The Myth of Business vs. Personal Profiles in Social Media

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Like most people I started out using social tools for very distinct purposes. LinkedIn was for connecting with current and former colleagues. Facebook was for friends. Twitter took me a little longer to figure out but basically I decided it was where I would share professional content and opinions.

But now we have Google+, Pandora is becoming a social sharing site (not to mention Flickr and Foursquare) and well you get the point: it’s getting even more confusing!

So the question is: can we be distinct people or personalities on different social sites?

Most of us have thought through our rules for who we connect with, on which social channels and how we behave there. But is this all a myth? Is there any real separation in our business and our personal profiles no matter where we are and what we do?

In this post, I will try to explore these questions and present my point-of-view. I hope you’ll share yours as well…

Work is Personal. Computing is Social. Knowledge is Power. Break The Rules

~ Fast Company Issue #1 November, 1995

For me it all started when, as a young professional, I would find myself in social settings with work colleagues. As a young guy fresh out of college, my social habits were very different when I was hanging out with my friends vs. when I was having a drink with colleagues the night after one of our quarterly sales meetings.

But then I saw this new magazine called “Fast Company.” It spoke to me like it knew what I was thinking: why couldn’t I be myself in both places? Luckily I learned to tone down my behavior in my personal life before relaxing a bit more in professional settings 😉

But you get the point: this is not a new question!

We are not Stepford employees. We are real people with emotions who can learn to bring a little more of our real selves to our work. Only good things can come from bringing passion, respect and “the Golden Rule” to those we work with and those we live with.

What Rules Do You Use To Decide Who To Connect With on Your Social Media Channels?

A little while back someone asked this question on our internal portal. It was one of the most active discussions we’ve seen yet.  I commented that I have started to see a convergence across social channels. My Twitter followers are becoming LinkedIn connection and Facebook friends. And I am grateful for every one of them.

The point became clear to me when I shared a funny and personal story about my son on Facebook. I had dozens of comments from “friends” that ranged from my earliest friends growing up to current colleagues at work to recent Twitter followers – all chiming in.

The light bulb went off once again: there is no such thing as a work-me and home-me. There is only what I choose to share and where I choose to share it.

Is this a personal or professional blog? It’s neither. It’s just my blog where I chose to engage an audience around a topic I am passionate about.

So What Does All This Mean?

I like the way Lisa Barone fron Outspoken Media sums it up in an article she wrote a while back:

We are officially beyond the days where you can have a distinct “personal” and “corporate” tweeting style. You must decide who you are and bleed it. From all accounts.

She continues:

You cannot expect people to form a relationship with you if you’re not willing to share part of yourself with them. This isn’t rocket science, its human relationships 101. Surely, we’re not so void of real person-to-person contact that we’ve forgotten this. To make a friend, you have to be a friend. Otherwise, WTF are you doing?

More Resources

So this conclusion is not just true for people, but also for companies as well. It’s why my colleague Sarah Goodall explains Why Social Media Isn’t Just Another Marketing Tactic and also why Michael Brito from Edelman Digital argues on Jay Baer’s Blog that you have to BE social before you can DO social. One final resource if you have never seen it, is the Paul Adam presentation called The Real Life Social Network. If you’ve never seen it, you should check it out (all 224 pages). Paul works at Facebook but produced this while at Google. It provides really interesting context into what inspired Google+.

So if you want to Tweet about what you had for lunch, I won’t mind. If you blog about your cat, that is ok. Because in the end, I have no interest in connecting with robots.

This is “Brand You” we’re talking about. Work is Personal. Break the Rules!

Now come on, tell me what you think in the comments below.

Photos courtesy of Fast Company

I would be honored if you follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog.

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Michael Brenner is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, author of The Content Formula and the CEO of Marketing Insider Group. He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael shares his passion on leadership and marketing strategies that deliver customer value and business impact. He is recognized by the Huffington Post as a Top Business Keynote Speaker and a top CMO influencer by Forbes. Please follow him on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook and Subscribe here for regular updates.

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