Social media just seem to elicit more Q's than A's.
Today's Q: Should you separate your personal Facebook presence from one you'd only like to use for business?
A: The experts agree: No. Yes. And "... it depends.
Let's start with those who say no.
"I don't separate, and I don't suggest others separate," writes Shel Israel, author of "Twitterville" and, with Robert Scoble, co-author of "Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk With Customers."
"An essential concept of social media is that we humanize business," Israel explains. "Most people are happier talking with real people who are working for companies, people who screw up now and then, but are really trying. So professionals who talk a bit about their personal lives now and then are more like the people with whom we have business relationships in real life." Israel argues that acting like a "real person" gives him "a certain level of credibility" with his readers.
On the other side is health-and-fitness entrepreneur Brian Thayer, who explains that he segregates his profiles because "it's fun to have a place where I can go and be uncensored and post things that are edgy and funny and provocative and push people's buttons." Thayer says that even though he's being himself when networking, "there is a certain level of business professionalism that I maintain, and I feel like my personal profile crosses that line." He sees this as "going to a business meeting in ripped jeans and a tank top," and adds, "I don't want my personal profile to become a place where I have to stop and think about what I post before I post it because it might offend someone." The irony is that both arguments leave the subject vulnerable to those who are not as, shall we say, open-minded and forgiving.Need proof? Google (GOOG) "Teacher Fired for Facebook" and a seemingly endless string of depressing headlines emerges: "Teacher Fired After Candid Facebook Comments," "H.S. Teacher Loses Job Over Facebook Posting," "Teacher Suspended for Facebook Comments." A New Jersey first-grade teacher got suspended last week for posting -- on her private Facebook account accessible only to those whom she'd approved as friends -- that she felt like a "warden" to "future criminals." That teacher acted like a real person (anyone who has ever baby-sat probably has felt that way at one moment or another), but you don't see the school board or parents falling all over themselves to give her "credibility" for it.
Would she have been protected if she had locked down her personal page and maintained a separate professional one to connect with parents and students? Maybe.
But maybe not. There is a false security in feeling that segregating your professional and personal spheres protects you. No matter how much you lock it down, your Facebook page is not a castle surrounded by a moat of privacy.
Look at it this way: No matter what you do, prospective employers, potential spouses and your mother still could see embarrassing glimpses of your life that you'd wish could be deep-sixed. (It's too late for me to do much about it now, but that describes about 50 percent of what I've posted in the past decade.) But that's life online.
So what's my final answer? Not surprisingly, it comes from Arax-Rae Van Buren, a digital strategist at Colangelo Synergy Marketing. "I have the same Facebook account for work and social," says Van Buren. "I believe in transparency. I have one account, and I don't alter privacy settings. I'm the same person in and out of the office. If I wouldn't want my boss seeing me behaving in a certain way, then I just don't engage in that kind of activity -- period."
Readers, what has been your experience with separating or combining your Facebook pages? What worked best?