“Advances in computer technology and the Internet have changed the way America works, learns, and communicates. The Internet has become an integral part of America’s economic, political, and social life.” (Bill Clinton – US President, politician, porn star, some random guy)
So… You’ve created a Twitter account, you realize that you have exactly 140 characters in which to articulate yourself (I can shorten that to “talk”, right?), and you start getting your social networking groove on… Then it happens, you’ve gone from a college communicating level to a preschool level… “OMG tht was CUL u shud follow me & i follow u 2!” (I have 92 characters left so I can add a link to some cat pictures! Sweet!)
“But Tami,” you say, “I don’t want to sound like a stiff. Tweeters don’t follow boring people!”
Too true! There must be a balance between appearing professional and being approachable on Twitter… cough Pardon me, on the Twitters. You want to appear to be in the now, be on the up-and-up, and still appear to be intelligent, professional, and worthy of landing your dream job. So how do you tread this tightrope of tweeting?
In the history of the written and spoken language there is a precedence of acronyms (a couple of letters that stand for something much longer) being gradually accepted as real words. For instance, the word “radar” was originally an acronym in the US Navy that meant RAdio Detection And Ranging. The words “scuba”, “sonar”, and “laser” are other words like this. There are also acronyms that are used extensively by the general populace like FBI, FAQ, and CD-ROM that are accepted ways of communicating in any forum. And for those “LOL” haters, the term “OK” dates back to the early 19th century and came about in much the same way.
Which of the common internet acronyms are acceptable in professionally casual communication? Which are considered more of a “geek-speak”? You can generally consider yourself safe using anything that you’d say out loud in casual conversation. In addition to that there are a few very useful and common terms that are becoming more accepted into the language, such as ATM (at the moment) and BTW (by the way).
What is NOT professionally acceptable is shortening “you” to “u”, or “to” to “2”. It’s considered either lazy, uneducated, or rude. Now if you’re trying to advertise to the world that you’re a teenager texting about your latest crush or finally reaching puberty, go right ahead. The same goes for ripping letters out of perfectly good words. “Should” should never become “Shud”, for instance. It makes you sound uneducated, and that’s not the image you want to project.
Do you really want to post that picture of yourself peeing in the bushes at a music concert? Or the one where the beer bong was a bit too much to handle and you’re soaked in the lovely fragrance of hops and barley? Would you be just as eager for it to be published in your local newspaper? Think of it this way: The internet has an audience of… oh… the entire world. Your local newspaper not so much. One inappropriately linked/posted picture can ruin months of carefully cultivating your reputation.
If you feel you have to share, get a facebook account. Then make sure your privacy settings are as tight as your grandma’s pursed lips when she sees your drunken escapades. It might also help to make sure you don’t add your co-workers to your friends list. Even better, use an alias and get a flickr account that your friends know about.
“Using Twitter like a dandelion uses the wind… Spreading messages, not exactly knowing where they might go, some taking roots and blossoming, some making an adventurous journey through the air but not falling on fertile ground. So what? A process of beauty and joy.” (Detlef Cordes – blogger and artist)
What you have to ask yourself is this: “What do I want to gain from Twitter?” Do you want to spread your teachings to the world? Do you want to keep current within your chosen profession? Do you want to hang around the “world wide watercooler” and chat with your friends and associates? Whatever your purpose for using Twitter, try to keep it in mind with every tweet. Don’t derail yourself in a moment of weakness, just like you wouldn’t wear a hawaiian shirt under your suitcoat to meet with the boss. (Unless that’s your style, I suppose. In which case go ahead and make it fabulous.)
You don’t have to always post cold hard facts and boring news links, or pimp yourself out like clockwork every fourth afternoon between 3 and 4. Show the person behind the tweeter. That’s what people are looking for when they look for you on Twitter. Take the opportunity to show the world the person you want them to see.
But dear gods, keep in mind that they ARE judging you by what you’re showing them.
As I close up this post, I just want to state again… in 140 characters or less:
Portray yourself as intelligent. Don’t make an idiot of yourself, but tweet with flare. And always keep your purpose in mind. #twitterquette (0 characters remaining)