I am constantly amazed at the number of people who combine personal social media posts with company posts. For example, it’s not uncommon to find people who will blog about industry trends and technology and, in the same blog, will write about personal interests such as photography, music, or their pets. On some level, I can understand wanting to humanize company news through personal disclosures. Instead of the face of a mindless corporate drone we see a whole person with interests like ours. Personally, I don’t believe that is the case. More often it appears that the poster is simply not thinking when they combine news of their company’s new product launch with a post about the hijinks of their pets.
Now, I can anticipate the response “So what? How does it hurt?” To begin with, it’s confusing to your audience. When you mix personal and corporate messages your friends and your colleagues doesn’t know if you are speaking to them personally or in your corporate role. Even when your colleagues are your friends, they are operating within different contexts. Friends follow you because they want to know about you not the company you work for. Colleagues and customers on the other hand don’t care about the details of your personal life. They want information that reflects the business relationship they have with you.
Mixing the personal and corporate messages together can also create problems for both you and the company. By operating both contexts from within the same account, what you say about yourself reflects directly on the company. The audience doesn’t have a clear line of separation between your business self and personal self. This can create PR and possibly legal problems for the company. What you say personally may easily be misconstrued as official corporate doctrine. The problem of mixed context is not only the company’s problem. It’s yours as well. Now, what the company wants you to say will be understood as your own personal opinion. You are giving tacit approval to the company message, placing your personal brand in jeopardy. If you ever need to distance yourself from the company line, you don’t have the chance.
Worst of all, showing a willingness to blend corporate and personal messages together sets the stage for the company to demand that you use your personal social media accounts for company messaging. Even if you don’t have a problem with what the company is saying, you certainly want to have control what and how the message is transmitted in your personal accounts. Hand over enough control to the company and they may want to start editing what you say. That’s understandable when you have intertwined your brand with the company’s. It should also be unacceptable to just about anyone interested in free speech.
Avoiding this situation is simple; don’t mix personal and corporate messages in social media. Maintaining separate accounts for personal and business messaging is a great place to start. You can keep the messages pure that way. It’s best to consider having one type social networking site off limits to work too. Facebook’s more private sharing model makes it a better platform for pictures of the kids, whereas Twitters open broadcast model is superb for corporate messaging. It’s even okay if you maintain an account for business messaging that is under your control to further your personal brand and include some corporate messages with it, especially as they relate to you. Just keep business in one place and personal in another and don’t blend them together.
Ultimately, you have to make a conscience decision to separate work life and the rest of your life on social media. Otherwise, you will lose control of your own voice and ability to speak without company interference.