Mar 102010

“Should I set up separate work and personal accounts in social networks, or set up one for everything?”

-From a question asked in this post by David Lee King

The most important thing to remember is that there is no privacy on the web.  None, zip, zilch, zero.  Don’t kid yourself.  You may think that your personal Facebook page is locked down more securely than Fort Knox, but you would be wrong.  Do you know how to take a screenshot?  Can you copy and paste?  How are your photo download skills?  What about this skills of those that you are friends with on Facebook?  Have you ever seen this site? (WARNING, may not be safe for work)

How we behave and what we say on social networks should be no different than what we do in any other print environment.  Would you send a snarky email about a project you’re working on to a coworker?  No, of course you wouldn’t because once you say something in print you can’t take it back, or deny it, or ensure that nobody else except for the intended recipient ever reads it.  Would you go to lunch with a coworker and make verbally snarky comments about this same project?  This scenario is far more likely, assuming that you trust that your coworker will not repeat your discussion.  Of course, we should never say stupid, or mean, or snarky things at all, but sometimes we do because we’re not perfect.

When you come to peace with the fact that there is no privacy on the web, then the debate between what should be personal and what should be professional slowly begins to fade a bit.  Not entirely, mind you, but the lines do get blurred.  The challenge is that there is not a one size fits all approach.  Think about it this way – there is a social networking spectrum with everything about you being private (effectively meaning you don’t participate) at one end and everything about you being public at the other end.  You will have to determine for yourself where you as a person AND you as a professional are most comfortable on that line.  The closer together on the line that you can get your personal and professional comfort levels, the easier it will be for you to manage your social networking presence.

My strategy?  I have a private Facebook page that consists mainly of “real life” friends.  This is my most personal social networking space and I don’t give everyone full access.  However, even though it is my most personal space, I still don’t post anything and everything that I want, because there is no privacy on the web.  I also have a Facebook fan page for Beyond Sliced Bread for a more professional presence.  I have one Twitter account and I try to keep it 90% professional and 10% personal.  I want people to have a sense for who I am as a human, and not solely who am I am as a professional.

What works for you?  How do you handle the personal and the professional when it comes to social networks?