Is Twitter Killing You?

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Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to you is becoming wildly successful…

Many people fail to realize the time, energy and effort it takes to be successful in Social Media. It’s true that you can definitely reap the rewards of that success, but it’s also true that sometimes being too successful can become overbearing and unmanageable. The truth is that you would much rather get to the point of being wildly successful and figuring out how to manage it all than having the Social Media equivalent of crickets when you try to connect online.

The personal brand and the corporate brand are heading towards a head-on collision.

Todd Defren over at PR Squared had a great Blog titled, Our Corporate Brand Is Cramping My Personal Brand, in which he states: "…star employees will carefully evaluate the reputation and socialstreams of their would-be employers, to determine whether they want to associate their personal brand with that of the corporation." And, while it’s hard to imagine that a young person just out of University might turn down a decent wage because of what it might do to their personal brand, there’s another interesting twist to that scenario…

Brands may not hire individuals with significant digital footprints.

Sure, many corporations would kill to have a mini-Chris Brogan or a micro-Gary Vaynerchuk on staff, but who amongst us is not constantly in awe of their content output? Whether it’s Blogging, Podcasting, tweeting, checking-in, status updates and beyond, more often than not, the first question I am asked by those in the corporate world is, "when do these people find the time?" (the real answer to that question is: this stuff is – for the most part – a huge chunk of their job). Will a company really want to hire someone after they evaluate this person’s online presence and can see (minute-by-minute) how much time and effort it takes? At the end of the day, there is a job to do. I’m reminded of the many corporate Social Media policies and guidelines I’ve seen that have the line: "remember: work first, Social Media after."

Most companies are looking for a team player… not someone out for their own glory.

The other component is that the perception (right or wrong) of a strong online presence could also lead the company to think that this individual is not a team player. That it’s all about their personal brand and their own positioning instead of putting the corporate needs first. That they are a one-person army. Whether or not that makes us cringe, it’s a fair corporate statement to make. Most individuals with significant digital footprints can be perceived that way. Personally, I’ve heard this about myself in the Marketing industry (if people only knew how much of my day and night is spent working on growing the business of our clients at Twist Image).

Too much of a good thing.

In the end, I’m not sure that an individual would refuse to take a position with a company because they’re not active/smart in Social Media. I’m also not sold that a company would not hire an individual who has a significant digital footprint because they may be worried that the individual will spend too much time working on their personal brand instead of the business at hand. But, it’s interesting to think about a world where individuals do have a personal brand that has as much (or equal) to significance as those of corporate brands and how that plays out in the corporate world and the Social Web… because we are at that unique moment in time.

Do you think Twitter can kill a great job opportunity? What’s your take?


  1. Mitch I just finished a typically brilliant class in Austin Texas taught by the Eisenberg brothers called “Wizards of the Web”. Had your question been posed to the class we would collectively told you (or Brogan or Vaynerchuk) that it is crucial you show your customers you have the time to actively serve them. You may well, but it defies belief for those of thus that clearly could not match your outputs.
    i.e. Put a meter on your website that shows how many hours a day,a week or a month you have available for new clients or maybe even more important dedicate to existing customers. Seems like that would scare away customers at first blush, but these days transparency is king?

  2. This is an excellent and timely topic. I was recently talking to a woman who has a strong online brand and she said the first requirment of any new enmployer would be that she be allowed to maintain that brand, inclduing allowances to attend ans speak at conferences, blog etc. I don’t know if we have every had an era of indvidual brands outside of Hollywood, have we? Are companies ready for this? Interesting topics. Thanks, Mitch.

  3. Interesting thought.
    And one that is ringing loud and true. I would absolutely evaluate how my personal brand and a potential employer may blend together – if the employer was offering a full time/staff marketing position. I think it would be less important for a contract type position.
    The majority of the individuals working for corporations used to be percieved as a subset of an corporation’s brand, “hi I am Amy and I work for Dell”, or “hi I am Mark and I work for Ikea”, but now that every single person with access to a computer has the ability to build their own brand and we are shifting away from the idea of being associated to a corporation and not having anything else that also defines us.
    Now many people talk about what they like to do instead of what they may do from 8-5 (if those are actually different). Like freelance photographers, bloggers, video creators etc.
    Those that really know me may not hire me as a full time staff member because of the countless hours I put in online tweeting, blogging etc. But there are perfect employment opportunities that fit for “people like us”, like contracting, consulting, project work, project pay.
    I dare say that “people like us” are MORE efficient than the person that is not online. We find answers quickly, we automate things, we use technology to our advantage, we have incredible mutually supportive networks – we are a machine in a machine.
    And how many of “us” spend nearly every waking hour of the day working then going online and continuing to work, it’s not like a blogger works from 9am-4pm – we burn the midnight and early morning oil in order to get our work done.
    Like minded savvy people will hire “us”, it’s proven – the terms just look different than oldschool employment. It’s a wonderful changing work environment.

