POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Should You “Cross Streams” When You’re A Social Media Professional?

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This post is part of a series of point/counterpoint arguments proposed by different members of the Pixels & Pills staff. Were strong believers that healthy arguments can yield the best solutions, and we hope that you enjoy our series. Feel free to add your own arguments in the comments section below!

by Krissy Goelz (@krisgoelz)

In The Godfather Part II, Michael Corleone lambasts a Mafia crime family member following an attempted hit on his life.

“In my home! he rages. “In my bedroom, where my wife sleeps! Where my children come and play with their toys.”

Even in the mob, business doesnt belong in personal quarters. The same is true for how professional communicators should handle their social media presence. If your business role requires you to participate in social media, you need to lock down your personal profile, tailor privacy settings and keep what you do on the off hours separate from your job.

In my fathers day it was easier to compartmentalize work. You left the office at 5 p.m. and your personal life was your own. In the digital age, segregating personal details from professional ones is harder, and it takes a great deal of diligence. But, its worth it if you want to build an image as a thought leader, trusted advisor or esteemed professional.

When participating in social media you have to enact the grandma rule. In the fields of Behavior and Psychology, this is known as the “Premack Principle.” What it means is conduct yourself properly and never post anything that you arent willing to shout from a rooftop or say in front of your grandmother. This is true of all social media users, but especially those who post on behalf of their organizations.

To borrow again from The Godfather, when participating in social media you also have to keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Theres always danger of putting information into the wrong persons hands – whether thats competitive details, revealing personal health information or posting personal messages on Facebook during business hours. Even messages that are meant to be private sometimes find their way into the public arena. If you share too much of yourself, you may be surprised when it comes back to haunt you.

Blurring the lines between work and personal life can cost you reputation or financial damage. Just because you qualify something you post with the caveat “the views reflected are my own and not that of my employer doesnt mean that a reader is able to maintain that separation. In fact, the more the lines between work and leisure blur, the harder it is to separate our identities.

One way to manage a clean division is to use different platforms for different purposes. For example, keep business relationships and professional content on LinkedIn or Twitter. Use Facebook to connect with college roommates, neighborhood or childhood friends or other personal connections. If you want to use platforms like Facebook or Google+ for both purposes then make sure you create two profiles and work the privacy settings.

While you could argue that were all multidimensional human beings and everyone knows people have a work personality and an after-hours persona, theres still no reason to mix them together.

Were at work to work and do great things on behalf of our employers. How and when we socialize needs to be kept separate. Also, judiciously parsing information is never a bad thing. Its good to keep a little mystery about yourself.

Theres no way to know how even the most inane things will be perceived by an outsider, whether its having a bad day or not being able to relate to your training for the New York City Marathon or sharing feelings about the NRA. Connecting with others online is critical, but as with anything, perception is reality. Shaping and controlling how youre received requires a disciplined approach to managing your digital profile.

How are you handing your online presence?

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One Response to POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Should You “Cross Streams” When You’re A Social Media Professional?

  1. Jason Boies says:

    Thoughtful post here, guys. (As always)

    I’m heeding your advice for the most part, LinkedIN and Twitter are my main social platforms for Engaging professionally on behalf of our organization while Facebook remains primarily a place to goof around with friends.

    I read an article this week that chose to look at G+ like “Starting over again on Facebook” and I tend to agree. I’ve begun using G+ as my own “Facebook for business” as well.

    All the best

    Jason Boies
    Radian6 Community Team
    @JasonBoies