Saturday, April 13, 2013

Social Persona: Keeping Public/Private Separate

In Real Life (IRL), we are aware of and sometimes even carefully plan how we "present" our identity in social situations. For example, do you dress differently for a job interview than for a class? Or for a date, compared to hanging out with friends? And it's more than appearance. Do you choose your words more carefully, and try to present yourself in a more premeditated way, in the interview compared to class? On the date compared to hanging out with friends?

We are so accustomed to making these adaptations in our self-presentation IRL that most people probably make these choices, from clothes to communication style, with little conscious awareness.

Now that others increasingly experience our social persona "virtually," via digital media, new challenges arise.  How do we keep track of, and keep separate, our separate social personas? For example, a personal versus a company twitter account, or posting to one's personal Facebook page versus acting as an administrator of a business or community Fan page? 

Failure to successfully separate these Social Persona's has resulted in great harm to well-known company brands, and in the dismissal of individuals who have failed to manage this public/private persona distinction in social media. 

Case Studies:

A KitchenAid employee with access to the company's public branded Twitter account took to social media to tweet about the death of Pres. Obama's grandmother, just days before his inauguration. The tweet, intended for the individual's personal account, was instead sent out as a Tweet from KitchenAid. 

The incident highlighted the hazards of today's social tech tools, which make it "easy" to manage personal and public persona posts within the same tool. 

These mistakes can have huge consequences for the individuals as well as the companies whose brand is damaged. At a Salt Lake City TV station, an employee who had access to the station's Twitter account sent out this tweet on the company account by mistake.

As a result of the mistake, which caused the TV station great embarrassment, the unnamed employee who authored the tweet was fired. 

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