Who’s Listening?

By June 28, 2011Social Media

Today’s guest post is from Ken Mueller of Inkling Media.

Social Media platforms can be incredibly personal. For those of us who spend a good part of our day communicating via Twitter, it is not only personal, but has become second nature. So much so that we really do need to stop and think from time to time before we Tweet.

If you’re anything like me, you use Twitter for both personal and business reasons. You might even have two separate accounts, but we need to remember, it’s hard to separate the two. I’m a sole proprietor; I AM my business. People associate me with Inkling Media. Anything I say on my personal account will affect how people view me. That includes clients and prospective clients. Even if you are one of those people whose Twitter bio reads, “I also tweet for @[businessname] but my tweets here are mine alone and not those of my employer,” you need to think before you tweet. You can throw down all the caveats and disclaimers in the world, but if you annoy or alienate me on your personal Twitter account, and I know that you work for Joe’s Taco Shack, there’s a good chance I’ll go elsewhere when I’m jonesing for a taco.

It basically comes down to whether or not you have a filter. This can either be your own internal filter, or an external filter, or both. I normally have a pretty good internal filter. I find that in both the personal and professional realms, there are certain topics I’ll avoid. Those include politics and religion. Oh I have very distinct opinions on both of those topics, and I might make the occasional mention, but I also know that Twitter might not be the best realm for discussing them in any meaningful way. 140 characters of text can certainly limit understanding and cause confusion.

Additionally, I also tend to avoid any sort of profanity or off-color humor. I don’t really speak like that in my real life, so why should I talk like that on Twitter or Facebook? I know that there are some people I follow that I would NEVER want to work with based on their “sense of humor”. Often, I might even unfollow them if it gets out of hand. Some folks seem to wear their brashness like a badge of honor. Sorry, I’m not buying.

I also have at least two external filters in place. Very often you’ll hear someone say, “Don’t put anything online you wouldn’t want your mother to see.” Well, my 77-year old mom is one of my filters. She subscribes to my blog via email, and while she doesn’t understand most of what I blog about, just knowing that she’s reading my blog does have an effect on what I write. For instance, while I don’t use profanity, my mom’s definition of profanity and mine, are decidedly different, mostly based on being from different generations. I remember my mom making a big deal about one of her grandchildren using the “F-word” once. I was shocked that one of them would use it, and then discovered that to her, the “F-word” is “fart”. Yup. That’s my mom. Needless to say, the word “fart” won’t appear in my blog (but I’m more than OK using it here on Marijean’s blog! Hope your mom doesn’t mind, MJ!)

My second external filter is my 21-year old daughter. She recently joined Twitter as a way of being a part of the Tony Awards. But, now she’s there. And she follows me. She’s a great kid and we get along really well, but knowing that she is reading my tweets does make me pause from time to time. She’s kinda nosy and won’t hesitate to question me on things. So I’m now learning to put my tweets through an “Elizabeth Filter.”

Do you have a good filter in place? External, internal or both? What rules do you have in place for yourself? Are there certain types of language, behavior, or content that you don’t like seeing on Twitter, Facebook, or other social platforms?




  • Marijean says:

    My filters are my clients, my almost-daughter-in-law and friends who don’t hesitate to point out when I’ve dipped a toe over the line. kmueller62 on the other hand, is always trying to get me to step over that line! There are also topics and people that are off-limits. I think, more than anything, you or your company needs to stop and take the time to decide what those parameters are and, if necessary, write them somewhere BIG or have them tattooed on the inside of your arm.

  • RichardGarrityPowers says:

    My filters include my parents and business partner. That being said, I have to admit I am not the best at filtering. My company and blog postings are pretty PC, but my personal Facebook and twitter account can blur the lines. The best example I can think of is sharing music and events. I have a broad taste in music and sometimes post very aggressive hip hop and dubstep styles that could be considered “R” rated on my personal accounts.

    Do filters depend on what type of business you are?

  • KenMueller says:

    @Marijean kmueller62 Haha. I’m only trying to get you to step over the line in private conversations! And I have succeeded on a few occasions.

  • KenMueller says:

    @RichardGarrityPowers I think the type of business can be a big factor, definitely. A lot depends on your style, your target market, etc.

  • MollyFulton says:

    I have similar filters, and I must say that social media has been an interesting exercise in authenticity for me. It’s natural to wear different masks for different audiences – and maybe “mask” is too pejorative. Maybe it’s more like different outfits for different occasions. I’ve got my work clothes, my church clothes, my sloppy around the house clothes. But when I think about what I say online, I’m aware that my coworkers, my pastor, my 70 YO parents, my 16 year old daughter, my uber cool brother, my highly skeptical misanthropic sister, my community could be in the audience. So while I try to be my best and truest self, I think hard about the impact my words can have. Words can encourage and ennoble or words can kill. My filter is prioritizing how my words might make other people feel, and knowing how wide and deep the reach of my digital words is.

  • KenMueller says:

    @MollyFulton I think you pretty much nailed it right there, and i like the outfit analogy. I think some of us change outfits, while others change masks.

  • CvlKulow says:

    What @MollyFulton said! We perform so many different roles through our professional and personal lives; these public filters erase any lines we may have thought existed. My filters include the variety of communities I interact with, as well as teen children on FB, the older teen son who just joined Twitter to follow his sports and music heroes, and — probably the strongest — my spouse who does not participate in SM and is discomforted by the entire prospect.

    The challenge, again as Molly said, is to be clear and honest with each of those communities (and avoid any mention of MrK).

    Thanks for this thoughtful post, Ken.

  • KenMueller says:

    @CvlKulow @MollyFulton Thanks for stopping by and reading, and thanks to MJ for letting me write here!

  • Marijean says:

    @MollyFulton Molly, I love this comment so much I want YOU to be my next guest poster. What a perfect analogy. Following that, I have to admit, sometimes I’m caught in my sloppy around the house clothes at the store where I run into a client, but I really think for the most part, that’s OK too, as above all, I try to be human and “keep it real.” (And I’m serious about the post – you’re a wonderful writer.)

  • MollyFulton says:

    @Marijean Well, dang! That’s mighty nice of you MJ. I’d be honored.