It happens from time to time; I send a Facebook request to someone I know through work and I get a reply by email. It says something like “Hi John, I hope you don’t mind, but I don’t add people from work to Facebook – it’s for my personal friends only”. Each to his own, but I think that it’s missing the point.
Business and personal networks in 2011
One of the biggest problems is that these networks are really blurred these days. I have quite a lot of people that I’ve done work with that I’d consider a friend – and if you’re reading this blog you may well fall into that category. What’s more, I’ve employed or done business with quite a few friends.
There is an old adage that says you shouldn’t mix business and pleasure, and there is some truth to this. It is certainly true that it’s bad to mix business and pleasure in the same sentence.
I’m a strong believer in downtime from work and this is the biggest problem if you mix business and pleasure. If you go out with someone that you do some work with, do they know that it’s not cool to bring up some nasty business problem at 10pm in your favourite restaurant? For me, anecdotes about work are fine after hours, but getting into the depths of some unpleasant HR problem can be quite stressful on a Friday night.
But I don’t believe that separating business and work is possible any more – and it’s becoming less and less possible as the years tick by. Social networking means that the personal and work networks are blurrier as time goes by, whether you like it or not. What you can do is decide how you behave and in what network context.
A year or so back, when I started to add work people to Facebook, it became clear to me that this was how to behave. I interact on some 5 social networks and they all have their place. It looks something like this:
LinkedIn: purely for work and promotional networking purposes. I’ll add anyone to LinkedIn that I have met and remember, but I don’t see the point with networking with people I don’t know.
Facebook: purely for recreational purposes and I don’t promote my work on FB. Actually I hate it when people do, especially when they link Twitter to FB. Because it’s recreational, some of my content requires some context and therefore I only add people to Facebook that I’d stop and have a drink with in an airport. It’s my barometer for how well I know someone.
Twitter: starting to blur the lines here – Twitter is a predominate work focus for me but I have friends on it too. Anyone can follow me on Twitter so I am careful about the content I produce, whilst I try to be “me” and to give a sense of my personality.
Bluefin Blog: this is purely work focussed and an outlet for my thoughts on the SAP marketplace and products. Clearly anyone can read and comment on it and I only screen comments for spam – bring on the criticism.
This blog: my People, Process & Technology blog might have a work bias but it has a very specific purpose: to be an outlet for structured thoughts where my work blog would be inappropriate. It’s only ever written in my own time – evenings and weekends (and on the way into work in this case).
What does this mean to social networks in 2011
I think it’s pretty simple – it’s about authenticity and context and not about trying to create some artificial boundary between home and work – that simply doesn’t exist any more, and fighting it is futile. It’s true that we are likely to have slightly different personas at home and at work but if you segment your behaviour between the different channels, you will find things much easier.
And the other thing you need to remember is that nothing is private on social networks. Facebook, for example keeps changing its Terms of Service and Privacy Settings – last year it put all your photos public and this month it added facial recognition for you.
So if you’re doing things you don’t want the world to know about – throwing up in a bush at dawn or partying with your mistress – then don’t put them on a social network in the first place.