readers you have.  Over time, if your value prop on Twitter is planned and managed as well as your value prop of anything else in your organization, then you will be able to leverage a good following in order to meet stakeholder needs.  Be just as careful launching on Twitter as you should with any other campaign.

If you are an individual:  You’re not expected to have a ton of value on Twitter, unless you’re famous.  Let’s face it, nobody is waiting to pay for text alerts or to log on and see what ‘John or Sally Doe’ has to say. You’re an unknown entity.  You are welcome to experiment, try it out and write boring stuff.  Of course, if you are a celeb, then telling people what you had for breakfast will have them on the edge of their wanna-be seats, waiting for more. Over time, you may want to figure out how Twitter fits into your communication needs and then use it for that purpose, rather than slobber all over the twittersphere for the rest of us to sort through. But if you are known, a name, a brand, then you have some expectations to live up to.  You don’t meet them, the egg – it’s on your face.

In short, now that you are set-up with an account and have sent a few tweets, you know enough to put your brand, image, product, service, personal name out there in an uncontrolled, unmediated environment.  Reputation will be formed, and not always as intentionally as you would like.  But if you at least have a clear objective or purpose for using Twitter, then it will more likely meet your needs, and hopefully the needs of others, and bring you and your followers some value.

Chirp, chirp.

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