Mingling Business and Personal Stuff in Social Media

The question is, “to what extent should I keep my personal and business life separate when using twitter, facebook, and other social media?

The answer is, “It’s up to you.” There are no rules and everyone works out their personal approach to this one, which is one of the beauties of the “Wild West” that is Social Media.

One of the great strengths that social media have brought to business networking is an amplification of the importance of the personal touch and, in my humble opinion, this should be kept in mind. It is one of the strengths of the scene, so the ideal is to exploit that rather than crowbar the old ways of doing things into this rapidly-growing new field.

It is probably going to be simplest to outline some of the decisions I have made and why.

My Personal Brand

There is a rising sector of employment that I and many of my friends are engaged in. What are we selling? Ourselves. We are marketing our unique sets of skills but also our quirkiness and personal attributes that all go together to make a personal brand.

It may sound like an awful sell-out, to reduce myself to a product, but I don’t see it this way, it is more of a natural consequence of doing what you love and what is essentially “you” for a living. Isn’t this what we all long for?

I carry on a number of activities under the broad umbrella of freelance writing and editing, although a more accurate description would probably be “freelance creating” as lately my work has included forays into performance and consulting and I have not ruled out bringing more photography into it.

I don’t take on any old project that will pay, I work on stuff that accords with my principles and values, exploits my strengths and helps me grow as a person. I’m working for myself – in every sense of the word.

Also, very importantly, at this stage almost all (100%) of my work comes from people with whom I have a personal relationship of some sort, or who I have at least met face-to-face. For anyone starting out, the strength of existing networks of relationships cannot be overlooked. This is why I keep “trading” under my own name. I don’t mind potential “customers” knowing that I am a Christian or a Vegan, for instance, and in my experience this is helpful as it helps people to identify the kind of niche that I work in and heads off the requests to write copy for leather handbag sales or to produce erotica, while still opening the way for a diversity of potential projects.

The places where I am “me” are on this blog (which is a shop window where people can sample my work and where I can advocate for the stuff I am passionate about) and on twitter.

LinkedIn and ReferralKey finds a middle ground for me as it is specifically aimed at business networking, so I tend to keep my personal jibber jabber away from them.

Pros (for using yourself as the main brand)

  • Potential customers are encouraged to form a relationship with a person who has a face rather than a machine providing a service.
  • I can openly bring everything that I am to my work.

Cons

  • My tweet stream contains a certain amount of “noise” that is not of interest to clients, as I chat to people or post links that are personally interesting.
  • Some people may be put off by my stance on certain issues.

Other brands

However, under the umbrella of Seymour Jacklin, there are a couple of distinctive brands that I am developing. The first of these has it’s own twitter account and identity. It is called “Mindspective” and is the compartment where I am specifically emphasising my healthcare experience and special interest in mental health. This is primarily an information based project where I am doing writing in a specialised niche. I am less interested in hooking people on to me as a person, here, and it is more about providing something that stands alone, people are attracted by the niche rather than by my skills or personality. Very few of my everyday friends know about Mindspective.

At some point in the future, I my develop Mindspective to involve other contributors or I may sell the site on, so it makes sense to keep it separate from my personal brand.

The second brand is “Stories from the Borders of Sleep.” However, this is a much more personal project, and I use my “me” channels on social media.

I would say that the choice you make over whether to form another social media stream around a specific product will depend on the answers to the following questions:

  1. Will I employ other people in the future?
  2. Will this be set up as a charity, business or NGO in it’s own right at some point in the future?
  3. Am I thinking of selling this on to someone else one day?

General comments

I follow a number of streams on Twitter that are organisations or companies. It is mildly annoying when these are used, by whoever is managing the account, to say “hi” to their friends or carry on protracted correspondence in 141 character bites. I am generally following them because I want news and information.

I know one or two people who simultaneously broadcast exactly the same tweets both on their personal and business accounts and this feels a bit spammy (ahem). I do tend to re-tweet Mindspective from my personal account but never post identical tweets from both. I would say, “don’t do this.”

Many people use different forms of Social Media to do different jobs and keep a sense of separation. For instance, Flickr, is about photography – it overlaps with other stuff I do but it is its own thing. I don’t use MSN, Google Buzz, or any other chat streams for business purposes but I do do business on Skype, LinkedIn, Qype and Referral Key. This enables me to preserve a few corners where it is just about me and my mates chatting on.

It is important to be aware of what you do post and that “Google” forgets nothing. It is worth “googling” your self to see how you look to the online world and think if that needs to be managed or tweaked in any way that it is within your power to influence. Luckily the idiot stuff I posted on forums as a student 10 years ago is now so far down the page ranks as to be negligible.

Having abandoned facebook a few year ago, the only thing that would possibly drive me back there is the potential to use it purely for business.

It can be a nuisance (especially with twitter) having to log in and out of different accounts depending on whether you are in business or personal mode. I make things simpler by using different browsers: Firefox for personal, Chrome for business – it works really well.

In this day and age, quirks, personality, authenticity are the currency of new media, so keep them in there if appropriate.

Well, there’s just a few thoughts from the top of my head, hope it helps …

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