Maureen Alley: Never tweet what you wouldn't say in person
In preparation for my talk in an ASBPE webinar on ethics next week, I’ve been speaking with B2B editors about how they use social media. Though it’s true that the trade press in general is decidedly behind the curve in this respect, there are notable exceptions. One is BNA Tax Management editor and former ASBPE president Steven Roll, with whom I spoke last week (you can hear some of our conversation on his latest blog post).
Another is Maureen Alley, the editor of Cygnus’s Residential Design + Build (RD+B) magazine. Like Steve, she is an outspoken advocate of social media and an active blogger and Twitterer. I sent her a few questions on the ethical use of social media by e-mail just for background research, but her responses were so insightful and revealing that, with her permission, I’m posting them here.
Do you use your personal twitter account (@MaureenEditor) in your professional role as editor of Residential Design + Build?
Absolutely. I don’t believe there is much of a distinction between personal and professional when it comes to the Web. It’s very fluid. There have been studies that show people respond better to people versus brands. Because of this, I manage the RD+B account as the place for news, events, articles, reaching out to readers, listening to readers, etc. But I use my @MaureenEditor account as the face of the magazine. I want people to know there is a person behind RD+B who they can connect with.
Do you manage a social media account for your magazine? If so, how is your use of it different from your personal accounts?
I do manage RD+B’s Twitter account plus my @MaureenEditor account. I use HootSuite to do that successfully and easily. As I mentioned, I use RD+B Twitter for straight reporting—little opinion. I’m also careful so it doesn’t look like I’m promoting advertisers/manufacturers. If I tweet something from the magazine’s account that is from an advertiser/manufacturer I make sure it provides value to my readers first—just like print B2B.
I also manage RD+B’s Facebook page. Facebook is a different animal from Twitter so I keep that in mind when posting anything to this page. My goal with the Facebook page is a place to provide more content than 140 characters—enhancing information that was provided in a tweet. I don’t want people who are our fans and follow us to see the same content and decide to only follow/friend one of the media.
LinkedIn is actually huge for my audience: custom builders, designers and architects. This is a high-level group where being with influencers is important to them. They strive to stand where the influencers are so they are recognized for their work, develop a reputation, and get word-of-mouth marketing. Our LinkedIn group is very active and important to these members. They use it to find what CAD software is best, and to share projects they’ve just finished, and even press coverage they’ve received.
How do you deal with potential ethical conflicts between your personal and professional use of media?
Well, I try to keep my opinions to my personal account and away from the RD+B account. Again, I try my best to keep RD+B to straight reporting. As for my own, people want opinions, so I do provide that on my Twitter account. For example, I live in Madison and there is a huge budget/political scene right now. I follow a lot of people in Madison and therefore I participate in the conversation regarding what’s going on. I would not share that opinion on RD+B’s account.
You talk about a wide variety of topics on Twitter, including your personal life, your work life, the weather, politics, pop culture, builders’ issues, and a lot more. Do you have any explicit or implicit guidelines about how you cover these topics on your personal accounts?
Great question. I taught business writing to college students last semester and my number one rule was ALWAYS remember who your audience is. I have many different people following me: Madison residents, writers, editors, journalists, PR reps, builders, designers, architects, associations, teachers, and some of my past students. I try my best to post tweets that reach out to each audience. It’s a hard task when I have that many different audiences, but it keeps things interesting.
In regards to guidelines, I keep it professional at all times. I think of it like when you’re at a cocktail party—you never know who is who and you want to make sure you are representing yourself correctly. I never tweet anything that I wouldn’t say to someone in person. And I stand behind all my tweets. No passive aggression here.
I also try to keep some space between Twitter and my personal life—although it may not appear that way. I don’t tweet pictures from inside my house that show a lot of detail—for security reasons. I never tweet when my husband and I will be gone on vacation leaving our house empty. I never say exactly where I live, and so on. I try to keep it safe. I am a woman and this is very important to me.
To the extent you’ve thought about it, what would you say are the differences, if any, between traditional journalistic ethics and social media ethics?
Journalism ethics are important and they do cross over to social media ethics. I show an opinion in my tweets or, as I see it, personality. But not when it comes to reporting on my industry (home building): I keep it straight reporting. And I think that’s a must. Just because we have different ways to share information doesn’t mean we throw our journalism ethics out the window. Our readers need good reporters—even in B2B. And I would argue that B2B is easily becoming B2C. For example, I can send a tweet about an article I wrote on the housing market and a local reporter/news station can see it, pick it up and run with it. It’s important to provide good, quality content to our readers with good ethics backing them up. They deserve it.