I started on Twitter in 2007 as @MarketingProfs, sharing headlines from the site and representing the brand there. Then 5 years later I resuscitated @AnnHandley on Twitter as a personal ID—a handle I’d been squatting on for years but never used.
Why the second account? I guess the easiest answer is that it seemed… I don’t know, time? Because Twitter itself had shifted.
In 2007, when I started on Twitter, things felt a bit quieter. A bit under the radar. I started and assumed the ‘Profs Twitter account first on a lark (let’s see what this is all about, shall we?) and then as it grew… I just kept at it.
Why? Simply: I enjoyed it. (There’s nothing quite like it.) And it’s worked for us. And now, I’m pretty sure MarketingProfs is one of very few major business-to-business brands whose Twitter account is run solely by a shareholder. (Do you know of another? Let me know.)
A subtle but important shift
As Twitter grew in influence as both a social platform and a communication channel for companies, and as the MarketingProfs account has climbed to almost 500K followers, I’ve realized I had recalibrated the way I interact with people there, almost by accident.
It’s been a subtle shift, but an important one.
This idea was on my mind when a question came up at a business event where I spoke recently:
How do you balance the professional-you with the personal-you on social media networks?
In the moment, I advocated for a blending of the two. At its heart, that’s the real opportunity of social media, isn’t it? People do business with people—not faceless, soulless edifices. Don’t you want your prospects and customers online to have an opportunity to get to know you, just as your friends, colleagues and contacts in real life do?
However, since that event, I’ve given the subtleties of the matter and my own behavior a little more thought.
So, how do you balance these two sides of your online identity? Is it one over the other for you? Or are they one and the same?
Here’s how I approach it:
Community trumps curation.
At both of my Twitter accounts, this is the approach that guides my effort: Connecting with others in a kind of loose community, and finding the interesting and relevant amidst the abundance. (The “curation.”)
But at the @MarketingProfs account, I tend to emphasize community over curation even more—because I feel a responsibility to represent and respond both to complaints and to kudos on behalf of the larger organization.
Business casual versus bar casual.
In both of my accounts, I am who I am: My “bigger story” on both accounts is that I’m waging a war on content mediocrity, and I truly want to find the interesting and relevant. It’s in both my bios. But I do that with more brand-centric perspective @marketingprofs; on @annhandley, I tend to have a broader view.
And I’m a bit looser at the account with my name on it, too, sharing my Instagram photos and personal perspectives that I might not share from MarketingProfs. It’s not that what I do on @annhandley wouldn’t be appropriate on @marketingprofs—just using that word makes me feel like an old-school librarian shushing rowdy patrons. Eww.
It would, of course. It’s just that it seems more—I don’t know… fitting?—sharing them with a smaller group of contacts.
What about you? You might be the owner of a cupcake truck. But your bigger story could be that you are passionate about locally sourced food or community-centered activism. Or perhaps you’re just an advocate of embracing the simple joys in life. It could be anything. What matters is that it’s simply true.
(I almost wrote “What matters is that it’s authentic.” But “authentic” has become one of those social buzzwords that has had all the color and life drained out of it, leaving an empty husk of meaning behind. So I didn’t.)
Personalized, not personal.
Social platforms do present an opportunity to show more of the people behind a company. But there’s a fine line between sharing yourself and sharing a little too much of yourself. Actually, I walk this line on both of my accounts.
Think of personalizing your brand, not getting personal.
The former means showing that you’re a real human being, with actual blood flowing through actual veins. You have a point of view, real character, a personality.
The latter is sharing details that are intimate or too specific to you to have relevance for the larger community you are trying to build.
Exactly where that line is varies according to your own brand and that of your company. But to give a broad example: It’s one thing to mention feeling under the weather—that’s personalized. It’s another to say you have an irritating rash in a sensitive spot.
Allergic to too much automation.
Obviously, there are many tools that can help manage and scale your social presence. IFTTT (If This Then That) automates tasks such as auto-saving Instagram photos to Dropbox. Buffer, dlvr.it and others can help you manage multiple accounts and multiple users, as well as see the analytics behind your efforts. For growing companies, these tools can be handy time savers.
But I don’t rely on automation tools as social shortcuts. And more generally, that day on stage, I suggested that people use them to extend and ease their efforts… not supplant them.
I’d like to say that everyone understands this already. But if I had a nickel for every time I got a robo-sent automated direct messages to greet me as a new Twitter follower… well, I’d never fly coach again.
(I get a lot every day, on both accounts. Do you do it? OMG. Stop.)
In social media (and in life, I suppose), true engagement trumps technology.
And by the way, I realize that I’m talking mostly about Twitter here. Probably because Twitter seems less constrained, less boxed-in than most other social networks, at least to me.
Despite its longevity, Twitter persists as a bit of the Wild West (thank god)—with fewer implied rules and a broader mix of people hanging out there, from teens and Walking Dead to March Madness fans to news outlets.
So that’s how I approach it. I suppose some people do all this from one account; I just happen to do it from two.
But what about you? I’d love to know how you work it out.
This article is a revised version of a post originally published in March 2014. Updated March 2018.