Should You Have One Social Media Identity, or Two?

Split Personality

I had a fascinating conversation about Facebook today with PRstore’s newest franchise owners and marketing consultants (store employees).

The new graduates of PRstore University asked me to explain the difference between Facebook company pages and fan pages. This spawned dozens of questions about how PRstore uses (could use? should use?) Facebook.

My favorite was this: “Should I have two separate Facebook accounts: one for my personal life and one for my work life?”

Huh. Good question.

Why Would Anyone Want Multiple Facebook Accounts?

Strictly speaking, Facebook doesn’t allow you to create multiple identities. There are ways around that, though.

But practically speaking, this is a dilemma. Some folks just don’t want their personal lives and work lives to mix. (“Worlds collide, Jerry!”) And there are privacy issues, too. Do you want a new client to follow the cookie crumbs to your teenage niece’s profile? Do you want a work colleague to watch videos you posted from your family picnic?

I used to put my networking activities into separate buckets. LinkedIn was for professional networking. Facebook was friends and family. Twitter was…what, people I’ve never met?

But the more active I became in social networking, the more I realized I couldn’t keep my life in buckets. I am me, wherever I go. I can’t turn parts of my identity on and off. More to the point, segmenting myself was slowing my ability to connect people with each other. 

The Argument for a Single Social Media Identity

If you’re a business owner (or salesperson, or…whatever), your best clients may evolve into friends. Likewise, someone from your friends and family network may do double duty as a business contact — a future client, a supplier, an information source. Exclusing a trusted contact from one of your networks — and trusted is a key word here — decreases the power of your network.

Another reason I favor sticking with a single identity is that there’s a tendency to brand your second identity — your work identity — under the flag of your company. But you are not your company. You are a person. With rare exception, people want to connect with you. They don’t want to interact with your logo or your office building.

There’s no right or wrong way to craft a digital identity. Strategies change and evolve. Aaron Strout changed his Twitter handle from @astrout to @aaronstrout. PR man and 12for12k founder Danny Brown changed his from @PressReleasePR (his company name) to @DannyBrown. My PRstore colleague Lisa Hoffmann had to create @LisaHoffman (one “n”) because folks kept omitting the second “n”. Scott Monty, known ubiquitously as the social media voice of Ford, goes by his real name (@ScottMonty), while Ann Handley, a woman with personality in spades, uses company name instead (@MarketingProfs).

A Social Media Dilemma for Brands

Back to the question — what if someone wants to keep work and life separate? Should s/he create two Facebook accounts? Two Twitter handles? 

For PRstore, this is brand integrity pickle. If a PRstore franchise owner wants to create a “work account” on Facebook (or elsewhere), should we let them use the brand as their identity? What are the advantages and disadvantages for the parent company, the franchise owner (individual), and other owners?

A corporate social media policy would help. Companies like Intel and the New York Times have them. PRstore is working on one, a process that involves learning from others. 

Business owners, I put the question to you: How do you portray yourself in social media — as a person? A company? A person who owns a company? Something else? One account? Multiple accounts? How do your employs “brand” themselves? How much permission do they have to incorporate the company brand into their personal identities?