Why Protecting Your Twitter Profile is a Bad Idea

February 8th, 2012 | Shonali Burke | 96 Comments

where's your real face?!Yesterday, Shanan Sorochynski asked a question here on WUL that struck a chord with quite a few people: “Are you using social media to talk to yourself?

The comments are really interesting, and even though I mentioned it in my comment, it reminded me of Mary Barber’s post (also published yesterday) where she pondered aloud on whether we all see the world through our own respective filters.

My short answer: yes, but that’s not what I was thinking about when I sat down to write today’s post.

Shanan said something in her post that I wanted to riff off of:

“Initially I followed close friends and had a locked profile. Why? Because these were the days when we weren’t sure how Twitter was different than Facebook. So, we treated Twitter like Facebook, something for select eyes only.”

“Let’s connect …”

I started my fourth year of teaching at Johns Hopkins a couple of weeks ago, and as part of the “getting to know you” exercise, my students had to introduce themselves. I’d asked them to also post their Twitter handles and Google+ profiles, so that I could create a list and circle respectively for them.

When I clicked through to their Twitter profiles, I was struck by how many of them have protected profiles. That is, profiles where you can’t see their tweets easily, and have to send a “follow request” in order to be able to follow them (and thus, communicate with them).

I asked why, and of those who answered, they all said basically the same thing: that they were protective of their privacy, they wanted to separate personal from professional, they wanted to control the “spam” that showed up in their streams.

I think this is a really bad idea, particularly if you are a communication professional.

Now, I understand the desire to keep certain updates protected/private, but frankly, there is an easier solution to that … just don’t post anything that would have a negative impact on you.

I was not a fan of Twitter at first, and now I love it.

It has been the single-most important tool/medium in widening my circle of acquaintances and friends, growing my business, bringing me new clients, speaking opportunities, media opportunities … and none of that would have happened if I had a protected profile.

” … but don’t talk to me”

With a protected profile, the impression you’re giving to people is that you don’t want to talk to them. And Twitter is all about talking to other people.

There was a time I used to go through who was following me pretty regularly, so that I could follow them back. My M.O. used to be to click through to their profile, read their bio, follow their site/blog link, look at their timeline, and if, after doing all that, they seemed smart/interesting/unusual, I’d follow them.

(I’ve stopped doing this now and basically just follow back people who engage with me… and no, they don’t have to be following me first.)

If their profile was locked down, it didn’t matter how smart/interesting they might turn out to be.

The impression I had was that they either had something to hide, or that they weren’t really interested in what other people – perhaps out of their comfort zone, going back to Shanan’s post – had to say.

So why should I waste my time sending a follow request, only to find out it’s someone I really wouldn’t have been all that interested in to begin with?

There is only one way to start a conversation, and that is to talk to people.

And if you want people to listen to you, you have to give them a reason to do so. Say something interesting (which they won’t see if you have a protected profile), or show that you warrant interest (which they won’t know if you have a protected profile).

So if you are adamant about being on Twitter with a protected profile, I’d suggest you create a different (protected) profile for your really good friends/family/whatever circle you want but do not publicize that as your “real” Twitter profile.

Instead, make your current profile public – since that is already publicly associated with you – from which you talk to “everyone else” every day, from which you engage in relevant discussions,  etc.

Or, if you’ve already posted stuff to your protected profile that you wouldn’t want all and sundry seeing, reverse the above. But you get what I mean.

Personally, this would drive me crazy … what, manage another profile?! (Btw, Sanjiva Persad wrote a very interesting post on having two Twitter accounts last year, and an update to that will be coming your way soon.)

No matter which social network you choose to spend time in, the primary reason is to get to know other people, right?

So why shoot yourself in the foot before you’ve even stepped in the door?

Image: maramillo via Flickr, CC 2.0

What do you think? Do you think there are advantages to having a protected Twitter profile? Do share, maybe you’ll change my mind!

email
Shonali Burke
Head honcho of Waxing UnLyrical, Shonali Burke is President & CEO of Shonali Burke Consulting, Inc. Based in the Washington, D.C., area, she loves helping for- and non-profit clients, both small and large, turn corporate codswallop into community cool™. She also loves ABBA, bacon, cooking, dogs, and Elvis. Wouldn't you like to be in her kitchen?
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke
Shonali Burke

Latest posts by Shonali Burke (see all)

Print Friendly
Opt In Image

"A Little Birdie Told Me" could fly into your inbox just once a month. It's Shonali-as-seen-nowhere-else. What're you waiting for?

