Should you separate social networking from your friends & family?

Darren had an interesting post up last month at Problogger; maybe you caught it – Dear FaceBook Friends, I’m De-Friending Most of You [It’s Not You, It’s Me]. The post was his public rational as to why soon he’d be deleting all his work contacts from his Facebook account. Darren’s not the only one doing this either. Lately I’ve seen many folks creating their own Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts and other work-personalized social network accounts that allow them to specifically network with work pals and contacts vs. personal real-life friends and family.

Here’s an example; say your name is Bob and you have a blog called Fantasy Cakes. You might set up a Facebook page for Bob where you only friend actual brick and mortar pals and family. You’d set up another Facebook page for Fantasy Cakes where people can friend (or fan) you. You could do the same for Twitter, ThisNext, or any number of social networking sites. You keep your real-life pals on your name account and all work pals, PR contacts and other bloggers on the Fantasy Cake accounts.

Is this a good idea?

Personally, I think it’s the new hip idea, but as for it being a good one, well, that depends on many different factors – who you are, how well you’re know (or hope to be known), and how much free time you’ve got.

The pros of keeping your real-life separate from your work life:

  • Your offline friends and family don’t get bushwhacked with a million work links that you’ve posted.
  • Your online work pals and editors aren’t subjected to your offline friend’s off color or bizarre comments – you know we all have that one pal offline who can’t seem to figure out that they shouldn’t give away your weird secrets online.
  • As Darren pointed out in his post, Facebook friend accounts have a limit. If you’re a popular online identity your work pals and contacts can quickly overrun your actual offline pals. It’s lame to not friend your dad because you’ve got too many work friends.
  • It can look more professional if you have networking set up to reflect your work.
  • It can help you brand your work. Fantasy Cakes can be it’s own brand vs. the Bob brand.

The cons of keeping your real-life separate from your work life:

  • It’s time intensive – this is one of the major reasons why I don’t have many Jennifer accounts vs. work accounts. I don’t have the time. I already run a ton of Twitter, Facebook and other social network accounts for clients, along with my own. If I had to update loads of other accounts for my personal blogs I’d be 100% spent time wise. Sure you can set up instant feeds to save time, but know that it’s not enough to build a following. For example, you could Twitter feed all your personal blogs, but you won’t get as many follows if you’re not on there interacting at least some of the time.
  • It seems sort of presumptuous and a little annoying. Lately because everyone I know is setting up new work related accounts I get a ton of emails saying, “You should become a fan of Bob’s Fantasy Cakes!” Frankly, it’s not that important to me to fan everyone. Maybe it’s the wording, “Fan” that’s off-putting or maybe it’s because I don’t have fan pages of my own so all these accounts end up on my Jennifer page or maybe it’s that I don’t want to wade through more links right now. In any case, I’m just not into fanning people’s sites unless I REALLY like them.
  • It’s confusing to offline friends. While social networking is old hat if you’re a blogger, your family and even some co-workers who aren’t as online savvy may not get it. You’ve got your Bob page, your Fantasy Cakes page, and if you launch another blog, that page. It can get confusing for people. Which page do they leave comments on, where’s your contact info for work vs. real-life, and aren’t you the same person?
  • It’s a lot of work. Creating a popular Facebook fan page, or brand page is much more work than just placing or feeding links. Building a fan page or setting up a blog on Twitter does not mean people will simply come in hordes. Promotion of this sort is practically a job in itself which brings us back to the time issue.

Who should set up separate accounts…

I don’t think everyone should. If you’re extremely popular, can hire social networking help (like a CM), or are very private with your personal life then yeah, it’s likely a good idea to keep accounts separate. If you’re just doing it to gain quick traffic (um, no) or because you read some post that says it’s a great idea, I’d think carefully about it, because it’ll require a lot of time and effort. If you don’t put that time and effort in, you’ve just created one more mess of an area that people have to wade through online.

