Bringing a social context to your business life can grey a lot of lines (and hairs). How much of yourself do you invest in an online persona for business? How much of your business time do you spend investing in relationships that may or may not relate directly to your business?
It’s a tough line to walk, some people have chosen not to walk it at all and some have dived in head first not knowing when–or if–they’ll find the bottom. I’ve done a little bit of everything and I’ve landed on the following conclusion:
Online social tools rock, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to using them, but if you’re going to use them, and use them sustainably, you’ve got to know where your boundaries are.
It’s easy to bring your entire world with you. It comes along in your pocket, all of your friends are at your finger tips. Literally, even the ones sitting right across from you that you met for a drink and aren’t talking to because you’re engulfed in all the “action” online, or you’re busy trying to solidify your plans for later on tonight… right in front of the person you’re supposed to be spending time with now (sorry, that’s a rant for another blog post). At any rate, the lines between business and social are getting fuzzier, not more concrete. It’s up to each of us to define our own boundaries.
Self imposed boundaries on social networks. What do those even look like? Networks like Facebook, where you’re forced to differentiate between a brand/company and a person, make it easy. You’ve got your personal connections in one place and your business ones in another. But what about something like Twitter? Do you go ahead with one account? Two? More?? Should you even have a personal account?
It depends. Let’s try some scenarios, shall we?
Scenario 1: You could give a hoot suite about social networking for personal reasons, but you’re the lone communications/pr/marketing person in your office and the task has fallen upon you to figure out all of this Twitter business and bring the company into this century. What do you do?
You make one account. You put your name on it somewhere (like saying this account is managed by: XXXX), and you put your own flavour to what you share, but you do it in such a way that the content isn’t so unique that the young buck you want to hire so you can have your evenings and weekends back can step in without too much disruption to your feed.
Scenario 2: You’re the young buck that was just hired to take over a social media role. You’ve got your own account, but you know the value of having a personal touch and being seen as the name and face of any certain account/company. Do you give up your personal account in lieu of promoting the business one?
No. You do both… especially if you’re a young buck! Keep your own online presence. If you’re the manager and you intend on being where you’re at for the next decade or so, you can get away with managing just the biz account. But if you’re out there movin’ and shakin’, you’d best keep a pretty solid line going between business and pleasure, you don’t need to be Calgary’s Phone Dog.
Scenario 3: You’ve been tweeting on behalf of a company, everyone knows you as that… you’ve gone and fused your own brand with theirs. Uh-oh. You didn’t really intend for it to happen.. it just did. Now what?
Take a deep breath. You’ll be fine. Go start a personal account. Right now. Then you can send all the flirty DMs you want to that really cute geek you met at the last tweetup without worrying whether or not you’re being unprofessional.
Bottom line… act on your own Twitter feed how you would act out in public. If it’s questionable, by all means, take precautions to protect it, to have an anonymous account or make damn sure you’re not the one on the biz account (and that nobody knows where you work!) Act on your work Twitter feed the same way you would act in the office or while out talking to clients. If there’s something you’re not sure about, avoid the situation altogether. It’s not worth the hassle of being one of the first people to help figure out what laws should apply where.