Could too much tweeting cost you your job?

This is not a blog post about any titanic trend or an insight into a new marketing strategy. This is about one little thing — tweeting when you’re not supposed to — and what it might mean to your career.

geno smithOne of my favorite college football players is Geno Smith of West Virginia University.  I have rarely seen a young athlete approach the game with more intelligence, intensity, and leadership.

Many people expected him to win college football’s highest honor, the Heisman trophy and perhaps be the first athlete picked up in the professional football draft last week.

It turns out, he wasn’t a contender for the Heisman honor and was not even the first player at his position to be chosen in the draft.  Over the last six months, his stock has continued to slip among the professional football executives despite his breath-taking skills. Why?

Perhaps it is because he tweets too much.

The thrill of victory. The agony of de tweet.

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports reported that when Smith went on visits to prospective teams, rather than interact with coaches and front-office people who would be making the decision to hire (draft) him, he would spend much of his time by himself on his cell phone, texting friends and interacting with his Twitter stream.

One official said: “All these other players who were in there were talking to the coaches, trying to get to know people and he was over there by himself,” one of the sources said. “That’s not what you want out of your quarterback.”

Eventually Geno was drafted in the second round by the New York Jets, but his disconnected attitude may have cost him millions of dollars in salary, endorsements, and publicity as a first-round draft pick.

I have a friend who might actually lose his job over Twitter. He’s addicted to his Twitter stream and tweets constantly. His employer is upset about this habit and told him that he needs to concentrate at work.  “They just don’t understand me,” my friend lamented. “This is how I stay connected to my friends.”

A few weeks ago, I noticed that a well-known social media celebrity was tweeting and texting from a conference panel in front of a room filled with several hundred people. Instead of paying attention to the moderator and interacting with the other panelists, he disconnected from the conversation the entire time with his head down in his Twitter stream.

Be here now.

I imagine that some readers from Generation Text might be thinking “Who cares?”

Obviously the NFL team owners care.  Even though Geno Smith is a remarkable talent, they wanted him to pay attention. I think that even in our text-frenzied world, it should be a priority to be present in the moment, to provide individual attention that communicates “I care about what is going on here, right now, instead of the action on my phone.”

I might not be an NFL team owner drafting a quarterback, but I have made a mental note to never hire or recommend that distracted social media celebrity panelist for a speaking engagement. There are a lot of choices out there. Being attentive and professional is important, even if you have loads of talent — as Geno found out.

Everything communicates. Everything becomes part of your personal brand … including how and when you use Twitter. Do you agree? Or, do you see expectations in the business world changing to conform to Generation Text?

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  • If you never pay attention to what’s happening in your immediate surroundings or the world in general, then what are you tweeting about? Yourself? You’d have to be a pretty interesting person (which evidently is not the case in the people you have used as examples) for anyone to follow you for long….

  • I find the most amazing thing happens when I lift my head. I find NEW people in front of me to engage with.

  • Here are my answers to your final questions Mark.. Yes, and yes! Thank you for asking, and sharing.
    [The compatibillty icon next to the URL provided me with the opportunity to comment today ;)]

  • Couldn’t agree more. BE present. BE attentive. BE respectful. Tweeting while you are (supposedly) engaging in a Real World interaction with someone else is like constantly looking over your companion’s shoulder to see who is coming in the door or making a phone call while your companion is mid-sentence. Tweeting in front of others may be silent, but it speaks volumes about how little you care.

  • I have been on stage as part of a panel discussion and tweeted back at an audience member. It wasn’t my turn to talk, and believe it or not, I was still listening, albeit at about 80% capacity. I wouldn’t tweet the entire time sitting up there, but I do enjoy getting a photograph or two. It’s neat to show the crowd what it looks like from where we’re sitting on stage.

  • The Weiss

    I couldn’t agree more. As the social and digital spaces intersect with everywhere else via our mobile devices, balance is becoming more and more of an issue. But observation of people’s ability to balance properly does serve as a great litmus test for an individual’s engagement in the here and now. Great Post!

  • Miguel Salcido

    Thank you for writing this, I couldn’t agree more and the Geno Smith thing makes it as timely as ever. Being in search marketing I expect my employees to be active in social media. But its tough to both encourage and inhibit it when it gets to be out of control, in my eyes at least.

    I think what it boils down to is just being mature and emotionally intelligent enough to realize when your social media habits are interfering, in a negative way, with the real world around you.

    I think that social media is a HUGE ego booster for many people, especially ones that quickly gain a following. Your story of the guy on the panel tweeting disgusts me, but I’m not surprised That was extremely rude to both the audience and the people running the conference! It is also the perfect example of ego taking over.

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  • People remember how you make them feel.

  • Excellent reminder, Mark. I think this is true for a lot of our interactions – not just on the job or in front of an audience, but when we meet people for lunch or coffee too. Paying attention to your phone means those hundreds or thousands of followers are more important than the person right next to you. Not cool.

