Thursday, June 30, 2011

Social Business - is your company ready to provide guidance around personal/professional persona?

To continue the theme of talking about readiness to adopt Social Business, let's take a deeper dive into the topic around the blurring of personal and company persona.   As companies start to encourage and enable employee participation in social media to drive business value, it's important to consider how to or if employees should include their personal social interactions with social business discussions.  Should they have a single profile?  Or, separate profiles for work and personal?   This is a tough issue, with advocates on both sides of the spectrum.

Many believe that employees should be encouraged to blur the line between their personal and professional persona.  The benefit of this is to give the 'userid' a personality, making even the business conversations warmer.  It also provides an opportunity to network with business collegues on non-work related topics.   I've heard numerous examples where important relationships have formed over topics such as gardening, biking, traveling, etc.  These relationships could reap business benefits and connections that would not otherwise be made.

Others believe that it's best to have separate identities on social networks.  The concern is that my relatives and friends do not really care about work related topics, so why should she be exposed to them.  When you blur your persona's, it makes it difficult to keep selected personal topics private.   Some say that it is possible to carefully set your privacy settings in social networks, but it does take continued diligence to assure that they are kept up to date.

So, which is best for Social Business?  I've come to the conclusion that 'it depends' on what the employee wants to accomplish.  Rather than diving right into creating and linking profiles, it's critical for employees to take the time to put together their social eminence plan.  What do they want to accomplish professionally?  What level of engagement do I currently have personally?  What are the advantages and disadvantages to blurring personas vs. keeping them separate?   This plan is also critical to have upfront, so you can think about what conversations you want to listen to, and engage with.  Without a plan, it is easy to wonder aimlessly in social spaces.  I know we have all felt that frustration on the internet ... and the same thing applies with social networks.

My advice for companies?   Encourage your employees to participate in social conversations.   Give them tips and education around how to put a plan together.  Establish goals for yourself.  Once you understand your goals, you can then go ahead and start setting up your profiles.

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