It’s no secret we’re big into social media here at SHIFT. Employees are encouraged to be involved on social networks and use them to stay up-to-date on industry news, client industry news and connect with reporters. We even invented the social media press release. As we read a post on PandoDaily this week arguing why public relations professionals should stay away from personal Twitter accounts, we made a point-by-point argument in our heads about why public relations professionals should use the social network. If it’s in our heads, then why shouldn’t we share it here with you on the blog?

We don’t all have to create our own personal brands, but using social networks is really helpful to our jobs. Here are a few reasons we have to respectfully disagree with the author:

A personal Twitter account can benefit you and your client.
There’s no question that PR professionals are busy; it’s a lot to juggle several clients, day-to-day responsibilities and be up-to-speed on the latest in the industry. That said, it’s entirely possible to balance your personal brand and your client work. In fact, we would argue that developing your personal brand on Twitter can actually help you in your daily PR responsibilities.

Twitter is one of the best resources to stay on top of real-time news and trends. By following reporters, publications and competitors within your clients’ industries, you can keep track of what’s happening in real-time.  (As pointed out by our wonderful Media Relations Manager Matt Nagel in the comments of the original post.) This serves as way for PR pros to discover new story ideas or offer up timely comments to a reporter. It’s not uncommon for journalists to tweet requests for sources for stories they’re working on.

One can argue that you can do this from a brand or client account, but interacting with reporters from your own account will build better relationships. We find that when reporters are interacting with a person, not a brand – it makes for a better and more personalized connection. The reporter eventually comes to trust that your name (hopefully) means they’ll know someone that can help them with a story when the time comes. Occasionally, the same reporter will be relevant for other clients you work with, and that relationship won’t be available to you if you’re connecting from a client account.

It’s flawed reasoning that you can get to know someone personally while using a branded account. While brands are as human as the community managers behind them, they can’t always show their personal sides while maintaining a brand perspective.

Using someone like Justine Sacco as a reason PR pros should avoid Twitter is a bad example. It’s also a circular argument: Justine Sacco happened, therefore you should avoid Twitter, so you don’t become Justine Sacco. Her career as a public relations professional isn’t relevant to what happened. She could have worked in finance or human resources, and the result would have been the same. The real problem is when people say inappropriate things online because they feel they can get away with them. Or because it’s their personal account, and their “personal opinions aren’t a reflection on their employers” right? Not so much.

Learning that lesson for the first time on a client account? It’s not exactly the ideal way to teach someone new how to be responsible for client social accounts. For what it’s worth, brands say bad things every day too. Some of those mistakes will live on forever in the form of a Buzzfeed post.

Using Social Networks Personally Can Help You Learn Them Inside Out
We’ll admit that it’s false to say that you can’t learn about social media through using a brand account, but it’s sort of like saying you don’t have to know how to cook to make a good filet mignon. Part of running a brand account is certainly about trying new campaigns and ways to engage with your followers. At SHIFT, we test out a lot of things on our company website and social accounts, but we feel more comfortable doing that because our employees have experience using social media on their own prior to joining our ranks. The risk is greater that someone will get it wrong without the training and practice beforehand.

Consider asking someone who has never used social media before how they would respond to someone who is complaining on Twitter about something their company had done. Most people would react without considering how that response could lead to a conversation that could damage the brand or how quickly it could – and will likely – spiral out of control.

There’s a world of knowledge that exists from others you might not follow from a client account. For example, I like staying up to date on what is happening in the PR and marketing world. I tend make it a daily habit to talk with others in the industry and hear what’s working for them, what isn’t, and how they’re changing the game. It empowers me to be a better PR/marketing professional. If I were representing only B2B technology clients, it wouldn’t make much sense for me to follow those types of accounts from client Twitter handles.

If Twitter Stresses You Out, You’re Doing It Wrong.
The Internet is all about consuming what you want to consume. You choose who you follow and interact with those you want to. It doesn’t always have to be about work 24/7.

For example, the majority of my Twitter activity is focused on hockey. I’m a big hockey fan, and I love engaging with other fans and commenting on games real-time. It’s flat out fun for me and enables me to connect with others who have similar interests. That does include work-related content from time to time, but Twitter is a great supplement to hobbies you have outside of that. It never hurts to disconnect for a while, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid Twitter altogether.

There’s always more than one way to use a tool. There is also more than one way to organize information so you’re getting something that’s important to you without all the noise that exists online. If the noise becomes unbearable, filter it out; just don’t completely shut off a tool that delivers information relevant to you. One of the keys to educating yourself on something new is having different sources of information to learn from.

We can’t really imagine how you can do your job in PR or marketing without using Twitter in your own way to learn about how things work on both sides of the coin (business and personal). However, we do agree that everyone has different opinions, and that’s okay too. In fact, it’s what makes the web – and Twitter – so great; we have the opportunity to open up and share our thoughts.

Amanda Grinavich
Marketing Analyst


Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk