As a social media strategist at a Fortune 1000 company, often the first question I would hear is: “Should I have separate accounts for my personal and professional social media?” As with many things, the answer is: It depends.
Below are three questions that may help you decide for yourself.
Which platforms are you using, and why?
It’s important to do a little research – either here on www.sociallyprofessional.com, or on sites such as Mashable, Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, or Marketing Think – to understand the purpose of each site, and how they work. In some cases, you only need one profile on a platform, as each platform serves a distinct need. Below are examples of three major social media sites:
LinkedIn is specifically a professional networking site. While it’s acceptable to share some non-business details about yourself, those details should still be appropriate for a business audience. Also, you can arrange your settings so that your connections are the only ones who can see your profile and updates.
Twitter is used for both personal and professional purposes, and it is the most open and accessible of the platforms. I’ve heard Twitter described as a cocktail party, where you communicate with small groups, but where the whole party might hear you. Unless you protect your Tweets – which reduces the benefit of being on such an open platform – everything you post is public and searchable. Because of this, you may choose to have two separate accounts.
Facebook is still primarily used to connect with people – and brands – you know in your real life. The content that you share is also fairly private, assuming your settings allow only friends to view it. While nothing is ever truly private once you share it online – regardless of your settings – you are able to filter your posts so that you’re not overwhelming your professional connections with personal posts that won’t be of any interest to them.
Who is your audience?
The answer to this typically varies and depends on the platform. I have different connections on LinkedIn versus Facebook, and I share completely different content with each audience. Same with Twitter. Determine if what you want to share is appropriate for that audience. If the answer is “no” then you should create a separate account.
Is there a business need to keep them separate?
For those who work in a regulated industry, employers may require that you keep your accounts separate. Also, if you plan to share content – or reveal information about yourself – that you wouldn’t share with your boss, then it makes sense to keep two distinct accounts, with one very obviously designated as personal. In this case, your personal account should not list your employer in any manner. When in doubt, consult your company’s social media policy and code of conduct or your human resources department.
As I mentioned earlier, nothing you post online is ever truly private. What makes social media powerful is the sharing mechanism, which enables your connections to amplify your content with their connections. Regardless of your privacy settings, or how careful you are about connecting, always assume that your content could go outside your network – and possibly viral. And if you list your employer in your profile, you must assume that anything you post could be linked to them. “Freedom of speech” – except in particular circumstances – does not insulate you from consequences if your social media activity violates your employer’s code of conduct.
I believe that professionals using social media should carefully identify their audiences and post content accordingly. Personally, Twitter is the only platform where I considered the question of one or two profiles.
I decided on one Twitter profile. I do, however, share some personal information as well as social media-related content. I believe that sharing both types of content helps to give the world a full picture of me, which is my ultimate goal.