Managing personal vs. professional social media interactions

By Matter

There is an ongoing debate in our offices about whether it is best for us, as professionals, to maintain one, unified social media presence, or to draw a distinct line between our personal and professional interactions, particularly when it comes to Facebook profiles.

It makes for interesting discussion because, as communicators, we strive for transparency in our work. We build relationships with our colleagues, our clients and the media based on open and honest interactions. But do our clients need to see pictures of us with our family and friends? And do our college friends want to hear about the latest campaigns we’re developing in the office?

Those who are for a unified presence argue that transparency should extend to our social media profiles. We are, after all, parents, siblings, friends and professionals at the same time. Shouldn’t our Facebook profiles represent all of these things? Further there are plenty of simple guidelines for guarding privacy on profiles. Those who make a case for separate accounts reason that, no matter how benign, the contents of personal profiles are just that: personal. Perhaps they had a Facebook profile long before using the service as a professional tool, or perhaps they do not want to be bothered with constantly having to monitor privacy settings and thinking about who is viewing the various parts of their profiles.

Personally, I fall on the two-is-better-than one side of the house. I like to think I’m a what-you-see-is-what-you-get kind of girl, but I still prefer to separate my personal and professional interactions; and privacy settings just aren’t enough for me. I don’t see it as managing multiple personalities, but rather as targeting and controlling my social media communications for two distinct audiences: the first consisting of personal friends and family, the second consisting of professional colleagues and acquaintances. Targeted messages: isn’t that also something we strive for as communicators? Further, unless they ask, I work under the assumption that the first of the aforementioned audiences does not want to be bombarded with information about my clients and work projects and vice versa.

A client recently asked about this exact issue. After explaining both options to him, he decided to abandon his personal Facebook profile for business purposes and create a separate account from which to network with colleagues and others in his industry. It was the first client discussion I’d had on this particular topic, but I was completely confident in supporting his decision.

None of this is to say that our personal and professional lives do not or should not overlap; they surely do. The decision about how to manage the overlaps and identify distinctions between the two in the social media sphere, though, is worthy of careful consideration, as Web Worker Daily recently noted in a thoughtful post about being transparent without ruining reputations.

So how do you manage your social media presence? And what advice would you provide a client? Until someone can convince me otherwise, I’m sticking to my two-Facebook-profile approach. In the meantime, if you want to know about my family, weekend plans or life goals, just ask; I’ll be happy to share.