Bons mots

Slips of my tongue


For the last few months, I didn’t know what to think of Twitter. I’m not what you’d call an early adopter of technology. I’m part of the early majority – I hang back, watch what happens and decide whether it fits my lifestyle. Twitter was just another tool to communicate and I had enough already, thank you very much. E-mail, telephone, instant messaging, Facebook, blogs, LinkedIn…the list goes on and on. Did my cluttered life really need more clutter?

Then I started an online public relations course. We are encouraged to explore all the popular social media tools out there, so the entire class created their Twitter accounts. Except me.

I wasn’t being rebellious or petulant. (Really, I’m way too old for that.) And I don’t have a chip on my shoulder. I just didn’t know what to make of Twitter. Wasn’t it just a glorified Facebook status? I happened to see a few tweets on my friend’s profile. Boy, were they mind-numbing. “Going for a coffee.” “Stuck in traffic.” “Eating dinner.” Yawn. Do I really want to know what my friends and colleagues are doing every. minute. of. the. day?

Oh sure, I could use Twitter to follow key influencers in the industry. But I’m already following their blogs. Then there’s the question of who to follow, how many to follow – could I keep up with the glut of tweets ? And then I read this. Yikes.

The last few days I’ve been witness to bad errors in judgment played out on the web. One involved a Tweet that should not have been posted. The subject of the Tweet took offense; the misunderstanding was eventually cleared up but the damage was done. Then a lightning bolt struck me (not really, I’m just being metaphorical) and it all became clear: I was blaming the tool and not the users.

Like the Internet, social media has made our lives easier. But it’s compromised by people who jump on the bandwagon without stopping to learn the rules. I sometimes wonder whether it’s a good idea to prod students to “jump on” whether they want to or not. But if you’re heading into a career in public relations, you should know how to talk about social media. And the best way to talk the talk is to walk the walk.

But before you dip your toe into the pool, you’d better learn how to swim.

We’re all adults and should practice common sense. We are aware of tools like Summize and StatCounter. We learned that everything we do on the web leaves a digital footprint. We know that comments made electronically are stripped of their tone and meaning. So be careful what you say and where you say it.

So I’m finally giving Twitter a try. You can find me at For other newbies, Dave Fleet has some great tips for effective Twittering .

Here’s my contribution: When you Twitter, don’t be a twit.


May 29, 2008 - Posted by | Learning |


  1. It feels to me like online messaging is just getting more risky. Previously, you had to sign up for a forum or head to a chat room and they certainly were not ‘public’ in the broad sense or indexed by a search engine. It’s now easier to ruin your reputation on a grand scale as opposed to only making yourself look a fool in one community you take part in.

    Comment by Michael Bekiaris | May 30, 2008 | Reply

  2. Your contribution, is, as always, witty and wise. Should we have a blackberry case made up with the logo “don’t put the twit in twitter” on it?

    Whynaut (aka Abby)

    Comment by abbymartin | May 31, 2008 | Reply

  3. Yes, lets! In glitter and rhinestones!

    Comment by bonsmots | May 31, 2008 | Reply

  4. I like the swimming analogy very much. You’re quite right. Know the rules of the game first–no splashing, check the bottom before diving in, no running on the deck and no horseplay–at least not before you’ve learned to swim.

    Comment by Christine Smith | June 3, 2008 | Reply

  5. I agree – sometimes having too much information about our friends, colleagues, etc. can bog us down from an already full day of following industry news, Facebook updates, I/M, blogs. etc.

    Like anything – Twitter should be seen and used as yet another communication tool depending on the audience you are either following or wishing to communicate with – but used wisely.

    With that I’m heading out for coffee right now should anyone wish to know.

    Comment by Andy Donovan | June 23, 2008 | Reply

  6. I’m looking back at your posting reflecting on todays class about what does and what doesn’t constitute good professional online etiquette, I remember to a few years ago when I adopted the internet and created my own webpage.

    It was a shame many years ago that my webpage of a musical group called “Steps” didn’t have the impact that I had hoped, but it was a start.

    If Steps had continued to to rise in the UK and eventually made it here along with the likes of the Spice Girls, Take That and others, I could have gained notoriety similar to Perez Hilton and then I would have become the talk of the town.

    Mel’s point on exhibitionism was a good one, although could I have called it more of a “wanting to be a somebody”, on the web?

    I think there are differences and a fine line can be drawn between voyeurism, exhibitionism and just plain goofing off, I just hate that the line is never defined in clear sand.

    I’m going to sit and ponder this one. If you’re wondering, I’m just gonna sit in a chair and think right now…

    Comment by Paul | June 25, 2008 | Reply

  7. Good post, Bonnie.
    I must confess that I was initially one of those who blamed the tool rather than the user (who really can be a tool). Over time, I’ve come around to your view. I think a seemingly frivolous service does have its place…provided it’s used professionally. I think the “having a coffee” or “just burped” bits are decidedly uninteresting. Twitter can be best used as a forum for discussion or encouraging debate. In 140 characters, interesting links can be shared…
    Dr. MQL

    Comment by Dr. Lumbers | July 10, 2008 | Reply

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