What Happens on Twitter…Stays on Twitter?

by Affect Team on August 14, 2009

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I’m an introvert in real life. (Really.) But I use my professional Twitter handle as an entrypoint into interesting conversations with people I might not bump into during my flesh-and-blood existence.

At the risk of blowing my cover, I often follow people as a way of determining, hmmm, would this person make a good Affect Strategies employee? Twitter helps me meet great, social media-savvy candidates who work in PR and related fields. I have hit it off with some very smart, capable, two-to-five-years-of-experience folks on Twitter. I find that these Gen Y (yes, I just said “Gen Y”) candidates are smart enough to understand that there is a performative aspect to their PR pro Twitter persona. They may not like me — who knows, they may not enjoy my tweets at all! — but they willingly engage in repartee with me. And that’s fun, and I hope it continues.

However, in the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to transition some of these digital acquaintanceships into Real Life. And while I’ve been unafraid to make the transition, those in my Twitter circle are not. A pattern is emerging, and here it is: these alleged “digital natives” may be savvy within the confines of the ones and zeroes, but don’t try taking them out of their online habitat.

The details have been scrubbed to protect the innocent, but so far it’s Twitter 3, Real Life 0:

Tweep 1: Prospective new hire. Engaging with me constantly on Twitter in order to gain an interview. DMs and RTs galore. After garnering the interview? Silence. I’m not even sure they’re following me anymore.

Tweep 2: Savvy social media/PR person. Have interacted on Twitter. Introduce myself at an event with the phrase, “I follow you on Twitter!” They cringe, turn around, and leave me standing mid-handshake.

Tweep 3: Very smart, very funny young tech PR pro. I would consider this person for a job at our agency in a heartbeat. Have twice suggested we meet for drinks — in my mind, a less intimidating interview option. Both DMs ignored.

I should point out that I have had lots of success taking Twitter-initiated relationships with more professionally mature people offline. That only supports my thesis, which I’ll restate here: Gen Y-ers have trouble integrating their on- and off-line work personae. Set your expectations about what they will contribute to the real world wisely, because, in their minds, what happens on Twitter…stays on Twitter.

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