Blogging Out Loud

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User Discretion Advised.

Social media is exciting and relevant, but it does have pitfalls.

It's hard to deny the impact social networking has on the day-to-day. How do we balance our private and professional lives? Moreover, should we?

My Vertical Marketing Network coworker Valerie sent a thought-provoking email recently asking, among other things, how to — and perhaps more importantly, should we — juggle our personal and professional personalities when using social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter? Her timing couldn’t be better. Social media policy is as hot a topic as the medium itself, and everyone seems to have an opinion. I never thought I’d recall the days of Friendster and MySpace with fondness, but social networking really was easier when it was strictly social. For many professionals, especially those working in media-related fields, it’s now required business. Or, so it seems for many of my peers. Their Facebook status updates and Twitter feeds are a continuous stream of carefully-worded pitches and endorsements, so much so that I can’t often tell where their work life ends and their personal life begins. Or, is it vice versa? If it’s hard to tell, rules of engagement are probably necessary. Because if the potential risks seem high for individuals, imagine what could happen to a brand or product caught in the social media snafu. And so, a word of caution: user discretion is advised.

Maybe I’m just blogging out loud here, but it seems like we should social network with less of an emphasis on “social” and more of an emphasis on “network.” You know, that thing we do to develop contacts, hopefully to propel our own careers or the life of our business.

Make no mistake, the contacts are out there. A recent comScore study found that globally 75.8 percent of all women online visited a social networking site in May 2010; for men the number is just slightly lower at 69.7 percent. Nielsen reports that in US households, more than half of the adults online (75 percent) have at least one social networking profile. Businesses not taking advantage of this are missing a major opportunity to engage with consumers and even gain new customers. Should businesses and individuals craft the images they put forward? Absolutely! How to do this is a little more complicated, since it’s unrealistic to think individuals are not going to interact with coworkers and possibly even potential clients using these mediums, and it’s unfair to expect your colleagues to wear their work hats 24/7. For reasons such as this, I have several friends who operate two Facebook profiles, one for friends and one for everyone else, be they bosses, parents or the creepy guy from accounting. That seems a little extreme, though, not to mention complicated.

Social networking is exciting and culturally relevant, and it offers users a myriad of opportunities to exchange ideas and information. But, it’s not without pitfalls. Valerie related the oft-circulated story of a young woman being offered a high-paying tech job, only to have to offer rescinded after tweeting about “selling out for the big bucks.” I’d like to think comments like that are made in jest, but that’s beside the point. Context is often lost completely in the party that is social networking, which is why you should never put anything on the Internet you don’t want everyone and anyone to see.

There is no such thing as privacy online, and as hard as that is for individuals to swallow, it’s an especially important lesson for businesses as to why they should hire communications experts to embark on building fan pages and social networking platform voices for them. In the virtual world, perhaps more important than knowing thy self, is knowing who is representing you and making sure they are clear about the image you want to project.

Vertical Marketing Network is on Facebook, and over the next two days we’ll be posting questions relating to this blog post. We want to hear from you, so check us out.
Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
Photo credit: M. Keefe

About JJ Nelson

Freelance blogger for Vertical Marketing Network; food writer; bartender.

3 comments on “User Discretion Advised.

  1. Ryan Bish
    August 26, 2010

    Now all of a sudden everyone wants to get their grubby hands on your privacy because it is worth selling to third parties…scary. There is now a service that you can buy that defends your reputation on the world wide web and a startpage search engine devoted to keeping your searches private. Funny how the whole world changed in only a decade.
    I used to have 3 social networking sites, now I only have one. I don’t even use it that much. I think all of the social media will single out into one website in the end be it Facebook or LinkedIn. I’ve got nothing to hide, so what’s the point in waging war against it anymore, run my name through your computer, pick my brains and my pockets but you’ll still know nothing about me in the end.


  2. Cristina
    August 19, 2010

    I have LinkedIn as my professional profile and Facebook as my personal. However you still have to make sure what you post, and make sure who you are friends with. Spending a little more time adjusting your privacy settings will help a lot but it’s not guaranteed.


  3. Leslie
    August 17, 2010

    I keep LinkedIn and Facebook Fan page business only. I may post the occasional “fun for all” fact or link, but never post anything “too” personal, damaging or potentially offensive to others. I’m a professional and my reputation is all that matters at the end of the day, so I won’t let careless social networking ruin what I’ve built.

    Those who get fired or lose job opportunities because of social media antics, humiliating photos, etc. have hopefully learned their lesson – think before you post! For some reason people think their privacy rights are inherent and surprisingly assume their private information can’t or won’t go public, which still surprises me.

    With so many privacy settings available there’s no reason to have your family, bosses or complete strangers know more than you want them to know about you. And no need for multiple Facebook accounts, just create multiple lists with custom settings for each group. Or better yet, don’t befriend them at all – they won’t be offended.

    On a interesting side note, Schmidt suggests that “every young person one day will be entitled automatically to change his or her name on reaching adulthood in order to disown youthful hijinks stored on their friends’ social media sites” (


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