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« WeAreMedia Module 5: Encouraging Online Participation - Some Tips from Nonprofits | Main | Steve Bridger: How Charities Need To Update Their Status »


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Michelle Murrain

Yeah, it's an interesting question. I think if you are someone who really wants to keep the two separate, it's hard - have two different profiles?

I happen to be someone that melds the two constantly, and that doesn't bother me at all. My facebook account is basically split between personal and professional contacts (and, actually, I have several that are both.) In some ways, I like it that people I might work with might have a better idea of who I am as a whole person. And, even though the people who follow me are all work contacts (except one) I often tweet personal things.

So my answer is: no balance, complete meld. But I know that is not a good answer for a lot of people.


This is such a critical question. I find it coming up more for me as I am tasked with exploring and explaining 2.0 to some of my colleagues and our project funder.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought the TOS for Facebook specify that you are only supposed to have one account. You are supposed to actually be yourself. So I only have one Facebook account. But I have two delicious accounts, and two youtube accounts, one for work and one for me. I like that in some ways, but it can be a pain to log in and out as I figure out which resource I want to save where.

As far as professional contacts knowing what tv shows I like, or how cynical or raunchy my sense of humor is ... I do self-censor a tiny bit more than I would if my account were purely personal. I think Gen-Xers and GenY/Millennials are much more comfortable with the mix of the two personas, but let's face it, if you work in any semi-traditional job setting, you will probably not be sharing the fact that you went skiing or went to the beach and drank a six-pack, after calling in "sick".


Wow! There's my face!

I just try to be human.

I don't have a particularly stuffy professional persona (understatement) and I don't have a particularly wild or inappropriate personal persona, so I don't have trouble mixing it up.

Since I'm often engaging with Red Cross stakeholders online (masquerading as human beings themselves) I think it helps that they can figure out who I am and a few of my personality traits - seems only fair since they're sharing things about their personal lives (like blood donation).


While I respect people's decision to split their profiles between personal or professional (or keep it only personal), it may go against the whole mantra of non profits getting involved with social networking - "Be Authentic." I use my Facebook profile for both professional and personal networking. I am cautious about the types of pictures or information that I post on my profile, but I do post personal information. We had an internal debate about displaying political preferences on our Facebook profile i.e. I heart Obama applications or fan pages. Since our organization is non partisan, I decided not to upload such information onto my profile, but some of my colleagues decided to do so and haven't had a problem.

Overall, my Facebook profile has allowed me to stay in touch with key activists and contacts. It's a great way to stay up on people's lives by wishing them happy birthday or commenting on information posted to their profile. My line of work - grassroots organizing - is all about relationship building and I've found Facebook to be an effective tool for building another side of that relationship.

Howard Lake

I've been pondering this issue for quite a while too, so thanks for those resource links.

Until recently I've assumed the obvious solution was for two profiles, a personal and a professional one. But this is far from simple: first, if you use more than one social network you will end up with 2, 4, 6 or however many separate profiles. Secondly, the personal can not and probably should not be entirely excluded from one's professional persona and experience. There are many influences from my personal and family life that guide and inform my professional life.

I reckon that is particularly so in the nonprofit sector: does the passion to cure cancer, rescue an animal, secure mental health treatment, or overcome poverty or whatever drives a nonprofit staff member or volunteer reside purely in one's 'professional' persona? Of course not.

I think that the largely informal nature of blogs, SMS texting, and other popular digital communications media will lead to many online users becoming comfortable with a degree of blurring between professional and personal personas.

So, while there will be examples where separation is essential, I think the single, combined informal persona is the way forward.


This is a question I've thought a great deal about. Many nonprofits rely on a reputation of being nonpartisan -- both for obvious 501(c)(3) reasons, and because it makes them more effective in advocating for their cause. However, when hourly, wage nonprofit staff go home, it is completely within the bounds of ethics and the law (and I would argue, just the other side of the coin to being a good citizen) to work on partisan endeavors on their own personal volunteer time, with their own equipment, out of the office.

This used to be an issue of simple discretion--never shall the work of the nonprofit and the personal volunteer partisan activities meet--and only salaried, highly visible staff (like program directors and EDs) had to keep a low profile in their personal volunteer commitments. Now, with the advent of social networking, personal professional personas are being combined into one. Many online networks' TOS forbid a person to have more than one profile, but, as this illustrates, sometimes there are legitimate reasons to have two profiles.

