Five years ago, you opened a Twitter account so you could trade barbs with your college buddies. Twitpic was going strong so you routinely uploaded party photos to your stream and there was that one time you pulled that questionable prank then bragged about it in 35 consecutive Tweets. It was all in good fun and you even got a reputation for being the guy everyone should follow if they wanted a laugh.
That was before your startup burst on to the scene.
Before the investors and the press and the talk of IPO’s and buyouts. Suddenly you’re not a college kid anymore. Now you’re an entrepreneur and every one of those old Tweets is coming back to haunt you. It’s not that you did anything that bad, but when an investor hands over a check for $10 million dollars, he likes to think that he’s investing in a solid CEO–not a wild and free frat boy.
I hear some of you saying, ‘hey, that’s who I am. If somebody doesn’t like it, then they can just move along’. This is true and if you’re a solopreneur then it’s only your own reputation at risk. Stand on principle and see how that goes.
Once you have employees or you’ve hitched your social media profile to a brand-name wagon, it’s a different story. Fair or not, we’re all judged by the company we keep. If you’re the bad boy in a company full of straight-laced lawyers your attitude could be putting the whole company at risk. All it takes is one big client who doesn’t share your enthusiasm for self-medication and it’s all over. The Twitter rolls are filled with people who lost a job because they over-shared.
Now you’re thinking you can continue to be yourself as long as you make your Twitter account private or post under a fake name.
All it takes is one friend who doesn’t understand the word “private” or a smart journalist who connects the dots from IMaFunGuy to you. Monday morning, you’re the top story in the Huffington Post.
There’s no way around this, I promise you. If you want a good reputation, you can’t just talk the phony talk, you have genuinely walk the walk.
In Repped, Andy Beal quotes Abraham Lincoln and I’m going to quote them both:
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
Your reputation will only ever be as good as your character. Sure, just as hand puppeteers can contort their fingers to display a bunny shadow on a wall, so too could you manipulate your reputation to be something other than your true nature. But how long would you be able to hold that pose? It wouldn’t be long before your audience realizes that you’re not a cute, fluffy bunny after all, just a bunch of knuckles and fingernails.
This is where you have to decide how far you can and are able to go for the sake of your business. Cleaning up your public persona is going to be a lot harder for some than for others.
Let’s take cursing, for instance. I don’t curse (a habit from my school teacher days) but I know people who can’t make an English sentence without using at least one foul word. Personally, I don’t think professionals should use such language on Twitter but there are some industries where it’s not a big deal. Now, if you just launched an app aimed at pre-schoolers, I’d clean up my act and fast.
And since we’re talking about cleaning up, let’s go back to those Tweets you posted when you were young and free. Delete them now. If you need to get rid of every post before you had your epiphany, use a tool like Tweet Delete. If you had only momentary lapses, go to your Twitter settings page and request an archive of your account. Then you can skim for problem posts and delete only those.
Once you’ve cleaned up your past, it’s time to make a plan for the future. The easiest way to do this is to follow the grandmother rule; you wouldn’t want your grandmother to read it, don’t post it.
Time for you to chime in on today’s question: Personal account or business account, is it ever okay to curse on Twitter?