One more thing to consider is how many of your real-life pals are actually on social networking. I have offline friends and family who are on Facebook, but not enough to make me want separate pages for my work related stuff. My offline pals just don’t use Facebook as much as my work friends. I have ZERO offline family members on Twitter. My family, and actually many of my offline friends are just not into social networking – most (read 99%) don’t even read my blogs. We hang in person or talk on the phone, but they’re just not online often so making separate pages to make them more comfortable seems excessive.

If you do keep your accounts merged…

Keep it clean. Be extra diligent about deleting comments or photos that might make you look bad. I have one real life pal who will post that lame picture of you when you had one too many at the Halloween party or flipped someone off – you DO NOT want co-workers seeing this stuff.

What, in your opinion, are the pros and cons of setting up separate social networking accounts for family vs. work?


16 responses
  1. Deb Ng Avatar

    I recently culled my Facebook account of everyone who aren’t personal friends and encouraged them to become fans of FWJ instead. It worked like a dream. My friends and family are now separate from my other world.

    It’s not time intensive. My blog is hooked up to the feed and I think of one or two discussion questions each day but the amount of time spent on a Facebook fan page is maybe ten minutes a day? With 1200+ fans, I think it’s well worth the effort.
    .-= Deb Ng´s last blog ..Freelance Writing Opportunities in SEO Content =-.

    1. Jennifer Avatar

      I agree that 1,200 fans + is worth it. I do admit I go back and fourth about if I should set one up for my most popular personal blog, but I usually side on no. At this point I doubt I’d have that many fans. And I do think it’s time intensive for me. Maybe it’s because I do way more social networking now then in the past. I CM for two clients plus have all my normal stuff to do and every click just seems to add up lately – especially if you try to make a very successful page, like with giveaways and stuff.

  2. Diane Avatar

    I agree, the word “fan” is off-putting. The only reason I created a work-related fan page for myself is so that when I begin heavy marketing, I can have a good link to send potential clients to. I was a little offended when everyone jumped on Darren’s bandwagon and started deleting people. I thought I had become good friends with some of them, but apparently they didn’t think I was privy to their personal life. So be it. I trimmed my list, but only by cutting out old contacts that I didn’t need at all.

    The best I’ve seen yet is a friend who created a work profile on Facebook and invited her friends to jump ship to the other or stay on both if they like. I think giving your friends the choice is nice. Sometimes, work contacts still may be interested in your personal life. To cut them out once you’ve accepted them seems a bit rude. But to give them the option so they don’t have to be a part of your personal life… I like that better.

    But, like I said… I personally did a fan page so that I could use that as my marketing tool. I’m low on business and am gearing up to build on my list of clients. I would rather send them directly to my work-related page than my personal one… I could always invite them over to the personal one later on if things work out. You know??

    I think it just goes to show that some didn’t anticipate that Facebook would become as popular as it has… just a couple years ago people said it would be Twitter that outlasted Facebook… and I’m seeing Facebook continually grow with regards to networking vs. getting in touch with old high school buddies.

    1. Jennifer Avatar

      I know, it’s too bad they use “Fan” although I guess given the situation I can’t say that I have a better word. It just feels weird to fan friends. I like what your pal did with the two accounts. As Deb noted, making a page is a good marketing tool – FWJ has many fans and likely they visit links Deb posts so if you have the time and want to promote, it could be worth it.

  3. Karen Avatar

    I try to keep my facebook world separate from the outside world. I have pictures of my kids and other personal information on my facebook that the world doesn’t need to see. My facebook is set to private and I always click the option to keep my pictures private when I upload them.
    .-= Karen´s last blog ..The Thrifty Mommy is Coming! =-.

    1. Jennifer Avatar

      I don’t keep my pics private because I use pics of Cedar on my blogs anyhow, so… I don’t post addresses or phone numbers online ever though.

  4. JulieF Avatar

    This was a hard one for me. I just had a manuscript accepted by a publisher in a genre that I never thought I would enter, so used a pen name to keep my name away from that ebook. Then again, I wanted to shout the news from the rooftops. I created a fan page for my pen name…but freelancing has lost its’ luster for me while I pined for my fiction.