While there are some pretty obvious reasons that one might not want their work and personal profiles to be the same, I think this is an especially problematic issue for nonprofit hourly employees. I hope major networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook take this into consideration for their user TOS.

Wendy Harman

Me again - just want to echo Holly's distinction about political preferences. I also choose not to display any political affiliation on my social media profiles for the same reason.


I, too, have only one Facebook account, one LinkedIn, etc. But I do have multiple Google login accounts, as I have a reader that feeds my personal/entertainment blog reading and one that feeds my work-related blog reading. Work also uses Google Docs, so I wanted a direct work login for that. SO, I always have Firefox (personal) and Explorer (work) open.


fortunately for me, my employer places a high premium on our staff being really 'authentic' about our being in the world. so, there is little direct pressure to censor ourselves in our engagement on socnets. that said, i do find myself wondering if some of my 'ilike' music selections will offend people in my 'professional' or 'political' networks. plus, some of my 'friends' [who are, really, friends] sometimes like to put up content that i am sure would be a bit much for some in my socnet [ex. one friend dedicated 'f*** the pain away' by peaches].

but, for me, the bigger concern is how family members - some of whom are *very* conservative - are going to respond to my 'belonging' to groups like 'The F-WORD zine: a feminist handbook for the revolution' having a 'oscillating irony phantasm' for a 'religious view'. i somewhat expect that professional and political contacts will, at the very least, be able 'read' those with a sense of humor intact. i'll see soon enough if my brother (an administrative pastor) and his wife (a 'conservative republican' being groomed for a run for a state assembly seat by her state party) will allow their son to continue to be my 'friend.'

Peter Campbell

I had a question - probably for David Carr - I'm curious as to how Facebook becomes a better choice for "Professional late adopters" and, by way of that question, what a professional late adopter is. I just don't see Facebook and LinkedIn as the same types of networks, whereas MySpace and LinkedIn are very similar, and differ mainly in terms of the age groups they cater to. Why would you join Facebook instead of LinkedIn, as opposed to in addition to?

On the personal/professional, I make things complicated with three personas: Peter Campbell, the person; Peter Campbell, the non-profit technology professional at Techcafeteria, my self-branded blog/consulting-business-on-hiatus; and Peter Campbell, IT Director at Earthjustice. I blog, tweet, etc. as a combo of the first two, occasionally mentioning the wonderful org I work for, but not speaking as a representative of it. On LinkedIn, it's a mix of the latter two. I hate Facebook and Myspace - killed my MySpace account a long time ago and I'm trying to figure out how to do the same at Facebook. My complaint is that those networks tend to define me more than they let me present myself to the community.

Jesse Stay

Thanks for mentioning our book, Beth! Just to give credit where credit's due, Jason Alba co-wrote I'm on Facebook--Now What??? with me. I also suggest Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, although that is more of why you should be involved in social network rather than things like how to set up your profile.


For me, Facebook has not been valuable for my professional life because I actively try to keep that separate from the other social networks that I am a part of. I was an early adopter of Facebook so I feel more comfortable using it as a way to keep in touch with friends rather than for personal connections. That is what I use LI for.

Crystal Peterson

Our company too allows for personal and professional meld as a way to relate and personalize ourselves to our professional and political networks. I am personally of the opinion that I don't really have anything to hide in either network and would hope that my contacts and professional networks would be able to separate me from one of my contacts if there was something they did not agree with (and vice versa). I feel comfortable melding the two areas, and like to think that it makes for a more rounded personable view. I do, however, know that this thought is not shared universally and that individuals should do what they feel is most comfortable.


I think a couple of folks have already brought this up, but it deserves explicit mention: I'm also hesitant to use my personal Facebook account professionally because the nonprofit I work for works on an issue that cuts across ideological lines. While I am myself, for example, pro-gay rights and pro-choice, these are personal leanings that can alienate key constituencies that my organization seeks to cultivate relationships with.

I really think it is possible to achieve authenticity while still having a private, personal persona, and that social networks should honor individuals who choose to have separate personal/professional identities.

Connie Bensen

Isn't networking an interesting phenomenon? Up until the past month all of my social interactions were happening in FB. But with my transition to Network Solutions it seems I've shifted to a new world. People are connecting with me on LinkedIn. So I'm learning to navigate a new network & enjoying meeting people at my new company.

Soon I'll have a new set of friends on LinkedIn (some are at both). But I think the important thing is that people can add me at the network of their choice.

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