Walking a fine line: You 2.0 vs. well, You

Last winter my colleague Annie wrote about the importance of online self-branding for information professionals.  I couldn’t agree more that personal branding is important for both budding and seasoned professionals.  Not only does it demonstrate a level of competency with social media technologies, but it also demonstrates that you’re connected with the profession and other professionals.  Plus, deciding to count your few free hours blogging and Twittering as professional development is totally awesome.

Despite all this, I find branding myself to be challenging.  First, I read a lot of library blogs and I find myself getting lost in the “echo chamber” of blogs—the phenomena of one article being posted dozens of times among different blogs.  I spend hours a day reading library blogs, sometimes to read no more than a handful of different articles.  Secondly, there is a fine line between using social media to stay connected professionally and using social media to stay connected.

The other day my brother asked me if I got a new position as a social media outreach person for the library.  After I told him no, I asked him why he thought that and he replied because all my tweets are about the library.  In fact, a few other friends I’ve stayed connected to on Twitter express confusion over why all my tweets seem to be about libraries.  The simple answer is because I love libraries and want to talk about them a lot.  But it goes deeper than that: I tweet primarily about libraries because I’ve come to think of social media sites as primarily e-portfolios for potential employers and not as tools to express myself and stay connected with friends, family, and other professionals.  How much do I want my online presence to be exclusively professional?  If a potential employer stumbled upon my personal blog, which, for all intents and purposes is a style blog, would they think I’m a ditz?  What kind of image am I portraying if say, half of all my tweets were about cooking or gardening or my political leanings?  Is it wise to keep some social media connections strictly professional and some strictly personal?  Self-promotion is a critical component to professional development, but I don’t want to alienate my loved ones who want to keep in touch via social networks.

All of this is to ask, what do you guys do to keep the balance?  Do youth librarians only update their Good Read accounts with YA?  Do archivists feel the need to stay connected to other archivists?  Those with experiencing hiring, what do you look for?  What kinds of expectations exist for you (either explicitly or self-imposed)?

32 replies

  1. I actually have a separate twitter for my work life and my personal life. Mostly because I know some of my friends don’t care that much about libraries, and partly because I don’t want my professional contacts to know that much about my personal life (my personal account is locked, the work account is open). I’ve already found Google+ really easy to use in the same way; when I’ve had articles I want to share about library/information stuff, I just share it with the circle that is made up of my grad school friends.


    • Thanks for your response! I like the same thing about Google Plus, it makes it easier to decide what content is for who. I’ve avoided a separate Twitter account for personal stuff because I know I’d never post anything to it, but thats definitely a good strategy.


  2. In terms of professional/personal balance in social media, the main way I keep a balance is by keeping personal stuff on Facebook (my profile is locked down pretty severely) and professional stuff on Twitter (where my account is public, although it wasn’t always). There’s still some crossover—I’ll post links to some of my blog entries on Facebook, when I think my friends and family might be interested in a certain post, and I try to include some non-library things on Twitter occasionally, as well. The latter is more difficult somehow, possibly because I view Twitter largely as a professional tool (again, because I’ve been using Facebook for personal stuff for much longer) but I do have some friends following my account.

    I also have a non-library blog (hosted by WordPress.com, as is my library blog) where I post about cooking, gardening, and similar things. I don’t advertise it outwardly on my professional blog, but neither do I outright conceal it, and I’ve occasionally posted links to its entries on my Twitter account. Because of this, I try to keep it relatively formal (that’s not to say that the writing is publishable, but rather that I’m not going to go off ranting about anything inappropriately)—I make sure that I’m fine with the idea of any present or future employer stumbling across it. I’d like to think that having that extra space shows another side to me and that this might somehow actually be beneficial, but honestly it’s more likely that most people following my library-related content, including employers, won’t even notice that it exists.

    In short, I achieve balance by using different services for different purposes while still making sure that I put forward a measured, professional appearance in anything that’s even remotely public.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good strategy–divvying up different sites for different purposes sounds like it’ll work for me.


      • I use a relatively similar structure. It seems to be working fine. Right now, my biggest conundrum is do I friend professors? Obviously they keep their FB’s pretty professional, and mine isn’t. As a result I tend to shy away from creating those sorts of contacts.


  3. I’ve noticed that this has been increasingly hard as well. I actually don’t have a library blog for the reason you mentioned. People talk about the same articles on a daily basis and, at the end of the day, I feel as if I’ve read the same article on twitter and Google Reader 10 times and I don’t have anything else to add.

    I do have a baking/cooking blog because it’s my passion. I created it years ago, long before I was interested in librarianship. Sometimes it seems as if we’re not allowed to have passions outside of librarianship, which is a bummer since I have a lot of outside interests. All of the people in my previous career know about it (and read it on a regular basis), but no one in library land does. There’s nothing scandalous on the blog, of course, but since it doesn’t relate to libraries, I feel as if it’s not important for anyone in the information professional field to know about. (For clarification, I used one of those kitschy food cliches so it’s not possible to find the blog by googling me.) I’d love to hear what others say about keeping the balance.


