Finding Balance: Personal vs. Pro in Social Media

Photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Finding the balance between your personal and professional life is hard, but finding it in the way you use social media is tricky in of itself.

Social media is something employers are trying to figure out and adjust to. Some organizations have strict policies where they require interviewees to fork over their Facebook passwords while others, maybe yours, prefer you to create a separate work-related social media account.

I don’t believe there’s a blanket answer that works for every organization. Some organizations may be relaxed when it comes to associating their brands with your personal network (in some cases, it’s probably exactly what they want) while others are very concerned who and what is associated with their name.

It took me a while to find what worked with my nonprofit organization, and here are 5 questions that helped guide me into making the right choice:

  1. Is there anything on my personal pages that I wouldn’t want my boss to see? Facebook pictures of your friend’s party last Thursday night may not be what you want your boss, nor coworkers or cause supporters, to see on Friday morning. If you can’t limit your profile settings so prevent them from seeing those pictures, a separate Facebook account may be right for you.
  2. Is my organization’s cause something that would interest my friends? You may be excited about working for your cause but that doesn’t mean your existing audience—your friends—will be. They are friends with you for specific reasons, so be respectful of your existing audience. If you decide to use your personal profile for work, some friends may stop following you, so keep that in mind.
  3. Who’s your professional audience? It helps make a decision whether to have separate social accounts or not when you know who your cause-related audience is. If they were to see that you checked into a bar last night or read your comments on a political issue, would they be alarmed? Would that cause any issues? Or would they like seeing that personal side of you?
  4. How would I use social media personally and professionally? Whether you’re keeping one account or plan to create two, you still have to draw the line between personal and professional posts. If you use one account for both, your personal posts may have to change to be a little more “PC.” On the other hand, you also have to figure out how conversational and personal your professional side will be. That brings me to the last question.
  5. Can I balance two identities? If you think keeping two profiles is the way to go, do you think you can manage keeping up with both of them? Work out a way to keep both audiences engaged by writing a plan that helps you remember the mission/purpose for each audience.

What are your thoughts? Would you add anything else to the list?

3 thoughts on “Finding Balance: Personal vs. Pro in Social Media”

  1. Speaking to your first point, I encourage people to think about “The Grandma Rule,” as in if you wouldn’t want your grandma to see it, it probably doesn’t belong on social media. Hopefully this helps align things more long-term and limits poster’s remorse. Additionally a person’s role in their organization can significantly influence their online persona. For example, as the leader for social media at my company, I understand my profiles are inherently public and professional in nature. Others in the company though have a little more choice about how professionally aligned their profiles are.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly, Cheryl. I’m one of the leaders in social media in our NPO and I know I’m always filtering what I post through that lens. Thanks for your great insights.

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