Posts Tagged digital personas

Personal or Professional: Why not both?

Posted by on Thursday, 3 April, 2014

934897_10200977113927595_398103035_nWhen it comes to social business, there’s little difference between “social media” and “real life”.

Social media has blurred the lines of professional versus personal. Some businesses, like LinkedIn, have attempted to clarify those lines once again by focusing on one side or the other. However, that intended focus isn’t concrete and still causes some blurring to occur. Because of this, I am often asked whether it is advisable for a person to maintain only a single mixed account, or to manage separate personal and professional accounts on sites like twitter, Facebook, tumblr, and Googleplus.

While the general advice is to do what you are comfortable with, I definitely urge to one side of that spectrum and have posted previously on the topic of managing digital personas.

Social media is different from “real life” in one very important way, however: there is no distinction between work and play. Because of this, it is best to think of social business not in terms of work, but rather to see social business as an after-hours cocktail party. This analogy plays out as conversation during cocktail parties runs the gamut of topics from professional to personal; because it is more social than work, the atmosphere is more relaxed, less professional, but can be focused on business or personal endeavors as the conversation flows. In this way, social media provides a virtual platform to engage in conversation at any level with which you are comfortable.

To best use this dynamic in social business, I find it most effective to maintain a single identity. In any of the spaces in which I play, I am simply me. The conversation can take many different directions at any given time, which both provides for a broader scope of topics in which my networks may be interested, as well as build some sense of humanity which a flat professional presence wouldn’t provide. In my experiences, it is that depth of humanity in social media which really builds the connection and relationships in social business that become valuable down the lines as business needs arise and opportunities present themselves.

So when I am asked what my recommendation is, I say: be yourself. Do what you are comfortable with, but do it in an authentic and human way.


The Naked Marketers, Ep 62: Jason O’Donnell talks smart social strategy

Posted by on Wednesday, 18 July, 2012

In which Pete Wright invited me to The Naked Marketers podcast to jaw flap about social business strategies, Klout, building your brand, thought leadership, and various other tangents. What resulted was a wonderful conversation between three very passionate people with great insights into the world of social business from varying perspectives:

The Naked Marketers is a show that covers stories in communication; from marketing and advertising to gadgets and technology. Each week hosts Pete Wright and Dane Christensen discuss campaigns, tools, and messages with a critical eye and an irreverent twist.

To be provocative, or to be safe? Thoughts on managing digital personas

Posted by on Wednesday, 2 May, 2012

Last week I posted the following to both Facebook and Google+, both with ‘public’ visibility:

Sitting in a meeting on “Managing your digital personas”. Not sure I agree with the advice given. I manage one identity and one persona: me. More importantly I think overlapping this way keeps me from being one-dimensional, adds interest across topics, and retains authenticity. You know it’s ME when you follow me.

I tend to post with public visibility as doing so fits within how I presently manage my own ‘digital persona’.

Over on Google+ I saw some great conversation surrounding the topic on both sides: keeping your streams separate as well as maintaining a single ‘persona’. I’ve also had some great real-world conversations about the concept, all of which have given me more to think about, but have yet to sway me from my current position. What I HAVE realized from these conversations, however, is that the roles we play in business seem to dictate what we are able to do in terms of maintaining a single persona or requiring multiple digital personas to our social presence.

What this all seems to come down to, however, is risk. With any interaction between two people, there’s risk involved. When that interaction is purely social (say out to dinner with a friend who introduces you to someone new), the risks that surround that interaction’s “success” are far less critical than say the interaction between the same thee people but this time as part of a business meeting. In both cases, however, the risks themselves are essentially the same, it is the outcome which is weighted more heavily. In the first instance the outcome may be that the individual simply doesn’t become a friend, while the second interaction may result in a lost business deal.

From the ‘persona’ perspective, managing multiple facets is the safe bet: you work to ensure only ‘vetted’ information is exposed with the intent of presenting yourself in the best possible light. Conversely, managing a single presence allows glimpses into other realms which runs the risk of showing some less than perfect facets of your life which could lead to negative impact. But you know what? It can also lead to positive impact. (I’ll tip my hand here a bit… if you’re in sales, you already know the value of finding that key connection with your client which will help you gain the advantage over your competitor.)

Let me relay a real world example which just happened to me: I recently connected with one of my business colleagues on Facebook. In quickly stalking their timeline, I noted that they enjoy similar activities outside of work as I do, some which even involve dressing in ‘funny’ clothes akin to my own involvement with the SCA. Gaining that glimpse into other parts of their life caused an immediate stronger connection, which in turn helps to build an even stronger working relationship.

Granted, the risk involved in connecting with this colleague was minimal, and surely didn’t involve potential loss of a sale…. but let’s imagine for a moment it did. Where is that balance of risk to reward? Would it be better to maintain my ‘work’ persona and focus on sales tactics to give me the edge on closing the deal, or do I simply be “me” in my social spaces and allow for that visibility and potential for deeper connections to occur?

I’m sure by now you know my answer to this. But let me show you what one of my connections said about this as well… a connection, I may add, that I now consider a friend because of how we’ve been able to connect beyond our “professional” introduction:

Pete Wright noted on my G+ thread:

I’ve been thinking this, too. Some spend a lot of time separating church and state, so to speak, work from personal. But I’m finding more and more that the organizations I work with and the brands I follow are those spearheaded by people who are not afraid to show the complex tapestry that is their authentic identity. I trust them and their organizations more when I get the feeling that they’re not hiding half their lives, which is what so much of this “digital personas” tripe ends up selling. It’s snake oil. I think of it this way: I have a different, better, perception of +IBM as a result of my interactions with you online and off.


Hear that? Pete summed up exactly what was in my head when I initially posted to G+. It is that exposure to our “complex tapestries” and acknowledgement of “authentic identity” which is so critical for all of us using social tooling in our business lives. And yes, it is even important for those of us using social tools in our personal lives too.

I’ll posit here, that we are seeing a slow, gradual, but dramatic culture shift as a result of the information social networks are providing to us. Ten years ago the understanding of professionalism would have kept most of our personal lives out of our business lives. Nowadays, however, that same separation is less important and can backfire more than the exposure can. With this shift in our social culture, it is now that grey area, that crossing of the streams if you will, which provides even greater business value. It is this grey area that now makes you more interesting, more engaging, and therefore more likely to be visible to your clients and ultimately one of the first people they think of when they need your help/services/product/etc.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at your own twitter feed, your own Facebook news feed, your own Google+ streams… and tell me, are the most interesting people in those spaces the ones who only post about one focused topic, or are they the ones posting on a myriad of tidbits giving you the sense of additional depth and breadth of knowledge or passion? I’m guessing these are also the people you’d likely look to when you have questions in their space of expertise…

What IS the real risk versus benefit here? I’d say more and more, every day, the old paradigm is shifting on its head and soon the risk will be NOT sharing as a single persona, not exposing those complex tapestries, those many facets that make us interesting individuals. That managing your single digital persona is going to provide the greater benefits and even likely seal those deals, proving true fiscal value to open and transparent social communication.




Post script: Managing a single persona doesn’t mean it is ok to over-share or that one shouldn’t be judicious about what one shares publicly. In all cases sharing content on-line should be done with respect for your entire audience and with the intent of adding value to any conversation or space in which you share. While some content may not be directly relevant to the entire audience, it can indeed show much larger indirect benefits down the line both in terms of thought leadership and authenticity of voice.