88 comments
fatkine10
fatkine10

I used a quote from this blog post in my recent workshop on social media and online presence for students. It was relevant because most of the students were not on Twitter and I see that often times before we "love" Twitter, we are anti-Twitter. Super interesting.

vmati
vmati

@melissary loved the read!The whole point of twitter is to form new connections,I agree ppl are turned off if they have to request first.

Samjb
Samjb

All of my students are required to be on Twitter, follow me and their fellow classmates, and participate in a minimum of 4 relevant tweetchats per semester. (They turn in screenshots of their activity and I grade them.) The few who insist on keeping tweets protected soon learn the futility of doing so when trying to engage in a conversation on Twitter. I've also told them if they want to keep their school/professional tweeting separate from their social lives (especially if they engage in alternative lifestyle choices they may not want to share with potential employers) they should open up a second twitter account. Only one or two ever have, and it's worked out just fine for everyone. They're learning it's an excellent tool for discussing class material, for sharing articles, and for networking with professionals in the field.

TheJackB
TheJackB

Several times a week I pick up new followers who have protected tweets. I find it disturbing. It seems strange to follow me but not allow me to follow you.

Ok, I get that I can send a request to do so, but it still feels awkward and makes me wonder about you.

mdbarber
mdbarber

Number one rule in social media today -- if what you say will embarrass your mother/grandmother or would frighten you if it was a newspaper headline, please just don't say it. My protected twitter friends are in two categories: 1) they aren't really sure they want to be on Twitter so view this as a way to dip their toes in the water without really jumping in. They don't realize they aren't getting the full picture either. 2) They think no one can retweet them. Technically they're correct...you can't retweet, but you CAN quote which is basically the same thing.

Your post is good advice for these folks but I tend to doubt they'll see it...because they're afraid to venture outside their comfort zone. And Twitter is definitely outside that zone for many.

Tinu
Tinu

A protected Twitter profile might as well not be on Twitter at all as far as I'm concerned. I have a couple of friends who have protected profiles, mostly because they're trying to dodge a stalker. But most of them aren't in any type of marketing, media or communications career. Even if they were, I get that. Other than that, what's the point of being on if you're just going to hide?

Hajra
Hajra

I would agree. It would be a terrible thing for any professional. I think it makes sense only when you have a Twitter profile for personal use wherein you just want to restrict your tweets to family and friends. P.S. Half the time we don't really want our family to hear what we are saying so why bother anyway ;) Though privacy setting make much more sense in Facebook where sharing is more of personal things.

For twitter it is like, standing on your rooftop and screaming at the top of your lungs and then telling people to ask permission before coming and listening; or at least hoping so. Doesn't make sense right?

If I scream I want others to hear it! :) That's what we girls really want don't we? ;)

anca
anca

@mmangen @shonali It's only a bad idea to tell the public that you have a protected profile. Keep one just for friends, and one public.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

Love this post @Shonali . The reasons for protecting your tweets do not exist. I technically have 4 Twitter accounts and 3 or 4 Facebook accounts. anyone can create an alias to say what they want to say with no worries who sees what you say. Freedom is a good thing and we can all be free if we want to be.

Shonali Burke Consulting
Shonali Burke Consulting

I especially like this part of your comment, Design Spike - "get the 'public' profile out of the closet." Hahahahah!!!

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

What a timely post! I remember the days when I was weary about Twitter myself and like you, I now love it! There are many people I wouldn't know - friends, events, opportunities and knowledge I would've missed out on if not for Twitter.

Every time I go home my Mom seems to ask me the same questions..."how do I make my computer faster, what is the difference between Twitter and Facebook, I don't get Twitter- why do you use it". I was explaining to her (again haha) why Twitter is (and should be) a more public medium than Facebook. That it's awesome because you can learn from and follow anyone you're interested in or who posts interesting things. And the point is to post or share stuff you find interesting, while also connecting with new people. Which is why you shouldn't lock your profile even though people do.

