Social Media and the Professional: Introduction

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Many people use social media services such as Twitter and Facebook extensively in their personal lives. It can be hard, however, to figure out where to draw the line between what you say there about your friends and your activities, and what you discuss concerning your work, or professional life.

In this and several follow-up blog entries, I’m going to discuss my personal rules for how I use these tools, as well as those that are more business oriented such as LinkedIn. I’m also going to talk about social media inside the enterprise and how you might approach that. An example of a product that provides social media for inside the firewall is IBM Connections.

I work for IBM, but I want to provide an important disclaimer right up front: The content on this site is my own and does not necessarily represent my employer’s positions, strategies or opinions. So what I say here is not IBM’s official position on anything.

In the same vein, how I use social media might be very different from the way you do it, and obviously that’s just fine. My purpose is to provide insight based on several years worth of experience. My rules are based on how I work and how I separate out various concerns. I say some things in some environments that I would never say in others.

I’ve learned several years ago that I handle having multiple accounts of the same kind very well. I tend to ignore all but one of them. Thus I mix everything I want to say into a single Twitter account, for example. That means you get all of me, or at least what I decide to share. It also tempers how much I might say on certain topics. I believe social media needs to show enough of who you are so that people can stay interested, or at least curious.

If your organization has guidelines for your use of social media, you must know and abide by them, and they may extend to your use of the services on your personal time. For IBM employees, the Business Conduct Guidelines spells out a lot of this.

When you use any of these services, you have some similar decisions to make:

  • Who will I follow?
  • Who will I try to get to follow me? Who will I block?
  • How much will I say in my profile about myself?
  • What kinds of status updates will I post? How often will I post?
  • When will I share content posted by others?
  • How political, if at all, will I be in my postings?
  • How much will I disclose about my personal details and activities in my postings?
  • On what sorts of posts by others will I comment?
  • What’s my policy about linking to family, friends, or co-workers?

In the next few entries I’ll consider how I use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and an enterprise social media service. I’ll look at each of the questions above, and also discuss anything specific to the type of the service. In all cases, I’ll focus on how I use the services as a business professional, and where I let my personal and work lives intersect.

Blog entries in this series: (links will become active as the entries are published)