Invariably when we talk about social media networks, the question arises: How should I manage my social media networks between my professional and personal connections?  Do I use one profile for all social media networks? Or should I use separate personal and professional profiles (such as distinct pages in Facebook for your company versus your personal posts)? Or should I use separate social networking services for different purposes (such as LinkedIn for professional contacts and Facebook for personal use)?

While there are pros and cons to each approach, the real dilemma is this: How do I maximize the value of all my networks? How do I remain true to my personal and company brands (which are often melded together)? And how do integrate these complexities into my already over-full communications networks?

Think context. Recent research by TNS for LinkedIn, does an excellent job of defining the different mindsets that people have when interacting in personal versus professional networks:

Personal networks are used for social connections and entertainment.  People want to unwind, be distracted and have fun.

Professional networks used for aspiration and achievement.  People want to learn information and connect with resources that will help them professionally.

So think twice before droning on about the latest product enhancements on your personal Facebook page or sharing numerous baby pictures on LinkedIn.

Don’t be afraid to show the different sides of you. Your professional pages should have your personal touch. People still do business with those they like and trust. Your personal pages should highlight what you are passionate about professionally. You never know if someone in your personal network may have a need, or know someone, who could use your services.

But be mindful of the power of the seamless web. As human beings we are wired to absorb emotional and rational information and create a composite view of another person. The World Wide Web makes both our personal and professional lives much more transparent. People can (and do) conduct global searches of your name. Even if you are diligent about your privacy settings in Twitter and Facebook, others can share anything you post.

Your online presence can repel or attract. Strong, provocative political views may alienate a new sales prospect.  But then your passionate dedication to a charity or social justice work may engender a deep trust.

How do you manage your personal versus professional social networks? Share in the Comments below.

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