Over the last decade, the use of social media by celebrities, business professionals, and politicians has increased exponentially. Throughout that time, we have noticed an alarming number of people in highly visible positions who may not realize that there is no separation between personal and professional when it comes to the influence social media can have on businesses and reputations. Put simply and bluntly, what you post on a personal account will be read as if you posted it on a professional account. There is no distinction between the two in the public’s eye. What you post as an individual will be read and interpreted by your readers as your professional point of view in your function as an employee or employer. As well, published, personal biases and opinions can influence your business in significant ways.

[bctt tweet=”There is no separation between personal and professional when it comes to #socialmedia.” username=”dashfactor”]

Twitter, in particular, is complicated, since it is much harder to avoid misstatements and misunderstandings when you are limited to only 140 characters. The probability of a communication problem seems to escalate exponentially when you have fewer words to convey your message or point of view, since it is impossible to use qualifying language and disclaimers to clarify your intended message.

The following tips on responsible tweeting are critical for anyone who tweets or posts on social media, whether personally or professionally:

Speak Up, Speak Out, but Think First

We are all for taking a stand. The best leaders do. You can be for or against something, you can publicly speak your beliefs, you can even share personal information about yourself and your life. But think before you tweet. Are you extremely angry? Are your thoughts unfocused? Will you possibly regret what you post later? Would you still tweet your mind, if you knew your post would be read by your boss, a shareholder, a customer, or your mother?

[bctt tweet=”THINK before you #TWEET. It’s that simple.” username=”dashfactor”]

Don’t Get Too Personal

By all means, share insights into who you are as a person. Engagement increases when you are authentically you. But balance what you share with what really belongs behind closed doors. We have all seen countless business leaders, politicians, and celebrities lose status, jobs, and respect because they didn’t know when too much was too much.

Some of the things you do should be totally private. This is true especially with information about your social activities that might not be seen as appropriate within your professional or public life. Twitter isn’t a private journal; it is open to millions of people. Don’t unnecessarily give anyone ammunition that they can launch against you later on when your guard is down. Never share anything that could be seen as unprofessional by a large number of clients, associates, or employees.

Keep this in mind: Your competitors and rivals (or even a former spouse) can read what you post, and it only takes a second to grab a screenshot. Deleting tweets is a poor defense at best.

Politics and Religion Are Always Hot Potatoes

Unless your profession is inseparable from your politics and your faith, be careful about sharing too much that is political or religious in nature. This is more difficult to do during heated political campaigns, such as the 2016 US presidential election, but political and religious posts can have a huge impact on other people’s perception of you – and they can cause serious professional and business harm if your views differ from the dominant opinions held in an area where you are operating professionally (or in new markets in which you are trying to enter).

Wait Until You Are Less Emotional

If you are upset, angry, or exhausted, don’t tweet! Full stop. Period. End of discussion. Many of the biggest blunders that occur are  a direct result of emotional impairment. If you are upset at all, take time to calm down before tweeting.

[bctt tweet=”If you are upset, angry, or exhausted, don’t tweet! Full stop. Period. End of discussion.” username=”dashfactor”]

Remember: Tweets Last Forever

What you say can and will be used against you … in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. Your tweets last forever. Even if you quickly delete them, there is a chance that they will be saved and used later in a way that will harm you, personally and professionally.

Proofread Your Tweets

Before clicking the tweet button, read over what you’ve written, and make sure you don’t have any typos. Autocorrect is not necessarily your friend. We all have the occasional error where our phones think they know more than we do about what we’re trying to say, but if you make a habit of demonstrating a true lack of grammar, spelling, and comprehension, it will reflect poorly on you.

Not Every Tweet Needs to be Contentious

Social media is used by some people as a place to launch personal attacks against others. Twitter is particularly tempting in this regard, since a user can fire off short, quick broadsides without spending a lot of time composing complicated arguments. However, you may often come across as mean-spirited and bullying when you take this approach – and that can be crippling to your business and reputation.

Again, before posting any tweet, ask yourself how you would react if someone else posted that exact same tweet about you – and understand that the action you are attacking might be necessary for you to take in the future. There is an element of karma about a record that never disappears for those who use social media as a weapon.

The Key to Responsible Tweeting

Twitter can be a powerful medium that enhances your professional reputation and business endeavors, but you must use it responsibly for that to happen. Improper tweeting can have the opposite impact. Understanding and following the suggestions above will help you succeed. Don’t underestimate them because of their simplicity. To err is human. To forgive is something quite different. And if Twitter can become a contributing factor in the falling approval ratings of a US President, then it is certainly a medium that deserves our respect and attention.

[bctt tweet=”Responsible tweeting – a @DaShfactor guide to tweeting well. #twitteretiquette” via=”no”]