Once upon a time, not so long ago.. you were able to keep your personal life and your work life completely separate. You could effectively be two different people or at least have two completely different personalities and no one would ever know.  And then came social networking sites such as Facebook.

In a book called The Facebook Effect, Mark Zuckerburg is quoted as saying the following.

“You have one identity, the days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.”

A lot of people have dismissed Zuckerburg’s comments as “crazy” and without merit.  Primarily because our psychology allows for us to change identity and persona based on situations (research JungGoffman and others for more information).

But that is true in the real world.  Online and on social networking sites like Facebook – especially on Facebook – there is only room for the one self, the single identity.  You can’t befriend your work colleagues and show them a different side of you than your high school friends and vice versa.  Not on Facebook.   And so you either cultivate a persona that becomes incongruous to one group or the other, or both.. or you show your true self.

Having integrity – being true to yourself – does not mean you can’t be the wild and crazy guy to your group of high school friends and at the same time be the serious and total professional to your co-workers.  It is about being consistent.  You must represent yourself honestly.

Think about who and what you represent.  Not just your “personal brand”, but also the other “tribes” / groups that you stand for.

When you go to work for a company, you represent them in far more ways than used to be the case.  Your employer is typically listed on your social profile.  You will probably befriend some of your co-workers.  People – friends and strangers – will associate you with that company.  When you go to work for a company, you agree (implicitly) to become an ambassador for that company.  How you represent yourself online will in many ways be a reflection on your employer and your professional persona.   For example, if you complain about your employer or your workload or your customers on Facebook – then to me, this says more about you than it does about them.

If you are a business owner or manager, you need to also think about who you want to represent you.  It works both ways.  The people you hire are an extension of your company.  Don’t hire anyone who you think will not represent you well.

So employees – start thinking about who you represent when using social media you have a responsibility to both your personal brand and your employer’s brand.  And employers – its time to start thinking about how candidates will represent you when you start to narrow down your selection criteria.

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2 Responses to Represent!

  1. Adrian June 23, 2011 at 3:39 pm #

    Good article Matt, well done. I’m sure that we’re all grappling in one way or another with the whole ‘online personality’ thing but your post summarises the situation nicely.


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