The blurring lines between your professional and personal life

As employers are seeking more college graduates with a knowledge of social media and companies are re-strategizing to incorporate  social media components, life for a generation-y practitioner is changing, as we know it.

We should consider ourselves lucky that we were taught and exposed at an early age how to incorporate social and digital tools into our lives, which interestingly, we now see as an every-day characteristic. We blog, twitter, text, email and converse through multiple means throughout the day. Although we find this normal, to companies, this skill is a goldmine. Being able to successfully use another mode of communication that is still new, cutting-edge and requires creativity and innovation is key in relaying a message and standing out.

So as the generation-y enters the work world and immerses themselves in a company setting and uses their personal and academic knowledge of social media, how do we adapt and transcend? It’s becoming more and more that the lines of public and professional work life are blurring and often intertwining as we incorporate more social media tactics. Now, we see that it is not a company or brand speaking, but rather, a person behind twitter or a blog that we can relate to. We’ve seen this become a successful tactic as consumers are finding a stronger connection to companies based on individuals who are the face of the company. My question you is, what happens if you become that person?
We’ve seen numerous blog posts discuss one’s “online identity” and keeping our online appearance professional as employers and recruiters often seek sites to dig up a little more information about you. That message has come across loud and clear, but what happens once you are hired? Should one aim to keep their profile as neutral as possible and not share company likes or product dislikes in fear that it may be a conflict of interest with your company or client down the road? Something I have personally come across is migrating my personal twitter account into a professional one as well. I don’t regret keeping separate accounts, because I do consider my comments and insights relevant, but what happens if I want to vent for just 140 characters? Could something I say be used against me?

My question that I pose to you all is: How do you incorporate social and digital media into your life, but successfully and realistically keep your professional and social lives apart? Is there a way? Or have we just accepted that our lives have now been fully replicated onto the Web and from here on out; we must put our best foot forward?

I’ve had this conversation several times with my colleague and later  suggested I read this blog post by Louis Gray.  He begins his post by commenting on the following,

Many of you, possibly tasked with maintaining the social media presence for your company, might be maintaining multiple accounts on practically every network, and trying to keep your personalities in check, lest you make the mistake of getting the two mixed up.

Now how many of us have experienced that same scenario? While it’s an amazing opportunity, you must be careful of what and how you are portrayed because you will inevitably be a representative of your company and client. If one is aiming to truly keep their professional and personal lives separate, here is what he suggests…

Put Your Work Life In One Browser, and You In Another

Make A Second Login, Preferences for TweetDeck

TweetDeck, in my opinion, is still the best way to track groups and saved searches in Twitter. I set up TweetDeck so if I am logged in as me, the application has the standard black look and feel. But when I am logged in with the company ID, TweetDeck is in the company colors of blue and orange. Yes, the combination is somewhat garish, but it serves as a reminder to me that I’m logged in for work, so I won’t screw up.

Logged Into TweetDeck as the Company

Logged Into TweetDeck as Me

Create a Second Disqus Account for Commenting

When commenting on blogs around the Web, as yourself, or for the company, it makes sense to use best practices and identify who you are. But you don’t necessarily want to track your work comments to your personal ID. I recommend getting a second Disqus account that ties back to your work e-mail address, and have that registered in the “work” browser. When I make comments on sites as work, it says my first and last name, and then, in parentheses, the company name.

Always Work Methodically When Acting on Behalf of the Company

Tweeting or commenting or blogging or bookmarking as a brand is more risky than when you do it on your own. As with all things on the Web, you should consider how they could be interpreted downstream. But when you are doing something on behalf of a corporate entity that represents products, people, history and finance, you should take an extra breath before acting, and pay extra attention to every word, character or nuance.

Be Replaceable

If you do your job well, it should be easy for you to pass off the reins of the social media strategy at your company to somebody else with very little impact. If you make the company’s social media presence all about you, it will follow you where you go next, and could negatively damage the company you are leaving, and distract from the company where you are going. See that you can work on behalf of the company without it being all about you. Try to offer personality without it necessarily being your distinct personality.

Whether or not you necessarily agree with these tactics, it’s wise to at least be conscious of this scenario and strive that your personal and professional images – if they were to intermix-  complement each other. Is it possible to even attempt to keep these two silos separate or is that something that’ll work against us in the long run? Have we just accepted that as we further immerse in social and digital media, we’ll have one online representative that fulfills multiple expectations?

What are tactics you have used? Any horror or success stories?


15 thoughts on “The blurring lines between your professional and personal life

  1. My take on it (at least to this point in my life) is that my online presence has always been a (mostly aliased) replication of my actual thoughts and personality traits. And that any company that hires me, and wants to see my work, will be shown the pertinent examples that I have published online.

    I think that for the particular generation behind this (4+yr old) Web 2.0 movement, the very fact that we as individuals are so integrated into the social network (flaws and all) would be the major selling point for hiring this particular employee, and hiding it and starting over could be less valuable than bringing on the whole package, and reworking it from there. (Like Adobe buying out Macromedia, and not starting fresh, but making its sweet compatible and integrating with Adobe’s existing software)

  2. Hi Neo, Thanks for commenting! That’s a good point. Make your online presence a reflection of your actual thoughts, but not giving everything away. Gives the reader a good indication of who you are, but leaves them wondering for more. When I was hired at my current job, my social media skills were a big plus for them. I’m thrilled that we had this sort of knowledge instilled in school, since it’s a really valuable experience.

  3. I have two very different businesses with different “personalities”. I have social networking accounts for each, and it can be very confusing. I’ve gone further than just different browsers, I use different computers and offices.

    My writer’s resources site is in the smaller room of my office. The laptop I use there is set up with only accounts for The Writer’s Chatroom. That “personality” is much more creative, funny and free-wheeling.

    Then I come to the main office, and everything on this computer is for my consulting business. This “personality” is more reserved, serious and professional.

    Some people are connected to both of my acounts, but they are people who know me personally and understand the differences. Most get a kick out of it.

    Sounds a bit complicated, but it works great for me. I walk into a different office and become a different person.

  4. Hi Audrey, Thanks for sharing. That approach seems to work well…can be hard to master at times, especially if you’re not fully committed to following suit, but I think it can be really effective. I think with more social media integrated into our every day lives, this added effort will be needed 🙂

  5. I think it is hard to have a clearly defined line between your personal and professional live when it comes to social media. I have tried to designate certain web pages for my personal life and certain pages for my professional use, but with so many people on social networking sites, it seems as though my personal life is always present. While you may have the personal understanding that your Facebook or Twitter are for professional use, how do you disclose this to all of your friends? How do you be transparent about whether your web page is a place to be personal or professional. It is tough.

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