At a recent social media seminar covering the basics and featuring a panel of corporate users and SM “experts,” a fascinating and spontaneous discussion of personal vs. professional uses of social media resulted when one of the corporate panelists told of rescinding a job offer when photos of the candidate, deemed “inappropriate” by the CPA firm, were discovered on Facebook.
Surprisingly, one of the “expert” panelists was passionate about her insistence that the candidate had the “right to post photos of herself with a drink in her hand” on Facebook without any spillover to her professional standing! Further, this is the same counsel that she offers her clients: professional uses of social media tools are separate from those for personal uses and should not be connected.
She is indeed correct that she has the “right” to post anything about herself that she cares to on any social media tool she wishes. However, she is incorrect (and perhaps also naive) to expect the viewer/reader of this information to categorize it as exclusively personal with no correlation to her professional reputation.
The history of traditional mass media and now social media is replete with examples of people’s professional lives being played out in the public limelight – because they chose to or because they didn’t realize the line separating personal vs. professional is blurred at best.
I urge this panelist as well as those in the seminar audience to use the power of social media tools to their utmost advantage but to do so with the full and complete understanding that there is no “vs.” separating “personal” and “professional” in social or traditional media. Ever.