There are no divided plates in social media

Plate_drewmclellanSocial media is an all or nothing proposition.  No… I am not suggesting that you air all your dirty laundry, that you passive aggressively comment on a specific person's behavior on your Facebook updates or that we should all know how your marriage is going based on your tweets. 

That's a discussion of discretion and propriety, which we'll hold for another day.

I was talking about how some people are clinging to the idea that they can embark into the world of social media and somehow maintain very distinct and separate personal and professional lives.  You know…"I use Facebook just for my friends and LinkedIn for business contacts."

Life isn't that clear cut.  And let's take it out of the social media realm for a minute.  Do you know if your favorite client has children?  Do they know if you like coffee?  Ever share vacation photos or a book you love with a business associate?

Of course you have.  We are human beings.   And if you're doing business exceedingly well — odds are your customers are also your friends.

So what in the world makes us think we can or should keep those two interwoven worlds separate in social media?  Does the fact that I posted photos of my daughter's play negate my ability to help clients with their marketing?  If I tweet on occasion with an old college buddy, does that erase the tweets with insightful social media links and commentary?

That's not to say you shouldn't have a strategy for how you want to handle your social media exposure.  You have a reason — often a business reason — for being there.  And you shouldn't lose sight of that.  But just don't create artificial barriers to the point of the extreme.

As Amber Naslund said at the recent SOBCon conference — "sooner or later the mash potatoes are going to touch the peas."  

There are no divided plates in social media.  So you might as well figure out how to blend your worlds.  I hate to break it to you… but they're already blended.

What do you think?

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13 comments on “There are no divided plates in social media

  1. Toby Getsch says:

    Good point. One may still prefer to have only a few peas in the mash potatoes, and the divided plate analogy works fairly well for that.

  2. Toby,

    No argument from me there. I’m not necessarily advocating that you just mix everything all together into a mash.

    Just that people recognize it’s almost impossible to maintain absolute boundaries.


  3. I love this post. I’m closer to some clients than other, and not surprisingly, they’re the clients I do the most work for. We talk weekly, if not daily, and we frequently find ourselves talking about things other than work.

    It’s nice to have that level of comfort and trust with people you work with. It makes the work better, too.

  4. Glad you blogged about this. I just read a news article about a woman who was let go from her job because she linked one of her social media accounts to a blog she wrote that discussed her sex life. She had signed up with her real name and later changed the name to protect her identity. However, a third party service had already cached the page linking her to the account. Just things people need to be made more aware of when dealing with social media.

  5. Hi Drew –

    You’ve got it right. Here’s the thing: Google doesn’t distinguish, and IT is the thing that eventually outs you. Moreover, your OFFLINE selves have always blended, too. It might be easier to obfuscate your crazy after-work habits when you’re at the office, but everything you do is part and parcel to who you are.

    Online, it’s even harder to extract pieces of your presence from others. If you’re going to be silly enough to behave like a jackass on one social network while posting all proper and such on your corporate logo’d Twitter account, they’re going to find their way to collision, and other people are going to figure it out. Just ask the growing number of people who have been either fired or never hired in the first place because of what they’ve put on Facebook.

    Good judgment never, ever goes out of style, and it transcends every medium.


  6. That’s a wake-up call that a fair few people need. It’s all about enauring you don’t share things anywhere that you don’t want clients to see.

  7. mikemiller says:

    Thanks for the details.Quite an interesting concept you have discussed over here.Always get to learn a lot of new things from your posts about marketing.Doing a bit of charity any which way always gives a sense of satisfaction.

  8. Jessica — I think that is often the case. It makes perfect sense — we work better with people we like. And we don’t keep half of ourselves from people we like!

    I’m not suggesting that we don’t behave professionally. But as Amber points out in her comment — shouldn’t that be the norm?


  9. Kirill,

    Yikes — again, it’s about basic social norms. We should behave online just like we would at work, school, church or in front of our moms!


  10. Amber —

    “Good judgment never, ever goes out of style, and it transcends every medium.”

    Amen! And maybe that’s the core point. For most people, this is a non-issue. They wouldn’t talk about certain subjects or personal issues offline, so they don’t do it online either.

    It’s the notion that online is some safe, anonymous dumping ground for your deepest, darkest secrets that gets people into trouble!

    Or…the complete lack of discretion gene, which I believe is a new genetic disease that afflicts most people born after 1988.


  11. Good post. We mostly don’t live segmented lives offline, and so it’s reasonable to assume that we don’t online as well.

  12. Robert Jones says:

    You wont get an argument from either on this one! I guess the only issue is that sometime FB can be a little revealing, not necessarily your own information, but your friends. This can often lead to embarrassing moments if your business associates are linked to your personal business. There is a fine boundary that must be maintained in order for business to be conducted without favoritism and or personal professional boundary conflicts.

  13. Robert,

    You’re right — it is a balancing act. But with some effort and attention to the privacy settings, you can keep your friends’ questionable choices from your clients’ view!


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