Will You Self-Censor for Social Media?


You may have noticed that WebWorkerDaily now publishes many of its authors’ tweets beside their articles. The syndication of contractors’ and employees’ tweets like this is becoming more common as everyone from fitness instructors to real estate agents seeks to take advantage of social media’s personal branding possibilities.

If your tweets haven’t been syndicated yet, that day may not be far away. When it comes, you’ll probably need to decide whether you’re going to self-censor for the benefit of whoever’s paying your invoices. What will you do?

A Matter of Perspective

One thing that can definitely be said for social media is that they allow users to express themselves freely, and as users, we relish such unrestricted opportunities. For many, social networks may provide the only opportunity to engage online with a broader “public” completely as ourselves.

The problem is that those who want to syndicate your tweets — to give you wider exposure, to help you engage with their company’s clients or customers, and to promote you as an expert — may not appreciate the degree of personalization and even personality that comes through in your tweets.

The appropriateness of a tweet depends on the context in which it’s read and the audience that reads it. That fascination you have with your cat, religion, politics, margaritas, and/or Elvis may be at odds with the thrust of your employer’s broader marketing efforts. The  occasional swearword or politically incorrect comment — no matter how tongue-in-cheek — may see you lose your chance for syndication instantly. You don’t need to have made the inappropriate comments in the last five minutes, either. Companies considering whether to syndicate your Twitter feed may look back over months of your activity — or longer.

Does the prospect of a client or employer syndicating your tweets fill you with excitement or dread? If they syndicated your tweets, would you change the way you presented yourself through social media?

Expecting Exposure?

The issues of syndication are really a question of audience. If you haven’t been expecting your tweets to be broadcast in a corporate arena, it’s time to accept that the possibility is real. Smart employers looking to harness social media may be asking to use your tweets soon.

Those who set out to create a professional online brand for themselves are likely to shape their engagement with social media accordingly, and may have no problems when their boss or client asks to syndicate their tweets.

But many of us love to merge the personal with the professional through social media. The question is: if you’re yourself on Twitter, will your tweets be fit for a client’s or employer’s Twitter stream? If not, would you change the way you tweet? The things you say? The topics you discuss?

If you don’t think your tweets would be suitable for corporate consumption, you may face a moral struggle when someone asks to syndicate your tweets — especially if you’d enjoy the extra exposure.

Even if you don’t think you’d change the way you interact through social media, the knowledge that your tweets are to be syndicated on a company web site may make you feel uneasy posting things you never thought twice about before. All the pundits’ harping about “authenticity” may fall very flat when you spot your latest tweet about Fluffy’s mouse-chasing antics on the homepage of your employer’s web site.

In these kinds of situations, you may self-censor without seeing the act as a negative. You may even do it without making a conscious change in your behavior. But self-censorship may reduce your enjoyment of social media, decrease your sense of freedom and self-expression, and undermine your self-confidence online.

A Solution in Segmentation

My solution to this quandary has been to approach social media — Twitter in particular — from a perspective of segmentation. Each social network tool I use reaches a reasonably discrete audience “segment,” and I target my communication accordingly.

For example, I use Twitter predominantly for professional purposes, and I tailor my tweets to those needs. This is not to say my tweets are stiff and impersonal, but it does mean that I don’t discuss my cute pets, vegetable garden or wacky family holidays on Twitter. However, interested contacts can access updates on these exciting matters through the other social networking sites I use.

This segmented approach works for me — when clients ask to syndicate my Twitter feed on their company sites, I’m happy for them to go ahead.

How will you respond when someone wants to syndicate your tweets? And are you preparing for that eventuality now?

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Social Media in the Enterprise

Photo by stock.xchng user nkzs.


Brian O'Connell

I self-censor. A lot of people won’t. The onus isn’t on the tweeter. The onus is on the site broadcasting the tweet. Select the users you syndicate with caution suitable to your sites environment. If you get to know the people who’s tweets you’re posting on the site before you syndicate them you should be OK. As a rule the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.


Sure. I also self-censor for our family’s gatherings at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Why should Social Media be any different? I call it common sense.


