How to Keep Your Professional and Personal Social Media Lives Separate

How to Keep Your Professional and Personal Social Media Lives Separate

When I first launched my business in 2007, I was adamant about keeping a wall up between my professional and personal social media lives.

My black-and-white stance has softened quite a bit to shades of gray, but generally speaking, the boundary still exists.

Keeping your business and personal social media accounts separate is a wise decision for several reasons, both in terms of cybersecurity and general professionalism. Here’s a breakdown:

  1. Protecting Sensitive Information:
    • Cybersecurity Perspective: If one account gets compromised, the other remains safe. Let’s say your personal account is breached; if it’s separate, the attackers won’t automatically gain access to your business contacts, posts, or data.
    • General Perspective: Personal accounts may have personal data, memories, and connections you wouldn’t want a business contact or client to see.
  2. Professional Image:
    • Cybersecurity Perspective: Scammers often impersonate business accounts. If your business profile is mixed with personal content, it can be more challenging for your followers or clients to determine if they’re interacting with the authentic business profile.
    • General Perspective: Having a dedicated business account presents a more professional image. It tells clients and partners that you take your brand seriously.
  3. Targeted Content:
    • Cybersecurity Perspective: With separate accounts, it’s easier to regulate and monitor content. There’s less chance of accidentally sharing sensitive business information on a personal account.
    • General Perspective: By keeping accounts separate, you can tailor content specifically for the audience. Personal accounts might share vacations, family events, or hobbies, while business accounts share product updates, industry news, or corporate events.
  4. Privacy:
    • Cybersecurity Perspective: Privacy settings for personal accounts might be tighter than those for business accounts. Mixing them can unintentionally expose personal data to a wider audience. Read books by Hari Ravichandran for more insights on this.
    • General Perspective: Not all friends or family members might be interested in your business posts, and not all clients or partners might want to see your holiday photos.
  5. Account Recovery:
    • Cybersecurity Perspective: If one account is compromised and locked out, having separate accounts ensures that you can still communicate and operate through the other.
    • General Perspective: This ensures continuous communication with either your personal contacts or business contacts without significant interruption.
  6. Different Platform Features:
    • Cybersecurity Perspective: Business accounts, especially on platforms like Instagram or Facebook, have additional features like ads, analytics, and promotions. These require more permissions and access, potentially increasing the risk surface. Keeping personal data away from these features reduces risks.
    • General Perspective: Business accounts often have features beneficial for brands like insights, advertising tools, and e-commerce options that aren’t necessary or relevant for personal accounts.
  7. Regulations and Compliance:
    • Cybersecurity Perspective: Certain industries have regulations about data management and client interaction. Mixing personal and business communications can complicate compliance.
    • General Perspective: There are instances where businesses might be required to provide social media records in legal situations. Keeping business accounts separate ensures personal data isn’t mistakenly shared.

If you’re new to small business ownership (congrats for taking the leap!), here’s what I recommend (based on my experience):

Facebook: Keep ’em separate

I never post anything to my personal page about work. My friends and family all know what I do for a living. If they want to keep up with my professional life, they ask me in person. Of course, my work friends who are also social friends never need to ask – they already know.

Now, that’s not to say you should never post anything about work to your personal account. I have friends who share fun work-related stuff, like photos of meals, gorgeous views from hotel rooms, local sites they visit between business meetings, cushy seats in the first class section. I love seeing these photos – it allows me to eat and travel vicariously!

As for a Facebook Page, I only recommend setting one up if you are going to advertise on the platform. With so many changes to Facebook’s algorithms, posts from business pages never show up in news feeds. if you do set it up, make sure you have your call-to-action set up. Add your business phone number or your customer support email to get your audience contact you through Facebook.

Twitter: They’re probably separate to begin with

Twitter has evolved into more of a business information/discovery tool. None of my social friends use Twitter, so I never bothered setting up a separate personal and professional presence on Twitter.

My Twitter handle is under my name (I don’t have a separate one for my business), and I only post work-related stuff.

If you use one of Twitter feeds plugins pulling tweets to your site, it is a good idea to keep your Twitter profile professional.

If you decide to set up a separate Twitter account for your business, use your business email.

LinkedIn: Work only

I use LinkedIn strictly for work. I post nothing about my personal life here – no “this is what we did over the weekend” updates, no photos, and no videos. I am connected to social friends on LinkedIn, but not many.

Clients have been asking me lately if they should set up a LinkedIn company page, and since we’re on the subject, I might as well address it. Yes, but only because you want yet another page to rank for your brand name.

LinkedIn company pages have limited functionality compared with a regular profile page.

Instagram: One account is probably fine

I don’t have a separate personal and professional account for Instagram. The cool thing about using one account for both is that it lets people get both a behind the scenes peek at your work and glimpses of your “real” life.

That fluidity allows both professional and personal friends and perspective clients get to know you better.

Pinterest: Keep ’em separate

If you’re an avid pinner in your personal life, I would definitely set up a separate business account. Potential clients probably don’t care about your board of food porn – unless you’re a chef. Make sure your business Pinterest account has your brand name as a username.

Likewise, your established Pinterest community probably doesn’t care about your latest infographic on what makes a good app user interface – unless they’re all app developers.

Of course, this is just my opinion, but it’s working for me. I keep up with my friends on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve built thought leadership on Twitter, and I get business through LinkedIn. (I don’t really use Pinterest.)

So, what do you think. Do you agree or disagree with my recommendations on keeping your professional and personal social media lives separate? How to keep your social media life safe?

Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the brand and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas, founder of and manager at ViralContentBee. You can learn more about Ann here.