By Julie Stauffer

Got opinions to share? Insights? Information? The Web 2.0 revolution makes it easy to get the word out, build a professional profile, and make connections.

If you don’t want space restrictions to cramp your style, free platforms like WordPress or Blogger let you post your thoughts in a cyber-diary format. Looking for a shorter, more interactive way to communicate? Use Twitter to send out brief ‘tweets’ of information, akin to those surreptitious notes you used to pass to friends during history class.

Ready to start? Keep these tips in mind.

Upfront advice

  • Decide what niche you want to fill. Don’t twitter or blog just for the sake of seeing your name online. Instead, become a source your readers or followers value, whether it’s for the latest industry news, a quick hit of humour, or your take on emerging trends.
  • Get the go-ahead from your employer if you plan to talk shop online. Find out if there’s a corporate policy for employees who twitter or blog. No policy? Use common sense. Don’t disclose confidential information, be cautious in dishing out criticism, and carefully consider the impact your words will have on your company, its clients, and its shareholders.
  • Be professional. Blogging and twittering may be relatively casual forms of communication, but typos, bad grammar, and text-messaging abbreviations won’t impress readers. Similarly, cast a critical eye at your profile. What kind of image does your photo or avatar project? What about your bio?
  • Provide full disclosure. Are you representing a particular company or organisation? Being paid to hype a particular product? Make that clear in your profile.
  • Use good judgement. Remember that what you publish may end up being read by your boss, your company’s competitors, your local reporter or your mother.

Blogging basics

  • Set reasonable goals for how frequently you post, and then follow through. If your readers have come to expect daily posts, they’ll feel miffed if a week goes by without something fresh.
  • Pay attention to presentation. A dense wall of text looks intimidating, so use shorter paragraphs to create white space. Is your posting more than 300 words? Subheadings can help to break things up.
  • Respect copyright. Just because a photo is online doesn’t mean you can use it without permission. Copyright also applies to words. While it’s okay to quote someone briefly (with attribution), never reproduce more than a few lines of an article without the author’s consent.
  • Include relevant links. Give credit where credit is due — and enable your readers to get more details — by linking to any bloggers, websites and articles you mention.
  • Turn your blog into a dialogue with readers by enabling comments. If you want to screen them before they’re published, check the ‘moderation’ box in your blog settings, and post your policy as well. Won’t publish anything containing obscenities, for example? Let readers know.
  • Follow good journalism practices. Check your facts, name your sources, and avoid anything that might be considered libel, hate literature, or a personal attack.

Twitter tips

  • Decide how public you want to be. The default setting will make your tweets visible to anyone. Alternatively, you can restrict them to the people who ‘follow’ you — those who sign up to receive your tweets — by clicking the ‘protect my updates’ option under your account settings.
  • Similarly, master the distinction between ‘@’ messages, which are targeted to a specific person but visible to others, and direct messages, which are private communications with a particular follower.
  • Keep your tweets short. Twitter sets a limit of just 140 characters per message. That doesn’t leave lots of room for context, so re-read your tweet before you hit ‘update’ to make sure it can’t be misinterpreted.
  • Don’t swamp your followers with constant tweets. You’ll quickly turn people off if you deluge them with hourly updates.
  • Consider including hash tags/pound signs to make your tweet easily searchable.  Twittering about recent industry developments, for example? Include the hash/pound sign (#) followed by ‘pharma.’
  • Be selective in who you follow. Time is a precious commodity, so don’t feel obliged to follow everyone who follows you. If you decide to stop following someone, no apology is necessary — unless it’s family or a close friend, of course.