It’s MY Lifestyle Choice

I just recently set up a second Twitter (@S_Horv) account for strictly professional reasons so that I could tweet work-related information, updates, social media happenings, etc. The first account I established was a personal account. However, over time, the personal account turned into more tweeting about things related specifically to my area of expertise than personal happenings. In addition, I’ve also mixed in personal things that aren’t related to work. But, I’m constantly wanting to share more and more about what I’m directly doing at work related to those topics. However, the mixture of my professional knowledge of work and my personal life often make me feel uneasy. It’s that uneasiness which led me to creating the second account and to writing this blog post.

I’m the type of person who really wants to have a clear line between my personal life and professional life. Experiences in the distant past, prior to social media, really encouraged me to move that direction. But the lines between personal and professional are severely blurred because of social media. This is because when you spend the majority of your day, month, year, and life “on the job,” the interactions you have with others often relate to your job. As that happens, you build friendships outside of work that are based upon work related topics, and end up collaborating on those topics. At that point the line has blurred. Naturally, you take those relationships into your personal social media use, but you’re still discussing work related information.
For some this may be just dandy (yes, I said “dandy). For me, I cherish those relationships but I want to make sure the relationships I have online are clearly separated into work and personal. That’s tough to do. But, I’m working on making that happen now.
To do this, I’ve had to step back and really think about what I’m trying to do by using social media, look at the tools I’m using, and figure out if it’s really worth it to me. Sound familiar (i.e., Mission. Tools. Metrics. Teach)? I primarily use Twitter for both personal and work. But it’s mostly centered around work, or my area of expertise. I don’t really use it for personal all that much. I mean, sure…I love being the Mayor of Burger King, McDonalds, Ledo’s Pizza, and CVS and having people comment on my mayorships. Who wouldn’t be proud of that political career?!
But am I getting anything out of that?
Do I really have to complain about some specific product that I find annoying?
Most importantly, did I even get the friggin’ key to Ledo’s Pizza for being the Mayor?
No. Nope. Fat chance!
But seriously…stepping back and looking at the majority of my interactions and where I want them to be…it’s more about collaborating, networking, and sharing things from a professional standpoint. With my professional relationships, I want to be open. I want to be available. With my personal relationships, I want to be less open with the world and more open with my family and close friends. There’s tools available for me to do both and still keep a clear separation of work and personal.
Do others think the same way as I? Do you get worried sometimes about what you say in your personal social media and how it’ll be perceived..and then related back to your professional life?
Disclaimer: This post is my own personal opinion and is not endorsed by my employer or any U.S. Government Agency.

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Kris Gedman

I absolutely agree with you that I feel “uneasy” when I post “personal” related tweets, statuses, etc. knowing that my social network includes both family and firends as well as co-workers. I’ve gone as far as to use completely separate social networking apps for personal and work related relationships. For example, I use facebook primarily for personal use, whereas I use sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, and GovLoop for business related interactions, and even some like Windows Live for both. Regardless I constantly fight with whether or not I’m really getting the most of social networking while keeping two personas and also find myself constantly asking myself why I think it’s necessary to do so.

Scott Horvath

@Kris: That’s exactly what I’m talking about…glad I’m not the only one.

One reason I don’t just use the old account to start tweeting professional stuff is because that personal account has a history of my personal tweets…some of which are not related to my professional work. Sure, I could just start tweeting from that account and change my focus. But, again, to me that’s not a clear separation. It’s still mixing the two (current focus, but still has personal history).

The other reason why I’m changing my accounts is because @S_Horv is much shorter than @scotthorvath. That gives more room to tweet, and still allow for old-school retweets which helps increase the possibility of that information being shared.

Dannielle Blumenthal

A lot of people struggle with this.

In the end I think if you put it online, it ends up part of your professional brand.

Doesn’t matter if your comments are on a site that requires login, etc.

Not sure everyone gets that.

Margaret Lahey

YES. I actually set up 2 Facebook accounts – one professional; one personal. But over time, I found it required too much work to be active on both, so I began to neglect my professional account. For now, the Facebook filters do a decent job for me to allow myself to be more candid towards my closer friends and more professional towards acquaintances and professional contacts.

Kris Gedman

I agree with @Danielle that no matter what you post online, it’s part of your professional brand. But I honestly feel like having to consider that takes a lot of the fun and excitement out of social networking (and even adds a little bit of stress). For example, I want to be able to share photos and allow all of my friends on facebook to post and see my wall, but everytime I see the “you were tagged” in an old college friends photo, it makes me think twice about accepting friend requests from co-workers and professional acquaintances therefore limiting my social networking capabilities. It certainly is a dilemna and I’m always interested to hear how others deal with it.

Scott Horvath

It is true that what you put online ends up being a part of your professional brand. For personal reasons, even though there’s been plenty of issues around it, Facebook offers the most control options over your profile and what you post. For that very reason, I’m completely moving my personal interests to Facebook. Everything else will be professional use only. I’ll probably tinker around with new services from a personal standpoint to learn more about them, but in the end I will probably drop them unless they fill a gap that I can’t find elsewhere.