  4. Excellent post. I couldn’t agree more. Twitter and social media in general has so many ups and downs that you just have to be aware and understand the downs to really get the benefit out of the ups. I love that post on PR Squared, thanks for the link.

  5. I was hired into a very social media active company due in part to my minor success in growing a personal brand online while also growing a different corporate brand. The funny thing was that, not long after being hired, I had to defend myself on two separate occasions because I appeared to be tweeting & blogging too much. Not that I was handling topics that clashed with the company’s values or affected the public’s or client’s perception of it…no, just that I was doing it too much. Thankfully, the higher up that approached me on this framed the solution to this “problem” with something like, “Look, if you can show the work is getting done, I’ll tell the whiners to shut up.”
    At my new agency, I would not have accepted the job if they hadn’t agreed to be hands off with my activities. There’s a clear “don’t do anything stupid” understanding, but that’s pretty much the extent of it. They brought me in thankfully in good faith that most public activities I have online that might appear to be solely for my own benefit will at least align with the best interests of the company if not also advance them.
    Despite it being nice to have a higher up with a rational perspective in the previous situation, I can’t tell you how freeing it is to have a company tell you from the outset that they have enough faith in you that they won’t be looking over your shoulder every 5 seconds.
    If you’re having trouble finding a job, you’re going to have to back down on things like this. If you’re not having trouble though, it’s clearly easier to stick to your guns.

  6. It sounds like some hybrid on the Google 20% rule – where staff can spend 20% of their work time on personal projects. The flow and shifts of what it means to be an employee are definitely getting interesting.

  7. There’s another underlying issue here: jealousy. I’ve spoken to people with a semblance of a digital footprint who have expressed that both peers and senior managers were extra tough on them because they were jealous of the attention that the individual was getting online. That is a very real issue as well as it plays into team dynamics and having a healthy work environment.

  8. As with everything else, it’s a matter of choice. You have to be open and willing to live on a more contract and freelance basis – it takes a certain type of individuals to be comfortable with that type of “job security.” I do believe the world is changing, but it hasn’t yet and most people are still looking for the stability of a full-time job. And, in doing so, these issues of personal branding become that much more complex and interesting.

  9. Mitch, excellent post with relevant and timely information. It is so imperitive to keep what you are saying in mind.
    I work in higher education, managing my institution’s presence in various social networking sites. I am personally active on twitter and connect with my colleagues at other institutions who have similar responsibilities. I know that my participation with this community has led to speaking engagements and other opportunities for my “personal brand.”
    What has been important for me to remember is that I am still a representative of my institution, even when promoting my “personal brand.” I believe (hope) that the successes I personally achieve reflect well upon where I work and are equally considered successes for the institution too. By pushing myself into the forefront, I bring the college and the cutting-edge work we are doing along with me. I think, as a good employee, it is important that I do not forget where I am coming from.

  10. This is a very interesting, and timely subject. I’ve been reading a lot of articles recently preaching that a strong online community can be a deciding factor in getting an individual hired, but you have made me consider the alternative – that perhaps a strong online community surrounding your personal brand can make you seem as though you’re not a team player, and can’t dedicate enough time to your customers or clients. I’m with you in not being completely convinced that this is true. I think that demonstrating a keen interest in community building is a strong asset even if you are focusing on your personal brand. There are many companies out there today that are still struggling to get active in social media. While individuals who tout their own brand may seem as though they might act as competition to a company’s brand when hired, they can still be extremely valuable to the company in their ability to teach social media best practices to employees and offer access to influential people in their online community.

  11. I think this issue is older than social media – I caught grief years ago being the person in my agency that did more public speaking than anyone else. Was I taking time from proper company work and spending time in areas that benefited only me and was that fair. It’s a petty and small minded view – companies, ad agencies, particularly, should be trying to attract those seen as the best and brightest and understand that employees that are “out there” can attract new business. Of course the work has to has to get done but in many cases more employers should consider the speaking/blogging/tweeting part of the job – at least when they are employing someone communicating actively on topics relavant to the business of the company.

  12. Great start-up for discussion. As someone who hasn’t been out of school very long, I still remember teachers re-enforcing the importance of a personal brand. We were encouraged to dominate our name on Google and connect anywhere possible – which takes a boatload of time. It’s interesting that this idea has some potential to actually backfire on our job opportunities. There’s a balancing act aspect that never really gets any attention in regards to personal brand maintenance vs actual work. Thanks for pointing that out.