It actually doesn't surprise me that many of your students' profiles are locked. But clearly it tells me they're not using Twitter the way an aspiring communication professional should be, they're using it as a college students with their friends. And like you said, fine do that if you wish...but get another account and maintain what I call a "real" account. I remember in college our professors telling us to be careful what you make public or what you put on your Facebook page at all because you don't want your employer pulling it up. It was definitely good advice but guess what, if they don't pull up anything about you...it also speaks volumes, especially as a communication professional.

I reminded my 15 year old cousin this weekend that she's growing up in a time where she is posting her life online at a young age. When she's 23 looking for a job, what she posted is most likely not what she wants and employer to see and it may not exactly be what she wants people to Google about her. I think it's important that we start teaching our children how to navigate the internet at a young age. I most definitely think it needs to be a course like Math is in our curriculums.

Now that I've written a novel I will just say.....you shouldn't post anything on Twitter that you want to hide or is TMI. Make it public, meet new people, use it to your advantage, don't say anything you wouldn't want the whole world to know about you, be safe about it and embrace learning new things!

Shanan
Shanan

I'm seeing a few comments that seem to express a need for personal security rather than simply privacy. If that's the case your closed Twitter account is a symptom of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Samjb That's a great idea. I know @barbaranixon is very proactive about getting her students on Twitter too. I've never thought about incorporating chats into my class... food for thought, for sure. Thanks so much for stopping by and sorry it took me a while to get here!

Latest blog post: Getting Back on the Right Path

martinwaxman
martinwaxman

@shonali As you said, in a public medium, the responsibility for good judgment should fall on the individual

jennalanger
jennalanger moderator

@HowieG Maybe, but right now we print all of your comments and post them on the @livefyre wall in our office :)

Now to comment on the article...one of the things I like about Twitter, even if no one is listening to what I'm saying, is that I'm contributing to the pulse and conversation of the web. Maybe no one cares that I tweeted during the Super Bowl, but my tweet was part of 10k tweets/second. We now know a lot more about what the collective Twitterverse cares/talks about, even if someone isn't reading my 140 characters. It's the big picture that counts.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@HowieG But you also have more energy than most people. AND, you're the best ranter I know... actually, @extremelyavg might give you competition on the ranting...

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@rachaelseda I love it when you write novels!

I think you hit the nail on the head with the students' use of Twitter. What is even more interesting is that I teach a graduate class, not undergrads. So when I asked them to post their Twitter IDs, I simply assumed they would have gotten over the Twitter teething pains.

You make a real good point about reminding young people that what goes online, stays online. It's a little sad that we have to do this... but I'd rather have the Internet as it is, warts and all, than not at all.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@Shanan YES. #thatisall My goodness, Shanan, what did you start with your post yesterday? :)

fatkine10
fatkine10

 @Shonali No problem! The workshop went really well! Check out the presentation at kinecamara.wordpress.com/smop1/

taylorjhall
taylorjhall

@shonali being in the communications field & applying for jobs that deal with social media, protected tweets sent the wrong message.

Shonali
Shonali moderator

@jennalanger OMG, I can SO see you doing that! @HowieG See what a terror you are?

That's a great point, Jenna, that even if no one's listening, we're still contributing. Definitely.

Shanan
Shanan

@Shonali Social media awesomeness, Shonali. Social media awesomeness. :)

Trackbacks

  1. […] Shonali Burke‘s advice on why protecting your twitter account is a bad idea.  […]

  2. [...] sure your profile is not "Protected" it is a social network and protecting your profile gives off a bad [...]

  3. [...] here are 18 tweetable Twitter tips for newbies (check out that alliteration!). They include tips on how to get set up with, and use smartly, a social network I still [...]

  4. [...] Why Protecting Your Twitter Profile is a Bad Idea (waxingunlyrical.com) [...]

  5. [...] Why Protecting your Twitter Profile is a bad Idea (waxingunlyrical.com) [...]

map