March 22, 2009

How To Cleanly Separate Personal and Work Social Media Personalities

As social networking and social media sites increasingly become as much about companies and brands as they are about people, you are seeing names like Zappos and JetBlue tweeting alongside you, and Comcast answering complaints. Companies might be making comments on FriendFeed and asking you to join their fan page on Facebook. Many of you, possibly tasked with maintaining the social media presence for your company, might be maintaining multiple accounts on practically every network, and trying to keep your personalities in check, lest you make the mistake of getting the two mixed up. For the last four months, I've been doing the same thing. Here's how.

Put Your Work Life In One Browser, and You In Another

Everybody has multiple browsers these days. Whether you prefer Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or something else, you probably have a second one which you use less. Rather than ask you to login and log out over and over, set up one of your browsers with bookmarks to all your work activity and the social media sites with that account, and keep your preferred browser all yours.

For my work account, I use Firefox, and for me, I use Safari.

When I open Firefox, the browser opens five distinct tabs:
  • Gmail
  • Google Reader
  • Twitter Search
  • Twitter
  • FriendFeed
The GMail account tracks new subscribers and DMs. Google Reader populates the link blog. Twitter search watches what is being said online, and Twitter and FriendFeed let the company participate.

Running the browsers in parallel lets me do the work I need to in both, without suffering from multiple personality disorder.

Make A Second Login, Preferences for TweetDeck

TweetDeck, in my opinion, is still the best way to track groups and saved searches in Twitter. I set up TweetDeck so if I am logged in as me, the application has the standard black look and feel. But when I am logged in with the company ID, TweetDeck is in the company colors of blue and orange. Yes, the combination is somewhat garish, but it serves as a reminder to me that I'm logged in for work, so I won't screw up.

Logged Into TweetDeck as the Company

Logged Into TweetDeck as Me

Beyond the colors, you should leverage TweetDeck's saved search functionality to track your company and product mentions, as well as that of competitors.

Create a Second Disqus Account for Commenting

When commenting on blogs around the Web, as yourself, or for the company, it makes sense to use best practices and identify who you are. But you don't necessarily want to track your work comments to your personal ID. I recommend getting a second Disqus account that ties back to your work e-mail address, and have that registered in the "work" browser. When I make comments on sites as work, it says my first and last name, and then, in parentheses, the company name.

Always Work Methodically When Acting on Behalf of the Company

Tweeting or commenting or blogging or bookmarking as a brand is more risky than when you do it on your own. As with all things on the Web, you should consider how they could be interpreted downstream. But when you are doing something on behalf of a corporate entity that represents products, people, history and finance, you should take an extra breath before acting, and pay extra attention to every word, character or nuance.

Be Replaceable

If you do your job well, it should be easy for you to pass off the reins of the social media strategy at your company to somebody else with very little impact. If you make the company's social media presence all about you, it will follow you where you go next, and could negatively damage the company you are leaving, and distract from the company where you are going. See that you can work on behalf of the company without it being all about you. Try to offer personality without it necessarily being your distinct personality.

You'll note I don't often talk about work here on the blog. It was a conscious decision I made when starting the site at the beginning of 2006. It's not a secret where I work (check my LinkedIn profile) but it's not about where I work. It's all part of keeping things separate. Are you running the social media activity for your company, or looking to get started? I would be interested in the tips you may have as well.