5 Tips To Separate Personal And Professional Life Online

"My life and biz is so intertwined in every way that it's hard to make that clean separation on and offline." That's what Candace Alper (@NameYourTuneCDs) said on Twitter when I asked about the importance of separating your personal and business life on Facebook. As an entrepreneur who runs a made-to-order children's CD company, she is comfortable mixing business with pleasure online. Monica Roddey (@MicaR) agrees. She says "my online persona = my 'real life' persona ... what you see is what you get."

I fall into Alper's and Roddey's camp. When I signed up for Facebook years ago, I opened it up to anyone and everyone. Although I now also maintain a fan page, it's still hard for me to refuse friend invites that make their way into my personal account. However, the majority of the responses I received disagreed with this approach. Matt Hall (@mattwiter) writes that "you simply don't combine the two to begin with ... that is a sure mistake." For Kathy Dabrowska (@_katdee), she says "you can't be ON all the time ... you need a place where marketing yourself is not needed."

In theory I agree that separation is a good thing. With more employers lurking on social profiles and more people oversharing online, it just makes sense to keep some things private. However, the reality is that sometimes the tools make it difficult to split up your networks. Here are five tips to help you get closer.

1. Use different networks for different purposes

Jon Lax (@jlax) uses LinkedIn for business and Facebook for personal. This seems to be a pretty safe and standard approach for a lot of people. After all, LinkedIn just doesn't lend itself to the more personal information that is expected on Facebook. If you do this, it's important to warn people in your professional life who are expecting to be accepted as a Facebook friend. In other words, let them know gently that LinkedIn is where your like to do business.

2. Create a Facebook personal profile AND brand page

Mike Frey is a fan of separation, so he maintains a private account and a company page. This way it's clear that the latter is for professional networking only. To create a public page simply go to the Pages section on Facebook. You have the option to create a page as a Business, Company, Public Figure, Brand, or Community Cause. One thing to note, until you have 25 fans you cannot get a custom URL for your page (an important part of your overall branding).

3. Push your business contacts to Twitter

Maury Estabrooks (@maurye) thinks using Twitter as a professional networking tool and Facebook for personal relationships is ideal. Since Twitter works best as a public forum, this is a solid approach. The only downside to this option is that your tweeting profile lacks the infrastructure to expand on your business information and history, so it's limited as a professional tool.

4. Tweak Facebook privacy settings

Ross Simmonds (@TheCoolestCat) believes that toying with your settings on the world's number one social network will help you to maintain separation. With these new-ish Facebook options you are able to decide which group of friends sees what. To do this go into your Privacy Settings and adjust the options within "Sharing on Facebook." This way you can adjust who can see what.

5. Take your private life offline altogether

As Chris McLachlin wrote me on Facebook, we have given up a lot of our privacy already. He mentions that everything we share is in the "public domain," so people might as well get used to it or limit what they say. Out of the above tips, I most closely agree with this statement. While I have a personal Facebook account, I never share any photos there that I wouldn't be comfortable showing publicly. I also refuse to broadcast my phone number or address with anyone, and I more or less just assume that privacy settings won't help me that much if someone in my network decides to breach my trust.

Read more Work Smart:

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[Image: Flickr user Kevin N. Murphy; homepage image: Flickr user Mel B.]

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  • Sharmin_00001

    personal  &  professionals  life  is  very  different  life  bt i really  trust  this  is life   is  life............bt  personal  &  professional  is  different  think

  • Aaron R

    I agree with Dan, in addition I do think it's important to consider separating personal and business information via various platforms like William mentioned: Facebook, linkedIn etc. In particular I've found that www.studentgenius.com is an excellent place for business information and to use it to further one's professional career.


  • William Arruda

    In Mad Men days, where leaving the office meant ending work, it was easy to compartmentalize work and life. Today, work and life are intertwined - and it is becoming more and more difficult to keep them separate. I used to advise my clients to keep Facebook for friends and LinkedIN for professional contacts. Now, with social tools like BranchOut, it's important to have professional contacts in Facebook. And many GenYs see no reason to keep work and life separate.  The wall that divide work from life will eventually crumble like the Berlin Wall.

    William Arruda

  • Pamela Kan

    I agree with Chris. I operate by the judge and grandma rule no matter what the medium. If I would tell it to a judge or my grandma I share the information. I think all the platforms are blurring together and some will survive and others will die out.  I think the separation of content is harder and harder to achieve as certain personal and business contacts prefer to use specific media channels.

  • Ashley Edwards

     I disagree with Mr. Hall. I think personal and business identities can be combined. You just have to be smart--and sometimes careful--about it. I actually wrote a post on my company's blog about this very topic not too long ago (http://izea.com/protecting-you.... In a nutshell, if you're marrying the two (personal and business), never "post anything you wouldn't want your mother to see." 

    I think that's pretty safe.

  • Dave Thackeray

    As someone who's been on the wrong end of a barracking for causing an unknown Facebook 'friend' some consternation in an unknown status update (Watergate has nothing on this schaudenfreude created by a client apparently for their own amusement) I can see why this post is useful. Or should I say, could have been useful - if it had been packed with useful tips on how to actual separate personal and professional lives online.

    That being said, it works as a great primer and reminder for us all. Everyone is different and what's good for the goose, etc.

  • Scott Community Building

    I faced this same issue and tried setting up 2 facebook profiles...one for friends and one for networking. It could work but, didn't work too well for me though. You've got to make sure to be very disciplined in your facebook usage.

    - George


  • Dan Fonseca

    Quite the interesting conundrum. I think this is part of a larger issue we have as a society. With technology always at hand, we often have difficulty separating work and life. That is a characteristic of the 21st century and I think web 2.0 is no exception to that issue. These are great tips though. Ultimately it's about protecting your personal brand...



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