So a group of guys walk into a bar…. This is actually not a joke but a real situation. A few weeks ago, on a Saturday night in Austin TX, I went into a bar with a group of friends as an esteemed member of the bachelor party for my friend Chris (last name withheld to protect the guilty).
I quickly noticed that on the numerous HD TV flat screens throughout the bar they were streaming Twitter traffic with the bar’s hashtag. I thought, how fun, I can launch some “late Saturday night bachelor party appropriate” tweets about my buddy Chris for the entire bar’s amusement and edification. So I whipped out my iPhone, launched my Twitter app and began writing a tweet appropriate to the situation. I’m happy to say that before hitting the “Tweet” button, my better judgment kicked in.
Why was it good judgment to stop the tweet? Because my Twitter persona is my analyst persona and my followers on Twitter are expecting me to behave accordingly. What was appropriate for the current situation (probably barely appropriate) was not appropriate for the audience and certainly not reflective of my upstanding analyst reputation. I’m not sure if I would have joined the ever growing “fired for tweeting” crowd but I’m sure some at Gartner would have been less than enthused and amused.
I believe strongly that the age old adage of “know your audience” applies even more so with social media than other collaboration/communication channels because the audience will get mixed if you let it.
I’ve spoken to some who believe there will be no such thing as persona as everything will blend. I don’t see that happening. I actually see the reverse happening as we mature in our use of social media. They often point to Facebook as the persona neutralizer. Since Facebook is one heterogeneous pool of people we must get used to, and as companies, allow people to behave in a mixed manner across the social Web spectrum.
But we are humans and humans like social circles. I don’t want to communicate the same messages and in the same manner to my family, my boyhood friends, my college friends, my work friends, my co-worker, my former co-workers, my “followers” and the general public. Do you? Do you not reserve certain sides of yourself for particular social circles?
As powerful as Facebook is, I think saying Facebook will change human nature is a bit of a stretch. I believe that if Facebook doesn’t build in the capability to manage social circles then they will open the door to significant competition. I originally established my Facebook page under my analyst persona but as I let more and more family and friends in I realized that Facebook is not the appropriate environment for that persona. So I am shifting my persona. Facebook won’t lose me entirely. They will hold onto my personal persona but they will lose my professional persona. I will go to a competitor because my family and friends don’t want to hear about my technology adventures and frankly, I don’t want to tell them (they already think I’m a geek enough so why feed the fire).
And I wouldn’t expect companies to just accept blending either. I have seen many an organization striving to get more clear on defining personas and more clearly articulating Web participation policy and when it applies to employee posting, including Gartner. Check out Gartner’s new modified Web Participation Guidelines and see if you can spot personas.
I realize the title of this post is more provocative than wholly accurate. But then again, I am trying to provoke some thought and maybe a response or two. So let’s hear it, and take on any persona you like