Business, Economics and Jobs

Twitter while you work

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Increasing numbers of employers are asking their workers to tweet. The popular micro-blog Twitter allows companies to promote themselves in 140 characters or less. So why limit press releases to the PR department?

But employers in government and the military are trying to figure out how to make sure they retain control of the messages that get out on Twitter or Facebook.

Rachael King is a contributing technology writer for "Businessweek." On "The Takeaway," she explained why social networking has become a critical area for employers.

"What's really great is that employees ... can really give a human face to your corporation," said King. "They can really connect with people in a way that large corporations simply can't."

What companies have to keep in mind is that they can't really control the messaging coming from their employees through these social networking activities, said King, "I think it's really important, as a company, to decide whether you want your employees to Twitter or not and to communicate that because a lot of them are already Twittering and you may not know it."

Governmental institutions differ greatly in encouraging or discouraging social networking by their employees -- the National Institute of Health encourages scientists to write Wikipedia entries; and while the Marines have banned Twitter for security reasons, the other branches of the military encourages it.

"The Pentagon is now reviewing that and trying to decide what their policy is going to be," said King.

For her job as a journalist, King says Twitter is one of the social networking services she relies on, "I follow a lot of people that I think are interesting and I've gotten a lot of tips that way, and I know a lot of other journalists do too. And we also ask for sources and for information that way -- we'll put a question out on Twitter and you would be surprised at the information we get back."

She says the best thing for a corporation to do if they know their employees are Twittering is to provide guidelines, "Tell them the kind of behavior you expect if they're going to tweet as a member of your organization.

"Dell does this well, [and] Comcast. One of my favorite is online retailer Zappos. The CEO there is extraordinarily funny and engaging ... and he's really establishing emotional connection with a lot of people. He's got over a million followers, and he's got this really engaging brand on Twitter."

"The Takeaway" is a national morning news program, delivering the news and analysis you need to catch up, start your day, and prepare for what’s ahead. The show is a co-production of WNYC and PRI, in editorial collaboration with the BBC, The New York Times Radio, and WGBH.

More at thetakeaway.org