The increasing adoption of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn presents an interesting quandary for people who want to use social media for both personal (keep in touch with family and friends) and professional (network with colleagues) purposes. Do you juggle separate personal and business profiles for each of these networks? Or should you use one account that merges both your professional "brand" image and your personal life? How you should use these social networks depends on your objectives and comfort with mixing business and personal information. The most important thing to remember is that even if you maintain separate personal and professional identities online, any information you share online can be made public or accessible to others.
Social Media: Privacy Matters (or Does It?)
The issue of privacy in social networking is a hot one. Some people, like Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg, believe online privacy is an antiquated concept. Others, like Internet identity consultant Kaliya Hamlin, contend that when social networks like Facebook abruptly change their privacy policies to share your information with 3rd parties by default, it's a violation of the service's social contract with its users.
Whichever side of the debate you are on, it's critical to be aware of the implications of posting anything online ever, no matter what the context. The safest thing is to just assume that anything you write or forward or add a comment to online will be seen by someone ... who may pass it along to someone else (willingly or unwittingly) ... whom you may not necessarily want to be sharing that information with. In other words, don't post anything on the Web that you wouldn't say in front of your boss or your mom. (This goes especially for anything illegal, against corporate policy, or just plain embarrassing, as in this round-up of 12 people who lost their jobs, reputations, or freedom after posting dumb photos to the Web.)
Before using social networking sites to connect to colleagues or find a job by using social media, edit your profile information to make sure it only has information you want your boss, coworkers, clients, colleagues, and potential employers to see ... ever (because the Internet never forgets). Also review your privacy settings in Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks -- make sure you're comfortable with the information that's automatically being shared about you on the Web.
Managing Your Social Identities: One Profile or Separate Personal and Professional Accounts?
I don't mean to scare you. Social media is great for building and maintaining relationships online and sharing and finding information you might not get elsewhere. For professionals, social networks can open doors by connecting you to leaders in your field as well as coworkers at the office; you can also voice your opinion on important topics and be apprised of the latest news by joining the conversation in Twitter and other social networks.
If you want to get into or make the most use out of the social networking scene for both professional and personal reasons, you have a few options. You can use: one profile for both business and personal socializing, separate personal and professional accounts on each social network, or some services for personal use and some for business. Read on for a look at each of these options and tips on finding work-life balance with social media.