Personal Tweets on a Professional Account, Can It Be Done and Still Be Professional?

I read an interesting article this morning, ”Strictly business? Personal tweets make profs more “credible“ the author, Jacqui Cheng, referred to a study in the March issue of Learning, Media and Technology that “students perceive instructors who make social tweets as more credible than instructors who remain strictly business.”

It seems that the students like to know that their professors are human, and have a life besides their profession. In some way that sharing of personal information increased their perceived credibility to students more so than those who completely did scholarly tweets.

Interesting.  While I consider this a professional blog, I do let my personality seep through often.  Whether it is a story about the realization that  being a librarian is in my DNA when I organized my attic, or quick little references to the 80′s or other pop culture items, I find that these stories or analogies best convey my point or thought to readers.  If it just happens to provide a brief window into my mind, so be it. 

I would say for most people it is ok to mix a little personal stuff in with your professional Twitter, blog or Facebook account.  A funny picture of a cat or an appropriate story, isn’t going to hurt anyone.  But what if I were tweeting, blogging, or managing the Facebook page of my library or another professional site where it is clear that it is an institution not a individual’s account? Credibility is extremembly important for an institution, especially medical. Is it possible to inject some personable or social bit of information on to an organization’s professional site?  What is the “personality” of the library/organization and how do you show it and remain professional?  The organization’s “personality” is made up of more than just the person blogging, tweeting, etc. so this can be even trickier.

Is there a difference between personal social media and organizational/institutional social media regarding credibility?  Can an organization, business, or institution have a social media presence that is professional yet have “social” type tweets or posts?  I think it is very tricky to do well, and that is why you often have some spectacular failures when businesses try to reach out and get personal with their customers.   The fear of an epic #fail probably causes many business to be strictly professional, with little “personality.” Yet, when there is a company that puts some personality into their social presence like, Old Spice, they are highly profiled (there is case study on Old Spice’s success).  Now does that mean that Old Spice is considered more credible than similar brand companies that play it straight?  Kind of hard to compare a men’s shower gel and shaving cream company to the same notion of credibility regarding science and medical institutions.  But what is the harm in showing something like the image of the Bookmas Tree in your library or the nurse at Mass General (article) who made the Cal Stat Rap (YouTube video)?

If you have a personal professional presence, you can certainly infuse a little social personality into it and remain professional, as long as you don’t over share with things that have your readers mimicking  the Hear No Evil, See No Evil monkeys while chanting “TMI!”  If you are responsible for an institutional or organization site, it might be more difficult to interject some personality, but it can be done.

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