The lines between professional and personal networking are probably more blurred than ever. I am starting to get more and more friend requests on Facebook from LinkedIn Connections. Before social media was really embeded in the way we did business and continued our lives, it was not such a big challenge to keep personal and professional networks apart. Sometimes just having 2 separate lines or address books helped to do the trick. You kept the information and you determined how you used it. No one knew who was in your address book. You had control, you had the power!
Things have changed a bit – Your address book and contacts have to some extent become public. Water-tight privacy settings help a great deal on concealing your network from others if that is your wish. The people you connect with are in your various personal and professional networks; you are no longer the only one who knows who they are. The same goes with the method of communicating. In the past it was very discreet, one to one. Now it can be one to many and at times chaotic with the social networks. We have public conversations. We post updates and anyone in our network is free to comment and respond. How does this impact your networking strategy and networking across social media in general? How does this affect your professional and personal networking going forward?
A ready example – A good number of LinkedIn profiles have Twitter accounts which can be easily followed or accessed. This means before you connect with anyone there is already information that you can easily look up which might be of a personal nature on Twitter. Some people without realising it are affecting their professional networking on LinkedIn because of activities on other sites like Twitter and Facebook. This works both ways as well. People can see what you are doing on LinkedIn before connecting with you on other social networks. Your privacy settings on social networks can limit the amount of information that others see. On Twitter for instance you would need to protect your Tweets but very few people actually seem to do this.
Consistency of Brand – As a professional your brand in my opinion has to be consistent across all the networks. How would the conservative networker use this to his advantage? The conservative networker now has much more information than ever to assess the quality of potential connections. He uses not only the information he comes across on LinkedIn but any other social networks as well. When considering a new connection on LinkedIn, why not take the time to visit their Twitter profile and go through the twitter feeds. Combine this with a Google search as well. He is able to decide at the end of the day if he really wants to connect with this person.
Consistent with personal too? – Let’s contradict ourselves. How can one be consistent in their personal and professional networking? It could be argued that the objectives of both types of networking are different. With Professional Networking the driver could be something we wish to achieve in our career or business whether its profitability or getting more sales leads. With personal networking we seek to connect with friends and family which fulfills a different need that is far removed from profitability, sales and the like. Do we talk to our friends and our customers about the same thing? However, both personal and professional networks share one thing in common in that they need to add value to us. Both involve relationship building while the actual type of information that flows may be very different.
Cannot keep the information out – With new search sites like Ark.com which can search across the main social networks like Facebook, it means that information that was previously not accessible using search engines can easily be picked up using the site. At the end of the day your activities on Facebook or Twitter could affect how your brand on LinkedIn is perceived. A site like Go.Hachi will take things to another level. It enables you to network and connect with people from across different social networks. You could have a network with contacts from Facebook and LinkedIn. What this means is that personal and professional information of different people will be in one big pot if you like.
Professional to Personal, Personal to Professional? – It is unlikely that LinkedIn would ever get into personal networking. From their mission statement which is to make to connect the world’s professionals and make them more productive and successful, I think personal networking would not help to achieve this end. Facebook, Google plus and Twitter on the other hand already have a mix of professional and personal networking.
What does all this mean – So what is the conclusion really with the blurring lines between personal and professional networking? The next generation of social networks may not be bigger than Facebook, LinkedIn or Google Plus but will feed off the information on these networks and just make it more efficient to connect with anyone regardless of what network they are on. Some could be caught unawares by these developments especially who strongly believe that the two will never mix. Keep investing in your LinkedIn profile and network but remember that all the information about you out there, your digital footprint, it all counts. Be prepared.