Practice Safe Tweeting: How to use social media responsibly and professionally

A few days ago I tweeted about trying aerial yoga for the first time, and by the end of the night I had five new yoga-related followers. None of them had any shared followers as me, and two weren’t even from the state of Texas. To me, this came across as a lame and desperate way of reaching out to potential new customers. Simply typing “YOGA” into the search box and following any and all tweeters who pop up on the list just doesn’t cut it these days. Not to mention that none of them tweeted me with any relevant information pertaining to my initial tweet.

Before signing on to Twitter and Facebook, companies need to understand that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all social media plan for everyone who wishes to enter the webosphere. It’s essential that each company examine itself before jumping on the social media bandwagon. In my opinion, these are the questions you should ask yourself when determining if and when to use social media for your PR and communications plans:

What are you trying to accomplish?

If you just want to talk to an “audience” and promote your brand, stick to advertising. If you’re just trying to get press coverage by pimping out your clients or bombing unsuspecting journalists with traditional pitches, you’re likely to tick off quite a few people along the way.  But if you want to engage and communicate with consumers, social networking sites are usually the way to go.

Social media can be a key element to a successful communications plan, because that seems to be where the media is hanging out these days. You just have to be tactful with how you approach them.

You also have to develop measurable goals and objectives prior to launching a social media campaign. You have to know what you want the end result to be, when you want it to happen, and how you plan to measure and evaluate whether or not you succeeded.


  • To have 500 new iPhone/Android application downloads by October 2012
  • To get a 20% increase in volunteer hours each week (from 40 to 48 hours per week) by June 2012
  • To increase the frequency of original web content by producing 1 blog post per week (total of 52 blog posts) for every week until November 2012

Whom are you trying to reach?

New customers? Journalists? Bloggers? B2B companies? When using social media, you have to understand whom you’re trying to reach before deciding which platforms to use. The same message does not apply to all.

Twitter is great for engaging customers, while LinkedIn has been a proven tool for developing new B2B leads and connections. A June 2010 study showed that “LinkedIn drove the most referrals to B2B sites with a total of 17,618 leads versus Facebook and Twitter, which only drove 4465 and 6170 leads respectively.”

What are the legal and ethical considerations?

Before implementing a social media campaign, your business must also address possible ethical and legal concerns that might arise. Many people in your workplace might already use Twitter and Facebook in their personal lives, so you have to make sure to set a list of do’s and don’ts for employees using social media in the office. Your company policy should cover posting of private, confidential or sensitive information.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to chat with Officer Ryan Grelle, the man behind the Denton Police Department’s Twitter page. In early 2011, Denton PD took part in an unusual social media experiment when they used Twitter to broadcast every dispatched call for nine hours straight. What made them unique was that they recognized the potential legal and ethical issues of doing this and took precautions to prevent any problems.

For example, if they tweeted with specific personal information or crime locations, they ran the risk of citizens hopping their own cars to rush to the scene. In order to avoid that, they divided the city of Denton into districts and tweet very general crime information. “For example, if the call came in for a shoplifting at Wal-Mart on Loop 288, the tweet would read ‘District 12- Shoplifting,’” Grelle told Denton Tweets.

In addition to tweeting dispatch calls, Denton PD also uses Twitter to provide information on who to call if your power goes out, how to prepare for an earthquake, and what the traffic conditions look like for those headed to the football game on Friday night.

Would you want to follow you?

Once you have all of your questions answered on what your goals are, who to reach out to, and how to communicate with them, the final step is developing your plan of attack. Try to avoid sounding like a stiff, corporate talking head if your goal is to use Twitter to improve customer service with consumers. Develop relationships, build trust and go from there. You have to become the kind of person you would want to follow, “like” or connect with.

So to the yoga followers mentioned above: If you want to follow me, that’s great, but also do something to make me want to follow you back. If you see I went to a yoga class at another studio, tell me why I should come to yours instead. Offer me a coupon code. Give me some information I can actually use. Otherwise, you’re just another useless egg avatar to me.

2 Responses to “Practice Safe Tweeting: How to use social media responsibly and professionally”
  1. bszumins says:

    Thank you for this great advice! I’m studying social media usage in class right now and I love all of these tips. I especially love the last section “Would you follow you?” I am definitely sharing this with my PRSSA group!


  2. Bridget,

    Thank you for the comment! I hope your PRSSA group finds the tips useful as well.

    Take care,

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