There are many places online to speak your mind in a quick, off-the-cuff and immediate fashion. This makes it one of the most fascinating media channels to come along. With it comes many challenges, like the legacy you leave behind in the heat of the moment...
This is nothing new. We all know that Google has a very long tail. We all know that anything we say, can and will be accessible forever. When it was mostly Blogs and Podcasts, there were enough incidents where people would write and say stuff that they later regretted or was challenged by others. Sometimes things got ugly, sometimes these incidents just came and went. Whatever the case, they are indexed and accessible by doing a very simple search.
Twitter ranks high in Google.
Have you been paying attention to the type of language and tone of voice that certain people use when they are on Twitter? People who consider themselves Communications, Marketing and Public Relations "professionals" using some very bad language and acting more like a high school sophomore than someone whose opinion is to be revered and respected. One of the basic rules given at any etiquette course is to never discuss religion or politics at a dinner party. If we kept with that line of thought, there would be some very empty spaces online. While we may have evolved from that line of thinking, the sentiment still stands strong: be mindful of what you say as you never know who will be offended, but worse, you never really know who you are talking to and who is listening in on that conversation. In public forums, this is both amplified and multiplied. It's not just who you're talking to (or about), it's everybody else in the world that is able to see it, read it and make their own judgement call about it.
How would you feel if you didn't score that client you were working on because they discovered an online conversation that you did not deal with in the most professional manner?
Some have been bold enough to say that it doesn't bother them one bit because that potential client obviously would not be the right match personality-wise. Based on some of the content I have seen passing through these channels, it has little to do with personality and much more to do with how that client feels their company would be represented in terms of reputation and credibility.
Bottom line advice would be to watch your language. Consider the perception one would have of you if they had never met you and only had your Twitter feed as a point of personal and professional reference. Take a look back on your Digital Footprint. How would you feel if - in the future - your children looked back on these conversations to see what their parent was really all about?
Following through is also a part of this conversation.
Many people criticize and comment but when responded to, they do not take the time or check back to see how it ended. All too often, I've come across Blog postings where someone left a comment that was responded to, but they never returned or never bothered to finish the dialogue. Even though their point may have been made, the public perception of how that conversation ended is not in their favour. Don't just criticize, provide a solution or a different perspective that can stand on its own.
Sometimes being able to publish every whim that scans across your brain is the best thing in the world. Sometimes, it can become a real problem. The killer is this: when it is a problem, you're usually the last to know and the damage is done.