    The end result? I wrote a goodbye letter to freelancing. I’ll still work for DS under a different pen name not even close to my fiction one or my real name. I’ll keep formatting the FWJ newsletter. Maybe even keep up a little ghostwriting…but in the end it was far more important to remove myself from the public eye as a freelancer to further my career in the new direction. This way I can still share without worrying about tarnishing my reputation on any social network.

    It’s funny because this very question you’ve posed is what finalized my decision. Great post, Jennifer.

    1. Jennifer Avatar

      Congratulations Julie! I imagine it must be hard to have a success under another name. I’ve written under pen names before but only for clients at blogs not for my own projects. I’m glad you realized now, not later that freelancing in general may not be for you. It’s much better to do what does hold luster for you 🙂 I’m really happy to hear about your manuscript!

  5. Heiddi Avatar

    Hi Jennifer. I’m fortunate that my friends and family are not social network connoseurs. (Not sure I spelled that I usually keep in touch via phone, text or email. My sister is the only one that gets all three and my family is the kind that supports my work, but don’t want to read it. Lol So, Twitter is limited to my writing pals and anyone else I really enjoy following. I’m not on Facebook, nor do I want to be on there. I think if I did, it would be a personal page anyway given that I’ve received so many invitations from friends. I think if you have “those” people in your life who do things that don’t put you in the best light, then separate work and personal accounts are best. I have two personal emails and one just for my writing. I check them everyday and it works for me. But, I recognize that this may not suit everyone. Great post!

    1. Jennifer Avatar

      My family is supportive in that they don’t call me slacker to my face, but they all think I’m jobless half the time, or ask when I’ll go back to real writing – i.e. magazines. None of them read my blogs, which is lame IMO since I ask about their work, but I’m used to it by now. The plus side, as I said, is that almost none of them are on social networking stuff so I don’t get the urge to separate.

  6. Tracy Rudd Avatar

    I’m coming at this from a different point of view – Facebook has become an important communication tool for my family & friends, and so I have kept it very private, preferring not to Friend people who I don’t know very well or in real life.

    Right now, I’m building my blog and my freelance business, and have dived into Twitter and other forums and memberships, to connect with and learn from others, and I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that I NEED to create a fan page for the blog as a point of contact on FB, to keep my work contacts and private life separate.

    I was worried that I was creating more work for myself by doing this, so I’m glad that you weighed in, Deb, and reassured me that it needn’t be much work. There’s no fan base to speak of yet, so I think I can manage it. 😉
    .-= Tracy Rudd´s last blog ..Child’s Play =-.

    1. Jennifer Avatar

      “Facebook has become an important communication tool for my family & friends” that is a totally different view than mine. It’s good you’re doing some social networking now though for work. Something to keep in mind is that if you have many fans to start with it can mean less work. Build a page and people will come – like for Deb or Darren, etc. BUT if you don’t have many fans to start with it can be more work. I build up Facebook pages for a few clients and some weeks are more successful than others – depending on the time I put in.

  7. Kimberly Avatar

    Congratulations, Julie, that’s great news!

    I reluctantly engaged in social media/networking. I’m normally a very private person by nature, but felt like it would be a good marketing; and I’m surprised that I like it! I don’t always have a lot of time to spend socializing, but I’ve made some good friends and contacts on places like Twitter.

    My Facebook account has always been personal. I have to have something that’s just for me, separate from my work.
    .-= Kimberly´s last blog ..Creating a Work at Home Schedule =-.

    1. JulieF Avatar

      Thanks Kimberly.

      Oddly, going full throttle into fiction means I need to share more of myself with readers (or as much as I can stand!). Completely backwards from freelancing, weird how the world works, huh?
      .-= JulieF´s last blog ..Writer In Need =-.

    2. Jennifer Avatar

      I think social media might be harder for folks who are private by nature. However, it’s cool you realized that you like Twitter. Nowadays, if you’re not on some form of social networking, you’re not doing as much as you could be (if you’re also a blogger – freelancer – etc).

  8. Denise Grier Avatar

    I really need to do this, but there is so much that needs to be done while making a living!

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