  13. I commented on that article you cite about the fact I don’t really believe, as you mention, anyone would turn down a decent job for such a reason.
    Similarly, I don’t think companies have reached the point not to hire someone with a solid socialmedia life.
    I think in the end it all comes down to being able to do the job at hand, to get things done. And depending on the kind of work, a socialmedia enthusiast might be a very powerful asset.

  14. The paradox with Twitter is that it’s disproportionately beneficial to those reaping a direct financial benefit from their involvement. People like yourself add a lot of value to the community (thank you) knowing that the massive time investment will grow your business.
    But, 75% of all tweets come from 2.5% of accounts (those experiencing significant financial gain). I’d argue that unless one is a power user driving significant growth for his employer, she is largely wasting time. The stats support it. For me, the only acceptable investments lie on the edges – power user or those of us who use it as a news feed.
    There is a reason why only 10% of CEO’s are on Twitter. The return on time invested just doesn’t add up for a casual and intermediate user.

  15. I heard your talk at UCLA recently. This is a really good question and a scary one too for a newbie like me. At one hand, I know that personal branding in the digital world is very important and is not going away. One the other, I’ve had employer who went so far of putting an internet blocker because some people “misuse” their time. That person actually didn’t have a branding and was just fooling around too much on facebook and personal email, but he was our fastest designer. So instead addressing it head-on the company goes the other route – block everyone. Getting done actual work becomes harder for the rest of us, let alone maintaining a brand. Unbelievable that I was working at creative department without internet access.
    I hope more and more companies catch up to the rising trend, that people are individual and has a unique voice. Personally I feel strange doing personal branding during work-hour if I’m employed full-time, due to the previous experience. Although secretly, I hope for a more trusting and open-minded job such as Eric Pratum’s (above) that has a good faith for their employee’s judgement, as long as the job is done first, right and as efficient as possible. I just recently started to build a personal brand, because I thought it would be a good personal branding on the internet that can be a great insights for future employer to what a person’s ability to be an efficient communicator in their chosen field/expertise and also their quality of leadership aside from marketing ability. What Shannon says about “people like us” is a machine because we efficiently streamlined and work hard, definitely feels natural for me.
    What would your advice be for somebody that is just starting out?

  16. I have a friend that runs and/or has major contributions to something like 7 blogs in addition to, and frequently coming before, his full-time job. Not long ago, he posted something about how his employers saw his efforts as being complimentary to their brand because they knew that the image he projected mirrored what they hoped the public would see in them. I have to say that that makes it sound like his employers could be great people to work for.

  17. I work with people who are proud of their personal brands. However, our organization needs to get everyone working together FIRST to move the organization forward. Then we’ll worry about personal brands.
    If I were to help hire an employee for social media, I’d be extremely wary of someone with a strong personal brand. Based on what I’ve seen with co-workers, those people don’t have the chops to push for an organization — they only have eyes for themselves.
    As far as efficiency, streamlining, and automating goes, hey, social media requires participation, not automation. I see far too many people preening themselves on automating everything about social media, and I have to ask if they really get it.

  18. Very interesting post. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it and form an opinion. If I were hiring, it’d definitely be hard to hire someone who spends a large portion of their day developing their brand. On the other hand, it could be very helpful if their job called for it

  19. This is really interesting, especially from a student perspective as I am currently finding my way into this area of the marketing world. For other people in my situation, there is a fine line of needing to develop a personal brand to show your competence with these media tools versus going off-topic by using the media platforms for “friend” connections solely. Great post!

  20. For a long while I’ve been fairly vocal that just because an individual can make Social Media work for them to build their personal brand and get followers, it doesn’t mean they have the knowledge, understanding and ability to build a strategy to do it for others – especially a business. It’s something more to think about.

  21. It’s about finding the right balance and knowing what the social agreement was prior to taking the job. If the agreement was that speaking, publishing, etc… is part of “what you do” it all makes sense. I think the struggle comes when it pops up. And, I don’t think it’s just the c-level suite that are watching. More often than not, I’ve seen the real issues arise from peers and the middle-managers.

  22. The key is in the balance – ensure that the person you’re looking to work for knows – in advance – your efforts online and what the expectations are. Beyond that, it’s a good thing to be building your own space online.

  23. I’m sure have seen the individuals I am talking about. Here’s a true scenario: an employee of a company cancels a meetings, says their too busy, etc… I can see by their tweets and Facebook status updates that they’re active during the time that they were too busy for a meeting. It happens. All of the time. Clients and the employers see this too… and, I am constantly being asked about how to deal with it.

  24. I’m not sure you can make such a pure and direct correlation. I would never say that I garner any business by active on Twitter. It simply allows me to share and to connect to more interesting people. If those relationships lead to business, great, but it’s not even one of the top five reasons I’m using it.
    I think it’s the same for most businesses. That being said, Twitter isn’t just one thing with one outcome, so that kind of logic doesn’t fly with me.