But I still feel that drawing a clear line between your personal and professional use is needed.

Jenyfer Johnson

I’m like Kris…I use FB pretty much as my personal site to stay in touch with family and friends and post what I feel like without caring who sees it or what they say about it. Then I use GovLoop, Twitter and LinkedIn for my professional networking. It works for me.

Michele Costanza

My background is in teaching and learning, not PR, communications, or advertising. I learned more about social media only as another method of what I hoped would be knowledge creation and knowledge transfer.

I don’t view myself as a product with a brand to sell. I don’t spend too much time and energy on impression management for the purposes of selling a brand.

While a contractor, I have chosen not to blog or use Twitter, since I mainly engaged in that form of communication when I worked for myself independently. I used caution with Twitter and only tweeted about events I attended after the fact, mostly because I was paranoid of posting to the Internet that I would be at this location at this particular time. I didn’t think it’s a very safe way to use Twitter, to post to the Internet where and when you will be somewhere, but that’s IMHO.

Dannielle Blumenthal

Quick comment on the personal branding issue. From an employer’s perspective I think you are always a brand, because they look at you vs. other candidates/employees in terms of what you have to offer vs. them. Same goes for college admissions or any sphere of life actually. That is why it is critically important to a) acknowledge this as a financial and social reality that has real consequences for you and b) keep in mind that whatever you say or do, in any forum, online or offline, affects this image that you have created. You CANNOT hide behind Facebook.

If you choose not to care, fine, and all your friends may say different. That does not change the reality of what is.

Scott Horvath

@Danielle: I never said that you CAN hide behind Facebook…or any service for that matter. What you put out on a publicly available tool, no matter how many privacy controls, is ultimately still public. So even when posting content “for friends only” or “only my family” or in a “secret” group, you still have to assume that it’ll be public.

That leads to a larger discussion, though, on how your personal brand is perceived by current and future generations. What about the expectations of what you post online? Will that expectation change as the Facebook-generation moves into the workplace? Become supervisors? Managers? Congressional members? Presidents?

You should still, ultimately, post knowing that it might become public one day…but should you also shield yourself into a box spouting only digital-Gregorian chants with no color, zest, or spiciness?

Michele Costanza

I’m honestly not trying to sell the “personality type” theories. Some individuals may be in fields or occupations where they have to work against type in the professional realm, and their personality comes through more in their private lives. It’s up to the individual how much time, energy, and effort he wants to put into impression management of a professional image, which may or may not be congruent with his personal life.

As for the theory that makes the analogy between branding of a person with branding of a manufactured product like Pepsi or Coke (as in Me, Inc.), it’s just another theory. The more mature I get, the less I accept theories at face-value. I also don’t accept the theory of digital immigrants and digital natives.

Dannielle Blumenthal

While I don’t think it is good to be excessively self conscious or a plastic drone – I am not sure how one would phrase the argument that we don’t all have an image to think about. You aren’t a Coca Cola, but you do conceptually represent something by everything you do. If you don’t like the word brand you can think of it as image, identity, reputation, etc.

Nancy Heltman

As the official Twitterer behind @VaStateParks and because I run the social media campaign, I noticed the same problem when I started the accounts. I didn’t even have a personal Facebook account until I needed one to create the Virginia State Parks page. I created a personal Twitter account and became uneasy even using that since my name was no easily linked with my job. If I were Mary Smith it might have been ok. So I found I used my personal account less and less. I started tweeting for my dog (which is where I have fun) but even there folks know what Yoda’s mom does. So, when I want to be completely anonymous and especially tweet about politics and religion, I use another secret account not easily linked to me. But I have learned that when you work 60 hours a week there isn’t much personal to be tweeting about!

Cian Dawson

I definitely have social media accounts that I maintain for social vs professional purposes, so I understand that differentiation. But I’m curious that you don’t touch on the issue of personal professional account (me speaking professionally in a private capacity) vs official professional (me speaking professionally in an official capacity for my employer but using my own name). The two are very different, especially in government, especially when you get into issues around endorsements (this is a great book, check out this great conference coming up, etc.).

Steve Lunceford

One other way you could have done this to prevent the personal tweets from remaining *AND* keep your audience: http://support.twitter.com/entries/14609-how-to-change-your-username

Basically, from existing account set up new – you retain followers, @’s DMs, but I’m not certain about your previous tweets (the help article only mentions followers, @’s and DMs).

BTW, you may want to go back and grab the old ID just to have (or deny others from having).

Scott Horvath

@Steve: Thanks. I did see those. But what I didn’t want was past tweets being associated with my official account. It’s not like I had anything bad in them…I just prefer the solid separation. The downside is losing your followers. At the same time though it was a Twitter cleansing so-to-speak. Advantages/disadvantages to both. But, I’m still comfortable with the change.