Living off the social media grid: Why a publicist shouldn’t tweet

By Brandon Watts , written on February 4, 2014

From The News Desk

To many people, if you’re not active in the social media space, you’re viewed as old-fashioned and out of touch. Well, I’ve worked in tech as a publicist for over 10 years, but I never tweet under my own name – and if you’re in my line of work you might consider doing the same.

I realize it may sound outrageous for someone in PR to reject social media in a personal way or in representing his business. We all have to create our own personal brands, right? So it goes against what so-called experts would tell you to do, but consider the following three reasons why it’s actually more effective to stay out of the Twittersphere.

1. You can focus on your clients instead of yourself. It’s important to maintain a good personal and professional brand to get more work, and many people try to achieve this through their social media activity. However, time spent managing social media activity for yourself can encroach on the time you spend working with actual paying clients. If you become too self-involved, your work will suffer, and you’ll end up with a bad reputation regardless of how many followers you have.

There’s also the danger that you can get too comfortable on social media and say something that you regret. Just ask Justine Sacco (former PR executive at IAC) about that. By trying to make a joke on her personal Twitter account, she ended up losing her job in a very public and embarrassing way. If she could go back in the past, you can just imagine how she would prefer to have done things differently by focusing on doing her job instead of trying to be clever on Twitter.

When you look at it this way, you can see avoiding personal involvement in social media can be a selling point to prospective clients. I’ve never had a company object to the fact that I’m not personally active on certain social networks. In fact, it’s never even come up. Relevant results are more important than Twitter or selfies on Instagram. In the long run, when you focus on keeping your clients happy, the resulting recommendations and referrals will lead to new business that’s not dependent on any social network, whether it’s here today or gone tomorrow.

2. You don’t need to use social networks personally to know them I’m familiar with all sorts of social networks because I use them through the companies that I work with. You may see the company’s name instead of mine, but that doesn’t mean I’m not posting content and pulling the strings behind the scenes.

Just like anyone else, I’m able to experiment with various content and campaign ideas and study best practices to understand what works and what doesn’t. After all, each company is unique, and in order to see what could work for them, you actually have to roll up your sleeves and use their accounts in a hands-on way to understand the dynamics of their community. Haven’t we had enough of “Social Media Experts” who offer all sorts of advice without having actually managed social media for a company?

A lot of social content is also public, so even though you may not maintain a personal profile on a particular service, you can still view posts from people and companies through public profiles and search tools. For example, when a big news story breaks, anyone can use Twitter’s search feature to see what’s happening in real time. Also, when the next viral video becomes a sensation, anyone can watch it on YouTube.

3. You’ll have more time and less stress For many of us, work has become something that we’re already connected with 24/7, and with the added time demands that social media imposes around the clock, opportunities to go offline and do anything other than stare at a screen become very rare and seemingly impossible. Just like there’s always another email that you think you need to send for work, there’s always going to be another post that you feel like you need to read.

Let’s face it, being too connected is exhausting, and a study published by the Public Library of Science even showed that social networking sites like Facebook can make you less satisfied with your life. I don’t know about you, but when I’m done with work, I prefer to live life instead of posting about living life, which is actually a form of work in its own way.

Even after considering these points, you still might think that this approach doesn’t seem sensible or doable in this day and age, and that’s OK. After all, the tools are available for you to use in the way that works best for you and the line of work that you’re in. Granted, even though I’ve adopted this personal hands-off method of dealing with social media, I still have a LinkedIn profile and a basic presence on certain social networks just so I can accomplish specific activities that are needed for work, but you won’t find me posting updates.

My time is already filled with a variety of personal and professional activities, and I know myself well enough to understand that I just don’t have the bandwidth for the additional distractions that would come with staying on top of social media in a way that’s separate from my clients. Certain things would suffer, and since I already have a close personal and professional network that I communicate with outside of social networks, the appeal of those outlets just isn’t there for me.

So the next time that you're racing to build up a presence on a social service, take a moment to stop and think if the added time and effort is worth the investment and distraction from other core tasks that have a direct impact on your work.

Who knows? You might decide to join me on the sidelines.