Social Media: Should I Have a Separate Professional Account?
This is a question that I’ve struggled with, and I still don’t think I’ve found the answer. When I first started doing outreach work, I was speaking with people from around the world. I often messaged people whom I would never meet, and had never met before. That made me weary of sharing too much personal information. I was completely validated when several men made inappropriate and threatening comments to me after posing as students in need of group organizing help. For that reason, I started a second Facebook account and used it for all of my work contacts and people I didn’t know personally—with a very limited amount of information about me featured on my profile. Little did I know that two years later, I’d have three Facebook accounts and be fielding near-constant questions from friends thinking I had unfriended them because they found one of my other accounts. Sigh.
What is the answer, then? In the social media age, professionals are expected to be networking on LinkedIn, commenting on company posts on Facebook, retweeting to help the brand on Twitter, and maybe more. Do you use each account for some personal and some professional, but hold back on your personal life, or do you separate the two so that you’re free to post those beach pics and fishbowl margaritas while keeping professional contacts in the dark? I still can’t decide, so here are the pros and cons of each method and you can decide what works best for you.
Having Separate Professional and Personal Social Media Accounts
- You control what your colleagues see about you.
- You don’t have to be the tag police and look out for your friends tying you to nefarious activities.
- You can friend people with less discrimination because you don’t have personal information on your profile.
- No need to learn how to make separate lists, or use the ‘custom’ audience features to post something for your friends that remains invisible to business contacts.
- You have to log in to separate accounts, which takes more time.
- You will likely confuse your friends and family when they see another account for you that they are not friends with, which sometimes leads to very offended friends!
- You won’t have as easy of access to your account on mobile devices, which are usually linked to just one account on any particular app (I still haven’t figured out how to switch Facebook accounts on my phone)
- It’s usually transparent because you don’t post much, have just a couple pictures, and have fewer friends. You look boring.
- If you leave a job for a much different field, you then need to decide whether to keep your old account, or connect with certain people on different accounts and delete the now-defunct professional profile.
Combining Your Professional and Personal Social Media Accounts
- You look like a real person with a real life.
- People can see your personality.
- You likely have the account(s) connected to your mobile devices and can more easily interact with anyone in your network.
- Less time is spent working on your brand because you’re not switching between accounts.
- Maybe you can even make a more personal connection with someone in your professional network and build a more meaningful relationship.
- You have to be the tag police and make sure your friends don’t tag you in work-inappropriate photos or comments.
- You might not want to show support for things you believe in because you fear alienating business contacts (for instance, not posting petitions, news pieces, your views or other beliefs, because you would not share them at work).
- You water-down your posts and avoid personal posts that may be touching or funny, but would not be okay for your boss to see. You can’t talk about how your daughter made poopie everywhere, and you definitely won’t post photos asking which bikini is better.
- You can’t readily complain about work.
I have a personal Facebook account, a professional Facebook account for my GROW contacts, an account that’s mostly personal now that I don’t work full-time for CFI but still want to keep in touch with many of the friends I made there, and I have all of my other accounts: LinkedIn, Twitter, Reddit, LoseIt, Meetup, My Fitness Pal, Daily Mile, Happify, a few WordPress, probably a Youtube account somewhere…and the list goes on. I’ve started to abandon some of them because it takes too much time to admin them all, but I keep the separate Facebook profiles. I guess I’ll finally combine them all when I’m sufficiently famous and there is not a divide between my business life and my personal life. Until then, I’ll just keep doing the rounds and explaining to grandma why she’s “not friends” with me on Facebook (even though she is).