Do or Don’t?: Merging professional and personal social media accounts

Bright Idea Bulb over Dog

We’ve all got them on our Friends list: those people who go by their first name and middle name, go by their full name or a short name to throw off searchers, or even those who completely make up a name and hide behind a digital identity.

But what happens when people (like me) merge their personal and professional identities into one world of social networking? In my industry, a social media presence is imperative. If a potential employer searches me online and doesn’t find, at the very least, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, a LinkedIn profile, and maybe a blog or two, my credibility as a communicator is shot.

Now – I understand there are some professions that demand extra privacy and care when it comes to social media. Sure, my friends who are teachers have to create fake names or use other methods to block their students from finding them on the interwebs. And sure, my friends who work for the government have to make virtually everything on their accounts (if they exist) private or visible to only a select few people. And of course, taking down those photos from your freshman year of college with you and your friends drinking underage in the dorms is probably a great idea if you’re going for a job as an attorney or a politician. But what about those of us who work in worlds where a social media presence is able to be a little more lax?

This past weekend while enjoying a beach day with my friends, I read an article in the July issue of ELLE magazine that featured 13 female leaders in the tech industry. Each of the women shared her advice on how to be successful in the career world. I was particularly taken by the story of Padmasree Warrior, the Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Cisco. Obviously one of the most powerful women in the tech industry, and arguably in the business world, Warrior (how awesome is that last name??) boasts nearly 1.5 million Twitter followers. However, the content of her Twitter page ranges from tech info to photos of her newest manicure and links to beauty tips. In the article, she talks about relating to people and being a person herself. And clearly she’s doing it right.

I challenge you, non-profit world, to merge your professional and personal social media accounts. Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

Yes – there will be times where members of your social community don’t care about your work-related/industry-related posts, and other members won’t care about your personal posts. But this merge of accounts puts a personality behind your work.

Keep your content appropriate. It’s okay to push the envelope sometimes, but it’s important to keep your personal and professional content aligned.

Embrace those parts of you that make you great at your job. I like stand-up comedy, so I tend to tweet lines that I’d use in a stand-up routine. Sure, some of them can be a little on the line, but the bottom line is it’s something I’d say in my office.

Don’t forget to spell check. While you may personally not care about spelling and grammar, you should always professionally care about it. Keep your posts clean and well written.

And finally, follow me on Twitter! @KadiMcDonaldOU



  • bethkanter

    Great article and you make some good points. A lot of nonprofits are adopting strategies that incorporate “leadership profiles” where their staff, including CEOs use their personal brand in support of the organization’s communications strategy – http://www.bethkanter.org/thought-leadership/

  • bethkanter

    The one thing nonprofit staffers do need to keep in mind – if they are merging their professional and personal and it is in service of their organization’s strategy – they have to be careful of lobbying and partisan politics as this could be a problem for the nonprofit’s legal tax status. So, it might be helpful to check with your nonprofit’s social media policy and understand the dos and do nots .. here’s a post about that too http://www.bethkanter.org/staff-guidelines/

  • gmart

    I have 3 twitter accounts: my company’s, my individual professional identity, and my personal one. Because I have an interest in politics and art (which can be edgy and/or involve nudity and other such shocking phenomena), I want to keep those types of posts away from my professional persona, as they are not necessarily appropriate in a professional context. It is sometimes a struggle to keep them all separate and I look forward to when I “retire” and can just be me. 🙂