This New York Times article reflects an issue that has been lurking at the back of my mind ever since I started using social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Yammer, Linkedin and my infrequent private blog. While I’m not a really high volume poster, I like to share a fair amount of stuff on these sites. Unlike this blog, it tends to be a mixture of professional and personal observations and postings. I have not made any real blunders when mixing the two, but stories abound of when this does happen.
Vendors are responding by improving the controls they offer for deciding how much to expose, to whom. This is a great first step, but the real breakthrough must come in the user interface. As this article points out, there are quite a few possibilities, but how many people really take the time and effort to carefully go through and consider who should see what?
It is not uncommon to receive ten or more invitations per day. I quickly sift through the people who read my name somewhere, but don’t really know me. But many are more subtle. How much do I want an analyst relations person from a vendor I am covering to know about me? Or a client? Or my boss? I sometimes use Hellotxt.com to propagate postings across many different sites. It is much easier and faster than going to each individual site. But I have to force myself to think whether what I am saying really belongs in all of those places.
The problem is that I really am acting in several different personas all the time. In my head, I slip between being a sometimes snarky commentator, professional analyst, new acquaintance, old friend, fan, brother, husband… Translating the different roles I play from second to second from my head to my keyboard is a far too manual process, and manual processes are very error-prone.
The great designer/entrepreneur who comes up with an effective way to manage the different personas people inhabit stands to make a fortune. It was the suppliers to miners who made the lasting riches in the California Gold Rush. The same thing is poised to happen again with the social media gold rush. Many of the first order sites will do fine. But the second and third order services that make it possible to use the sites effectively and safely will be an even bigger opportunity.