The only thing I censor is my language. I think you can be YOU whether if you are in a corporate culture or not. You have more ways of connecting with people if you have common interest. Those same people could be your next client.

I do think crazy party pictures should be under lock and key and should not be for all the world to see. I also think you should not swear too often. I mean once in awhile but an entire hash tag on the topic is a bit much.

I have been looking for work and I am freelancing so I want to keep my profiles clean of the clutter. I also think this is good because Google remembers. So ten years from now you don’t want that stuff to show up.

Ellison Bloomfield

I generally try to keep my tweets professional but have found that having some personality makes a ‘tweeter’ more likable.

I use my twitter to provide exposure to my blog and I am well aware that information online can be used against people (even if that is wrong), so I try to maintain a professional tone.


Someone else (@ambercadabra) posted this week about having an audience, people following for one thing and then seeing maybe something more personal, or you grow and your interest/focus changes and they’re not interested anymore, so should we post for the audience, for what they’re expecting. I see this in the same boat – am I the same person for the multiple platforms/posts? I would like to think I am. I censor myself for grammar, politeness, etc already. If syndicated, I don’t think I’d want to add to it by compartmentalizing one stream or another.

What about hashtags? I’m in a position to make those decisions – kind of like Facebook and LinkedIN, can allow associates to post and if they include #mybiz or something, pull that into the stream. Takes care of two birds, one stone?

Adriel Hampton

Great article! Not specifically for syndication, but for similar reasons I segment not only into different networks, but multiple Twitter channels (very easy to manage with third party tools).


This is exactly what I would do. If I needed to tweet for work or to expand my brand et al., I would create a public professional stream, and leave my fascination w/ cats, knitting and books (can you guess what field I’m in?) to a personal stream where I know I’m not being judged on the same levels. Managing multiple streams is easy-ish when you use a Twitter app like Tweetdeck (I know other can do the same, but I haven’t played with those.)

Joe Cascio

I would say, “Read my tweets for a week, and if you still want to use them, fine, but I’m not editing them for you or anyone else.”

Asking me to edit my Twitter posts crosses the line into them dictating how I choose to spend my own time and curtails my freedom of speech in an unrelated venue in order to further their corporate ends. Screw that. If I wrote a blog post for them and got paid for it, fine, they can ask for edits, but even that’s only to a point. One of the reasons people have influence is that they are an independent voice. I’m decidedly not influential, but even so, if my name is attached to something, I’ve got to feel comfortable that I haven’t compromised my own integrity because some risk-averse suit is worried someone, somewhere in the world might not like it.


I don’t think I will have a problem with tweet syndication. I am all for it, since I’m proud of the quality tweets I have on my twitter profile. Thanks for the sharing! I wonder if others can say the same.


I’m self employed and don’t have anyone looking over my shoulder but to me it’s important to keep Twitter on a business level. I have used it to see if anyone is paying attention. I find that they are not, it’s just used by most as a tool to see how many hits come up for them on a search, not to monitor what’s being said about them. Personally, I’m not sure how it really fits with my business but everyday I’m learning more.

Rob Letcher

I think the “openness” of social media could encourage a new age of – dare I say – kindness, politeness and modesty. It doesn’t mean that we won’t all still have our bad habits and ugly thoughts…we just won’t be so quick to make them public. There are plenty of examples of the natural consequences of failing to apply personal filters on what you say and do online – everything from the loss of friends, to spouses, to jobs. Do I self-censor? Yep – every day. But not just online. In “real life” too. Although I like to refer to it as being polite and kind and having social skills. It’s sometimes difficult to balance this with your “right to free speech” but not impossible.


I only do a moderate amount of censoring, personally. At least, only a moderate amount that I’m aware of. But I did want to reply and touch on what Rob said about encouraging an age of politeness.

It’s funny because I’ve been considering starting a vlog with my husband, to document our lives as newlyweds in the military and such, in addition to my more professional blog. I was considering how interacting with my husband in front of a camera for large chunks of the day would really keep me accountable for how I treat him.

In private, with loved ones, it’s easy to become a lot less kind, polite, and modest, and a lot more snippy, thinking they will understand because they love you and you them. However, having interactions publicized makes you aware of how others may perceive you…

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