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July 13, 2010

The line between social me and social media

In this post, Andrea explores the emerging field of social media identity issues …

Andrea WisdorfBlue Door Consulting does not have an agency-wide Twitter account. This is not by accident. Instead, we Tweet as employees of Blue Door Consulting with our own personal accounts.

While there are many reasons we choose to do this, including personalizing our brand and providing different content that serves to develop relationships with a wide variety of people, the main reason is that our culture embraces team members as individuals. And because we recognize that the line between the person and the professional is-well, practically invisible.

How so? Just because I walk out of our office at the end of the work day doesn’t mean that some magic switch gets flipped; the fact that I am an employee of Blue Door Consulting remains unchanged. People in the community know me as Andrea Wisdorf, but they may very well also know me as Andrea from Blue Door or Heidi and Brenda’s employee.

(Or, sometimes, that girl who drives up Jackson Street every morning with the windows down singing Justin Bieber tunes at the top of her lungs.)

I feel lucky to be working for a company that embraces me as both a professional and an individual, recognizing that these things are, on many levels, one in the same. It’s also an honor to be entrusted with the reputation of our team on so many levels.

Not all companies can work with this model, although I’m sure most would want to if they could. Not all companies SHOULD work with this model and for various reasons–size, goals, strategy, etc. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about separation of individual and company in the realm of social media and I’m fascinated by the obstacles being discovered each day.

Just the other week, CNN’s editor of Mideast affairs was asked to resign over a Tweet. Viewers found it biased while the author, Octavia Nasr, claimed it was taken out of context (often easy to do with 140 characters). Either way, CNN decided her credibility as a reported had been compromised and she was asked to leave.

In my opinion, journalists are paid to be objective and report on just the facts. Even if Nasr had her own, unbranded Twitter account, the issue would have likely remained the same.

In another recent example, this past week, Frank Eliason aka the man behind @comcastcares, announced his plans to leave Comcast. His account has more than 44,000 followers. He alludes, in a blog post, that he will be leaving his current handle for a new one. Presumably so Comcast can pick up where he left off. Did Comcast ask him to do this? Citing intellectual property employer rights? Some other contract? Or perhaps Frank is just that nice. But, what if things played out differently–Frank changed the handle to a personal one and began to Tweet about his new career. Comcast followers would likely ditch out when the content changed while many Frank fans would stay. Comcast is left to reach out with other handles. Not the worst scenario, but not ideal either.

The line between the individual and the professional is blurred, as is the line between the brand and the individual. I’m curious what our readers think–how do you handle Tweeting as or on behalf of a brand? Where do you draw the line as an individual? As a professional? Who owns your Tweets? What questions do you have?