Get a handle on social networking (before it starts handling you!)

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) recently posted a story called Dos and don’ts for mixing work, social networks that contains some great common-sense advice for people who are wanting to venture into the world of Facebook or Twitter but are wary of their coworkers seeing personal content.

The best rule of thumb is, of course, to not put anything up on the Internet that you wouldn’t want shared with the world. After all, even sites like Facebook that let you protect your information can be compromised by unscrupulous people.

However, there is a gray area. Photos of the aftermath of my adventures in trying to bathe my cat aren’t particularly scandalous, but images of a drenched me and an angry cat aren’t exactly something I’d show my coworkers.

Thus the value of’s advice: create separate social networking accounts for your personal life and your work life. I know it sounds repetitious, and you may end up putting much of the same content on each profile. Good! That’s less work for you! The content you pass through each profile will be different, however. You’ll also have a built-in filter to separate out best practices discussion and birthday party photos.

This goes for Twitter as well. Just because your friends and family will find your retweets from FailBlog hilarious doesn’t mean your coworkers and contacts will. Save the @ replies to Kanye West for your personal account. Use your “professional” Twitter to network, comment on events you’re attending, and pass along valuable information.

Since registration for most social network sites is based upon your email, you can register one account with a personal email and one with a work email. If you already have an account registered with one email, you may have to defriend or unfollow some people in order to parse out the individual accounts. Just drop a note of explanation as to what you’re doing — people will understand. This little bit of maintenance work will pay big dividends.

We are living in a society that has become so connected that nobody has “off” time any more. People can find us via our laptops, smart phones, text message, GPS, and countless other technologies. Not only does separating out your work and home lives into different online accounts help you maintain professionalism, but it also helps you leave those things at the office if you choose. Turn off your work Twitter when you’re not “on the clock.” Don’t log in to your work Facebook from home. Leave those things for the office. Likewise, if you leave your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts at home when you head to the office, you won’t run the danger of being distracted by socializing with friends and family, which can quickly become a time-suck.

Social networking tools are just that — tools. You want to make sure you use the right tool for the job, and that those tools are configured properly. For example, a drill is a very useful tool, but it doesn’t usually just have one bit. There are many different configurations of bits for different projects. Think of social networking in the same sense. You can use the same tool configured many different ways to accomplish your different objectives — business, social, and otherwise.

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