Have you ever gotten into a discussion with someone about personal vs. professional accounts on social networks?

Some people believe it’s impossible to separate the two. Others create two different profiles on their favorite social networks and drive themselves crazy trying to manage it all.

There are people who freak out each time they get an invitation to connect with someone on LinkedIn. (That’s my old boss, I don’t know…” or “I never really liked her, do I have to say yes?”) I know people who refuse to look at their friend requests on Facebook because they don’t want to have to make a decision on whether or not they should let a person in.  In many cases they keep these people in what I call “Facebook purgatory” so they don’t hurt their feelings.

This is a real struggle for many, but it doesn’t have to be. Quite honestly, I think it’s madness and if you’re one of these types, it’s time to take back your power.

If friend requests, invitations to connect and potential Twitter stalkers are keeping you up at night, that needs to stop. Today. All you have to do is develop your own personal social media policy. Determine your own rules of engagement and apply them. And don’t be scared to let people know how they can connect with you.

If you don’t want to chat it up with your co-workers on Facebook, don’t. And even if you are connected already and don’t want to be, adjust your privacy settings. Create lists within your friends lists and limit what they can see.

I have no problem telling people how I connect. I had a friend request from a former co-worker on Facebook just today and declined it. I told her that I would prefer to connect with her on LinkedIn instead. I hope she doesn’t take it personally but I have a certain way I choose to connect that works for me.

I liked her when we worked together, but our relationship doesn’t fit with the way I communicate on Facebook. She doesn’t need to see the pictures of my children I post from time-to-time or read my fun rants with my cousins. Because our work relationship never reached actual friendship, (like many do) she doesn’t belong there.

My policy works something like this:

Twitter: Anyone except the porn people and hard core affiliate marketing types. I’m pretty much professional on twitter. I have a niche there and try to stick to it. If you don’t like live tweets, journalism, or social media, you won’t enjoy following me at all.

  • Direct messages: If you send me a DM, I will respond.
  • @Mentions: If you mention me in a reply, I will respond accordingly. It may not be immediately but you will be acknowledged when warranted. I don’t typically thank people for retweets. I figure it was of value to them so they shared it. I will follow them so I can return the favor some day.

LinkedIn: Any business connection I’ve made. This includes people I meet at conferences, former co-workers and anyone I know professionally. I haven’t met all of these people, but I know of them in some significant way.

Blog: If you post a comment on my blog, I will try my best to respond, especially if you’ve never posted before. Again, it may not be immediate but it will happen. Sometimes  I reach out via email instead. I will never have a heated argument online and do not engage with trolls or disrespect other bloggers.

Facebook: Family and friends. Co-workers or former co-workers who have transcended co-worker and moved into “friend” territory. If you’re my friend on Facebook, you are likely someone I would invite to my house.

This may be a bit formal for you so consider it food for thought. It took me a while to figure out what works best. So don’t be offended if you reach out to me on Facebook and we don’t connect.

It’s not you at all. It’s me, and that’s how I manage it all.

I’d love to hear about your personal policies and boundaries in the comments.

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