5 Ways Twitter Can Ruin Your Career

Last Updated May 19, 2011 10:44 AM EDT

Tweet all about it: Twitter can be career napalm. "Twitter is a great tool. However, because Twitter is a real time update tool that is also an information search and news engine, there are some risks," says Jessica Miller-Merrell, CEO of Xceptional HR and author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business.

Your first step should be to protect your Tweets if you're going to post anything personal. You can do this via the Settings page after you log in. "Protected tweets won't show up in searches and only followers can view them in their Twitter streams. [But] you are placing your faith in Twitter to protect your conversations, and these social networking sites aren't foolproof. Protected tweets don't keep your followers from sharing your messages, taking screen shots, [responding to] a court order, or printing your messages," says Miller-Merrell.

So to be safe, be smart and don't tweet anything you wouldn't show to your colleagues. Because here are 5 ways that you can seriously screw up your job and future with Twitter:

1. Confiding Confidential Info Up all night working on a top-secret project? Step away from social media. "Twitter can ruin your career if you tweet confidential information about a merger or acquisition, without permission. If your company just acquired another company, but the press release doesn't go out till the next day and you tweet about it in advance, you can get fired," says Dan Schawbel, managing partner of Millennial Branding.

2. Getting Too Personal or Profane Remember that Twitter instantly brands you, so the tone of your tweets needs to reflect the image you want to present. "Tweets about your breakup, that contain curse words, and are extremely negative in nature can put a bad taste in a hiring manager or boss's mouth," says Miller-Merrell.

3. Tweeting Too Much If you're bored or tired at work, take a coffee -- not a Twitter -- break. "Twitter can ruin your career if you're using it at work to goof around with your friends. If you spend more time tweeting with your friends than actually doing work, you could get fired," says Schawbel.

4. Tweeting About Your Boss Whether you're miffed at her management style or despise her new dress, never, ever post about your boss. Or consider doing this: "Establish/maintain separate Twitter identities if you want to tweet -- a personal one and a work handle. Never mix the two unless you do so with care and some thought," says Meghan M. Biro, principal & founder of TalentCulture. This gives you some protection, but err on the side of caution. When in doubt, leave it out (of Twitter).

5. Talking Critically On Twitter About A Client or Potential Client This is similar to tweeting confidential info -- unflattering observations can be bad business. "Don't insult your client. 'I'd die if I had to live here' isn't what you want to say when landing in a city 60 percent supported by a key client you're going to visit," says Peter Shankman, the social media entrepreneur who founded HARO, a service that connects reporters and sources.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.

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