    • I’m starting to think that its good for employers to understand that we’re real people with different interests. As long as we keep it fairly non-controversial, there can be no harm in baking!


  4. Much like Jackie, I tend to keep personal (facebook, personal blog) and professional (linkedin, WordPress blog) separate with the personal locked, though I will post library related things to both since I have a lot of library friends.

    Interestingly, twitter is kind of where it really blurs the line for me. I have both personal and work contacts on it (though only those I know better, unlike linkedin where I might add those I’ve met a couple of times). I don’t consider it a “professional” account per se (which my username reflects), but since it’s public, I try to be careful about what I tweet about. Nothing really personal, and nothing too controversial.

    As the annonymous twitterer has mentioned, this may be where Google+ will do better, where you can have one account but have the flexibility to share only with a specific group and/or make public.


  5. Currently everything I have is mixed together. I have gained a lot of followers on Twitter by just being myself, so I feel like I’d be being untrue to myself if I split my Twitter usage into professional vs. personal.

    However, now that I’m employed, I find it unnerving for my coworkers to be following me on Twitter. I try to remain slightly distant and professional at work (until I find a true friend) so I’m a bit uncomfortable having all my blah blah blah about writing, commentary about what I observe, cute photos of my cats up for my coworkers’ observance.

    So I’m struggling with what to do. If I do decide to split my Twitter usage across two accounts, I think I’ll privately DM the people I feel close to and tell them about my personal account so they can follow it if they wish.


  6. It’s not easy, Rebecca! About two years ago, I deleted and/or completely removes as much online info about myself as possible so that I could start fresh using a uniform name and branding style (sorry, that’s the cataloger in me). While it did help me pull my entire online experience together, it didn’t help me separate professional and private. So I’ve come to accept that those two spheres will always be mixed and, really, that’s how it is in offline life as well, no?

    Admittedly, Facebook tends to be more personal and casual (I friend co-workers, but they can’t see my wall and most of my photos) and Twitter tends to be more for professional networking. I have a blog at my own domain for library-related writing and a Tumblr for more casual sharing (memes, Doctor Who stuff).

    I try to make a regular habit of going through all my social networks once a year to check the privacy settings and update my personal info (also a good time to change my passwords). I’ll spend an entire morning and afternoon doing this, but it helps me rethink and reground my online presence.

    Still, I haven’t really figured it out, but I think I’ve reached an equilibrium.


  7. I understand this plight oh so well. I had originally thought that my twitter would be just for professional purposes, but then I realized that would be really boring. As Amanda mentioned, I got more out of my followers on twitter by actually interacting with them and when I met some of these cool people in person, it was really easy for all of us to get along.

    My facebook is reserved for personal use only, but I have many librarians on there too. Recently, I’ve just decided to just be myself. I’m not a scary/horrible person so I don’t have too much to hide. I even hid the library related stuff from my non-librarian friends. No more! I am just going to be who I am.


  8. It’s a huge blur for me too. Basically, if it’s on my e-portfolio, it’s more professional (Twitter, LinkedIn, blog – although that’s personal/professional). I had Facebook before I knew I wanted to be a librarian, but my internal cataloger wanted to seriously fix that one up too.

    I’m looking forward to getting more into Google+ for this reason as well.

    What’s really confused me is religious posts in social media. I have friends who share religious thoughts which are really great, but maybe I’m too lukewarm about the people who do not share my views – and the possibility that an employer will get too much information from my views.

    But I’ve actually had a positive experience with tweeting about libraries – I hear friends tell me about their kids who LOVE the library, and that warms my heart.


    • Hmm, religion and other controversial topics are tricky. On the one hand, you shouldn’t be afraid to show your true colors and employers legally can’t make any hiring decisions based on your practices; on the other hand, it can come off as unprofessional.

      I agree about Google+ although most of the people I know who are on it now are librarians, so we’ll see if my parents jump on board…


  9. I never personally saw the value of communicating with friends/family via Twitter, so my Twitter account has always been almost exclusively professional by design. My Facebook is exclusively personal for very close friends and family, the people I talk to in person each month. I’ve made exceptions for library people I know casually, but what they can view is filtered; not because of anything I need to hide, but i look at “what do they need to know? Do they need to see photos from my wedding? Probably not.” I took the bold move of not accepting my HR person’s friend request on FB – and seriously questioned the professionalism of her sending a request out in the first place. I avoid adding co-workers to Facebook as much as possible and filter their views too. I just think it’s creepy that people I barely know will know how I spent my weekend, etc. I worked in the corporate world for a substantial time before pursuing my MLIS, and that’s typically not a culture where you bring your whole self to work, so I admit, I’ve been trained since age 18 (long before social media came along) not to overshare.


