Social Identity in Business: Use of Personal Versus Professional in Social Media

Businesses are moving towards enabling their distributed teams to use social media for business purposes. It’s no wonder that one of the most common questions is how to separate the personal from the professional.  To a certain extent a lot of the answers here are generational and I firmly believe that in a few years time we’ll wonder what all the fuss was about.  But right now, there are clear concerns within business about what identity individuals should be using when on social.

Questions are raised on privacy, on the capture of content that is personal in nature, when the regulators and ediscovery experts are clear that they don’t want that – the nature of the content is what they’re concerned about.  So lets take a look at some clear steps that simplify this.

Clear guidance should be provided to the business and social users about the benefits and drawbacks of separating personal and professional identities. At the most basic level, firms should ensure that they do not work counter to the end user terms of use of the individual social networks to which they are providing access. Each social network may need to be dealt with differently and terms and conditions may evolve over time.


The account belongs to the end user, and the firm or organization that they work for is simply an element of their LinkedIn profile. If an end user has a current LinkedIn account, he or she should use that ‐ while adhering to the guidelines of the firm.  Creating a new LinkedIn profile for each position or organization you work for is NOT the way to go.

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Facebook recently relaxed its rules which previously stated that a “personal profile” could not be used for business. They have now inserted the word “primarily” into clause 4.4 of the end user terms of use. (You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.)

Facebook does not provide any further guidance on the definition of “primarily.” While I believe engagement is far more effective on the personal profile, most firms are concerned about the capture and retention of personal content, and therefore, most firms utilize Facebook pages for their employee engagement. Because of this privacy concern that is shared by virtually every firm, we recommend that the individual sets up a Facebook page for business purposes.


Create as many Twitter accounts as you want. Just remember which account you’re posting from!  Most engagement is received when the content shared is a mix of personal and business related content. That said, most firms advocate a clean account, branded as the firm is branded and that includes relevant disclaimers where the firm is clearly represented.

This is today

In summary, these are the current trends and best practices at the present time. However, in social media, change is constant. Best practices change quickly (Facebook’s terms of use for instance), although LinkedIn’s policy in support of the end user is highly unlikely to change. The distinction between personal/professional will continue to evolve as we all become more socially mature, and will also be impacted also by the demographics of the individual users.  What’s your view?  Personal, Professional or Is there no difference?

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