I first joined Twitter in 2007. In fact, if www.whendidyoujointwitter.com is correct, I joined on 20th February 2007.
My first account was @dmje. I tweeted in that way that everyone seems to first tweet – a sporadic few “just what the hell is this Twitter thing all about?” followed by a long gap, followed by a re-emergence as more people I knew found themselves on it. I also, of course, blogged (“All Noise, No Signal“) and have been slowly eating my words (some of them, not all) ever since.
For a long time, my @dmje account worked well. But after a while, I started to become very aware that the person that I am (opinionated, personal, direct, a little bit sweary..) was different from the person I either *should* be or was somehow expected to be (professional, supportive, focused).
At that point in time – in fact, prompted by a slightly sweaty moment in which I tweeted a few bits and bobs which I probably shouldn’t have from a professional perspective – I decided to make @dmje a private account and create a new public persona, @m1ke_ellis. Again, according to whendidyoujointwitter, this happened on 22nd May 2009.
I went through a fairly painful process of moving across *some* contacts to my m1ke_ellis account but leaving others at @dmje. My criteria? Very, very loose, but broadly based around: “If we’ve met and drunk a beer together then @dmje, otherwise @m1ke_ellis…”. There are exceptions to this rule, though. Obviously 🙂
I’m now maybe 5 months down the line, and I’m still not entirely happy with the outcome; although each time I think about the possible alternatives I always come back to what I’ve done as being the best way, albeit far from perfect.
Here’s the thinking:
- I can continue to rant, unabridged and privately (except, obviously, to a group of trusted and known personal friends) using my @dmje account. I use this account far more than my public one (sadly, nearly 10,000 tweets…)
- I follow about 120 people, I have about 110 people who I’ve allowed to follow me. These people are real to me. In true Dunbar style, I see my Twitter stream for @dmje and feel a personal connection with each and every person on that list.
- …I can therefore cope with the quantity and noise
- Tweets to and from the @dmje account are much more conversational, much less “broadcast”
- I can retain a “professional” persona at @m1ke_ellis, tweeting about work and technology related stuff. This is particularly useful at conferences and so on
- Having a public account of some description is useful when it comes to feeding a stream to blogs, profile, and so on
- By far and away the single worst thing about this approach is this: I’m not two people, and although this can sometimes get ugly (yes, I ranted about Creative Spaces; no, I wasn’t particularly “professional”, but I feel passionate about some things..)
- From a marketeers perspective (and I don’t subscribe to this viewpoint at all, btw), I’ve done A Bad Thing by splitting my Twitter accounts. While I’ve watched some people moving up to thousands of followers, I’ve split my juice (urg!) across 2 accounts. Actually, more – I also use @bathcamp and @eduserv for other specific purposes. If I was after followers (I’m not), I should probably have stuck with a single “me” account.
- Maintaing two or more accounts is challenging, logistically. Although Tweetdeck (my preferred desktop client) and EchoFon (mobile) both support multiple accounts now, it is very easy to tweet the wrong thing to the wrong account. More to the point, it is hard to maintain momentum with an account if your attention isn’t on it all the time
There is a deeper point to all this: Embracing social media requires a fairly complex understanding of personality and tone of voice. I might be a more professional me over at @m1ke_ellis, but how is that me different to the me at @dmje? You’re not likely to hear about my kids, my wife, my life, my hangovers, the gig I just went to, the #bus14 journey I nearly got killed on.
But there again, if you’re listening to the professional me then you probably don’t want to hear that anyway, right? Or do you? How real is the me who just talks about work? Not very, in one sense, because my family and that other stuff is (obviously) waaaay more important than my working life. And it’s not like I can effectively split my interests in that way. I live and breathe web stuff – this is far from being a day job for me.
Actually, I think the most successful social media people and companies manage to balance this rather better than I have. Take @andypowe11 for example. He’s public and not only tweets about metadata and work stuff but also rants on occasion, too. He’s got better self control than me (he’s as rude, but swears less..), but still.
I don’t like Twitter as broadcast mechanism, and I think naturally once you pass a level of followers/followees that is what it becomes, unless you’re on top of it all of the time. Personally I dislike it when I “@” someone and they don’t reply; clearly someone with thousands of followers is unlikely to respond all of the time. Twitter then moves from being a conversation to being something different, a something which I feel doesn’t carry the personality which social media perhaps should.