  25. I think you have to go for it and use the channels and platforms to express who you really are and why you would like people to connect with you. There is no real other option.
    Along with that, I think you have to work within an environment that also suits your values. Companies that block access (like the one you mentioned) usually just need more education and information.

  26. I think that the effect of a strong personal social media brand in relation to the hiring process depends a great deal upon the security of the company hiring the individual.
    The best social media corporate experiences are a symbiosis of engaging, identification and reciprocity between the brand and the public buying the brand. When a personal blogger/brand can align or dovetail with a corporate brand (and there is respect and authenticity present), I think it can work well.
    If I happened to be the embodiment of a particular product and people who followed me trusted me, then both the company I represented and me would benefit through our union.
    In order for it to work, the paradox of egoless exchange must exist: the blogger/persona and the corporate brand must believe in the value each bring to the table, yet be willing to suspend their desire to put their own selfish interests first.
    Great post. Thanks for taking the time to draft it. Best, M.

  27. Accepting the contract/freelance lifestyle can be terrifying, and freeing – as you say for the right type of individual. The reward of being able to brand yourself without restriction of your employer could (and hopefully do!) outweigh the pros of ‘secure’ employment.
    Mitch – how do you feel about your employees building their personal brands? Do all employees have access to all social platforms during work hours?

  28. We’re fine with it at Twist Image so long as the work is done and on time. On top of that, we have Social Media guidelines (and employment contracts) that explain what is allowed (and not allowed) to be discussed in Social Media channels.
    Our work is always “clients first.”

  29. It is refreshing to have someone come on here and admit that they’re leery of hiring someone with a serious digital footprint. Asking, “are they in it for the team or in it for themselves?” is a huge/important step.

  30. I think most corporations would like to see a healthy mix of both. It’s not just about the work you can, but about the kind of person you are – and yes, that includes who you’re connected to and what’s important to you in your social life.

  31. Yeah that’s pretty bad, if one of my employee did something like that I would talk to them about this face to face and find out what they are really up to, why they did that and if they are taking their job not seriously enough. No drama but no jokes either.

  32. You would fit right in at Wiz. Academy Mitch.
    There is often a disproportionate number of Canadians present, no one is sure why?

  33. Thank you for blogging about this. As a university student, PR professional, avid social media user, and personal brander, I consider this topic every day. I think about the corporation I will work for one day and I know if its vision aligns with mine, I will love to promote the corporate brand as much as my own. You are so right about the labor required to craft your personal brand, and I worry that until I find the right company in the future, I will always put my personal brand before the company’s. I think companies sense this reality, but that should be important. Successful companies will understand their employees and show them why the corporate brand can mate with the employee’s. For example, Scott Monty is not Ford, he is his own brand, yet he meshes so well with Alan Mulally and the Ford culture, that the average person could never tell the difference. Twitter shouldn’t be a threat to a job opportunity, but if managed properly, it can be a means to that opportunity.

  34. I don’t have a huge personal. But, my personal brand has close relationships with people who have huge personal brands. I recently forced my employer to start using using social media and had an option to move into the new “Social Media” group. But, they saw social media as a one way billboard of sales pitches.
    Conference calls after conference calls I notice that they simply refuse to understand it.
    I walked away from a position because my personal brand is about being online helping people.
    I also decided to just go back being an hourly grunt. Because I did not want my personal brand to be tainted.

  35. In the management consulting and IT consulting industry that I work in, having a personal online brand is very often a win-win for the company and the individual.
    Most management consulting and IT consulting jobs are won based on the merit of the individuals that are put forward for the projects. Being able to put forward individuals for projects that are online though leaders in a topic is a big plus.
    There truly can be a win-win for the individual and the company with online activity. The trick is that we, as individuals, and companies need to look for how the win-win would work.
    (another great article Mitch … thanks for your though leadership!)

  36. It’s a great point. It also depends on the types of work people are going for and the demands of the job. There are probably certain types of jobs that would require those similar skills that come with building a personal brand.

  37. I’ve just had to effectively give up my personal online brand as the organisation I’ve just started with is extremely strict about what can and can’t be tweeted. I didn’t know before starting, didn’t think to ask, and just assumed they would be as open and encouraging as my previous employer. Call me naive. It’s been a difficult decision as I’ve spent the past 2 years building my online brand. But in a smaller market, the great roles are sparse – so reverting to a more traditional marketing role has been necessary. On the plus side, I’ve gained back hours in the day and go to sleep earlier. I just haven’t stopped thinking in 140 character sets yet!!

  38. It’s too bad. It’s also a little sad, simply because I am sure there is conversation about your company, competitors and the industry you serve. With those two years of experience, you are a credible voice and can add value. Who knows, maybe they’ll wake up.

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