  10. I’ve been struggling with this as of late. Frankly, I haven’t found a perfect balance yet, but I do have some goals. Right now, my Twitter account is a mish-mash of personal thoughts and library musings, as is my Tumblr blog. My goal is to transition out of my more personal thoughts on Twitter and make that a professional platform, and keep my Tumblr as a mix of fashion photos/thoughts and librarian jazz. At times, I worry about potential employers seeing my blog and thinking “wow, she certainly thinks a lot about fashion…”, but throughout my schooling it has been a priority of mine to maintain interests outside of my field (while still bringing up points where they intersect)


  11. Tried posting earlier but it must have evaporated into the WordPress ether. My approach to blend the personal with professional is inspired by Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. He wrote about how people can tell a lot about you by looking at your living space (elaborated here: http://hipstercrite.blogspot.com/2011/02/blink-or-what-you-can-tell-just-by.html). I’ve been so swayed by this argument that I’ve even let some political beliefs slip through on Twitter.

    For me to find my place in this professional community, it’s important that others can tell what social group and subculture I belong to. I do heavily censor myself, however. I don’t assume anything online will be kept private even if it’s theoretically restricted to a certain list of followers. I’m happy to reveal some social details about myself, but if I think I might regret a comment later, I try my best to keep it offline entirely.

    In the fall, I wrote up some social media policies for myself as a new grad student and posted them to my blog (http://melodydworak.com/?p=71). After several months of tweeting as a library student, there are ways I could improve that list. Might just be inspired to do that now.


  12. I’m in a Social Media class for Infopros right now and last week we had a big discussion of separating out personal and professional participation (which you can read here: http://storify.com/jjackunrau/libr559mweek2 ).

    I’m a mixer of it all because I figure being employed is less important than being employed by an organization that lets me be myself. (Though the website on my business cards is more book-focused than my personal blog, I have links going both ways.)


    • Thanks for the resource! And I agree, employers must understand that we have complex lives with lots of interests. It might even be a good thing if they get to know us a bit personally before hiring.


  13. I heard a good ratio for people who want to use Twitter for professional reasons: it should be about 80% professional and 20% personal…the reason being is you are a real live person with a personality and interests. After all, if people want to robot that reposts blogs and articles they would subscribe to an RSS feed! My Twitter doesn’t strictly follow this 80/20 formula, but I try to keep my thoughts to things I would be comfortable talking about with my co-workers in the break room during lunch.


    • Interesting rubric–I think I’m more at 90/10 or even 95/5, but 80/20 seems like a comfortable zone. And you’re right–if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, it shouldn’t be out for the entire Internet to see.


  14. These are exactly my questions regarding personal branding. At Dominican, they had a career day focusing on only this idea. The keynote speaker and panels discussed a total overview of social networking from the hiring viewpoint. I was surprised by how they will check out every single social media lead on a potential hire at the early screening stage. I expected that much later in the process. And the point was made about how not having a presence was just as telling as having a personal presence or excessive one.

    So, I’ve taken this summer to try to increase my develop my online presence as a personal brand, but I run into the question of how to make my voice and ideas unique, and what content I want to include (what’s my focus). While I haven’t answered these questions completely, I have made certain decisions such as: I don’t want to portray myself as a certain “type” of librarian (how I’m sick of that question – I’m not any particular type, nor will I be), narrowing and clarifying my interests to show me as a whole person not just as a librarian, and showcasing a skill set across my career to date rather than just my Master’s education. Right now that puts me in the path of WordPress and Twitter particularly. Personal connections are through messaging rather than posts or tweets.


    • Your decisions make a lot of sense and the more I think about it, the more I’m heading in the same direction. Thanks a lot!


  15. This is a great comment stream, and thanks Rebecca for taking this issue on. Like many above, I started with both worlds entirely separate – Facebook for friends/family and Twitter/LinkedIn/Blog for more professional stuff. It only been recently that I’ve decided to let the two co-mingle a little more and let me tell you — my Facebook feed is sooo much more interesting these days. I do however use strict Lists in Facebook, and probably most of you will end up on my professional List, with the least access to my personal life aside from status updates. I do follow the 80/20 rule that Lauren mentioned above, and I think employers (who are also people with personal lives) may actually prefer someone with a little personality reflected in their online representation.

    One of my favorite bloggers, Bobbi Newman AKA Librarian By Day, wrote a great post on using Facebook. You should all go read it. Lets see if I can get my HTML right – PUSH HERE


  16. I think it is a hard balance to keep. I try to keep my Twitter account a nice mixture – personal (but not TOO personal) stuff to show my personality, but still professional library/book links to show my passion. I guess we’ll see how that works!


  17. My Twitter postings are more professional and public (and connect to my LinkedIn profile). I use Facebook more for personal stuff (plus some political ranting) – it’s a little more private – though I also have tweets go there too. I think this is a typical approach. I’m not sure how Google+ will fit into this.

    Still, about 1/6 of my Twitter stuff is personal and I typically remove those from LinkedIn and similarly I remove the more “boring” professional posts from Facebook.

    That said, the “echo chamber” of the same postings getting tossed around is real, and kind of lame. I think if you’re one of the first to notice something, go ahead and share it, but otherwise hold off. I also think there is value to sharing stuff from outside the library universe but that might relate to libraries. In those things, catholic tastes mean you’re bringing in new ideas to the library community. That is both useful to readers and helps distinguish you.

    And of course, if you produce new content/learning/ideas of your own, share them! But few of us produce stuff of that quality daily, or even weekly.

    I should mention that I’m a library school student, not a librarian.


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