Over the past few months, I’ve noticed increased interest in standing up Twitter accounts for in-house corporate events where I work. As a local evangelist of Twitter, I’m pleased to see more visibility for this channel as a serious communication tool. At the same time, I’m concerned that clients don’t understand some of the risks of Twitter use in the enterprise and are wading into murky waters.

From my perspective, there are three risks clients should be counseled about whenever they approach you about Twitter for use in-house: content strategy, code of conduct, and internal security.

You need to have your clients think hard about their content strategy. Why are they using Twitter for this purpose (instead of other in-house networking tools)? What are their expectations? What are their goals? Do they want to engage or simply inform? What is the nature of the material that would be shared? How will the event and its presence on Twitter be marketed internally? Your clients also need to have someone (or more than one, if that’s possible) manning the feed who understands the topics of the event and can respond to questions, comments, and overall feedback in a timely fashion. You don’t want to promote use of Twitter and have no one tuning in, offer paltry content, or leave comments unanswered.

For many organizations, code of conduct dictates how employees are expected to use or avoid use of online forums, which includes social media channels. There’s always a legal angle here. If your goal is to throw up an internal Twitter account and expect employees to connect and converse with this feed, you need to think twice about you go about this. Folks who are new to Twitter or limited in their expertise may not understand how far their messages can reach. You don’t want to unwittingly get folks in trouble with your legal department just because they wanted to play along. Err on the side of caution and talk to your legal folks for their verdict. Involve the client so they can understand, too.

Let’s move to internal security. First and foremost is the illusion of privacy within Twitter, which I wrote about in more detail in a previous post. I can’t stress to clients enough that simply locking down a feed isn’t sufficient to keep the information they want to share within the organization. Plus, a locked-down feed can be a barrier to employees who are new to Twitter: the large yellow box and lock icon don’t exactly evoke feelings of openness. Then, there’s sensitivity of content. If you invite outside speakers to present at an in-house event, for example, as long as they keep the discussions based on their industry expertise vs. something tailored to your business, you should be OK posting highlights from the presentation. The slope becomes slippery for panelists or speakers from within the organization. Consider carefully whether their topics would stir up trouble for your organization’s reputation or bottom line if released to the general public. Now, of course, the folks manning the in-house Twitter feed could keep the tweets generic or simply avoid commentary on those sessions altogether, but the value gained by having the feed in the first place would be lost.

So, what about enterprise microblogging tools like Yammer? Well, that’s a great solution because everything stays within the organization: posts are limited strictly to employees of the organization and encryption is provided, which eliminates both the code of conduct and internal security risks. However, Yammer is not as well known (at least in my personal experience) and requires a more official process to get off the ground; anyone can get a Twitter account up and running within minutes. Still, I believe it’s a worthy effort to consider if you or your clients intend on using this type of channel for more internally-focused purposes in the long run.