    Also, as others have mentioned, I think you miss out on so much when you’re head is buried in your phone. Even at Social Slam where EVERYONE was tweeting, I took notes by pen and paper and only tweeted on occasion. When you’re too busy tweeting, it’s really hard to listen and pay attention to the world around you. At least it is for me.

  • Ted Levin

    This makes so much sense. While I’m not sure tweeting alone cost Geno a fall from the first round, I think it’s likely something that added to it. Great things to consider for job seekers in all sorts of environments, even (especially?) if you’re working in social media!

  • I agree with you. There was probably more to it than that. But it’s amazing it was an issue at all!

  • I’m with you. I rarely tweet at conferences, even when people want me to. It is difficult to compose a cogent and accurate thought in 140 characters. To do that, you cannot be aware of what is going on around you. I want to listen the speakers and really understand them!

  • I think that constant stream of validation can be intoxicating. It’s almost like a little hit of adrenaline to some people. Thank you for your comment Miguel!

  • We’ll have to politely disagree. I can maybe see snapping a photo. But if somebody gives you the chance to take the stage at their conference, spend that 45 minutes of your life paying attention (not at 80%) and devote yourself to the task at hand. Deliver everything you’ve got because everyone is sizing you up. Everything communicates. Tweeting on stage is just not professional. Maybe this is the first time you and I have disagreed? : ) Love you anyway and I appreciate the dissent Chris.

  • You always say things so much better than I do. You are a gifted writer!

  • Glad you’re back in the comment section Dr, Rae!

  • Awesome. Thank you!

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Barry. I appreciate your support of the blog!

  • Thank you!

  • Thanks for commenting Josh.

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  • It makes me think of families or groups of people who are ‘having dinner together’ at a restaurant, but they’re not talking to each other, they’re all tweeting and posting and sharing with their social networks.

    There’s something just inherently wrong about that. I know that wasn’t the question posed, but that was the thought that it ignited and is perhaps related.

    I think the point is – be in the moment, interact with genuine interest, and care about people.

    It’s so interesting to me how social networks have both enhanced and diminished interpersonal relationships.

    I guess it’s all about how we choose to engage.

  • We will have to agree to agree to disagree. Even though I kind of agree with you… 🙂 My instinct, honed over 5 years and 107,000 tweets, is to tweet. So in a way, I might be apt to fall in the very bear trap you’re talking about in this post.

    I do sometimes have to “work at it” to be in the moment and stay in the moment, even though I am truly interested in you and what you have to say and what you’re working on. I have a tendency to want to document what’s going on around me, and appearing on a panel discussion is typically a special moment for me.

    I hear what you’re saying, and can’t really disagree with you.

  • I am too… Thank you Mark!

  • Brava Jamie!

  • This is a great post and look at the effects of not understanding effective Tweeting practices. We just did a shout out to this post on our blog. Thanks for the great content!

  • Kind of depends on how important the moment is : ) I like Jamie Wallace’s comment about learning so much by looking up!

  • Many thanks for the shout-out and for continuing the conversation Amanda!

  • I agree.., too much tweeting is not OK. When I attend a conference, I tend to sit on the front row, making sure not to miss anything. I find it hard (if not impossible) to pay attention to Twitter, and (re)tweet something clever AND pay attention to the speaker.
    In fact, I find it rude to be looking at my phone or iPad (unless I’m taking notes) while the speaker is doing his/her best to convey a message.
    Although with a boring presentation, this is not easy to do, so some presentations do allow me to catch up, but I try to minimize this.

  • emarketing .

    Great Post! This is something which I was unaware of. Thanks for the post.

  • He would of been drafted #1 if it was a Live Tweeting event

  • I coach candidates to leave their phone in the car when they go in for an interview. It’s too much of a temptation to tweet or text! Hiring managers don’t even want to see you on your phone when you are waiting for them. They want you 100% there.

  • Mark, spot on, and a great companion post to @Ambercadabra’s recent post on being present where she outlines that yes, sometimes, it is ok to not be “here.”

  • I’m with you. I’m not a good multi-tasker. I pay attention : )

  • Spit out my drink, Hilarious.

  • Good advice Brad. Many thanks for commenting.

  • Always an honor to have you comment Eric!

  • I think it is fine to lurk for months on end, and then just pop in somewhere. 😉

  • Ha! Welcome back Mark!

  • Strange how some people can engage online but have no clue how to do it face to face. This kid is missing the boat – and it’s a somewhat generation problem. Maybe more time at the family dinner table would help. In the end you have to be REAL- not virtual.

  • Thanks for taking the time to comment Lisabeth!

  • ALWAYS pay attention the people right in front of you. Any social channel is great for near real-time communication, but it is also great at still being there AFTER you are done giving the people in front of you your undivided attention.

    How do you want to be remembered? A great first impression: being remembered as respectful, attentive, and engaged.

  • Mark, good to see your name “pop up” again, it has been a while!

  • I’ve been keeping pretty tied up with a fourth new baby and a bakery. Life is like a sitcom these days. 😀


  • Thanks. I make it around a bit less lately. 🙂

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