Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

Social Networking vs. Professional Networking

Yes, I’d have definitely picked a better picture if I found more time to blog

Was just reading this article from the New York Times titled “Putting your best Cyberface forward” by Stephanie Rosenbloom that talks about the need to represent ourselves differently in our social and professional spheres respectively. The article talks of a social science term called “impression management” which “likens human interactions to a theatrical performance” (Source: Sociologist Erving Goffman’s book, “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”; 1959).

Complicating this “theatrical performance” is the fact that we represent ourselves and therefore our brand differently to different groups of individuals: colleagues, bosses (past, present, future), classmates (high-school, college), fraternity brothers, mom, dad, siblings, etc… What obviously starts off as the need for self-expression on social networking sites, could soon become a handicap if not managed well.

Clare Richardson, 17, of Los Angeles, is applying to colleges and is therefore mindful of what she posts on Facebook, but she knows teenagers who “want to appear to be the partying type,” she said. They post pictures that seem to prove it even if it is not true. “It’s clear they’re trying to impress everyone out there,” Ms. Richardson said.

What many individuals forget is that “what happens on pure-play social networks, does not always stay on those networks”. Now, on the other hand, having a professional network or a career blog is something you want out there for the whole world to see, because guess what? When you’re looking for a job, the first thing companies are going to do is Google your name and whether you’re on a professional network at LinkedIn (Disclosure: I work at LinkedIn) or have a blog of your own (preferably a career blog like mine), that’s the first thing that’s going to show up. Keith N. Hampton, an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, thinks

the notion of impressing “everyone out there” is the fundamental problem of networking sites. They are designed so that millions see the same image of a member.

Along the same vein, Hampton also thinks that for online impression management to be effective,

…you should be able to present one face to your boss, and another to your poker buddies. “We have very real reasons for wanting to segment our social network”

I think the notion of presenting your true side (social and professional) is a basic instinct. The key here is tailoring it to the right audience and managing privacy controls. In my case, everything that’s searchable publicly is essentially what I’d like my professional identity to be, whereas my social identity is something I’m particular about sharing only with my existing/expanding social circle.

For those of you new to this social networking phenomenon. Check out two earlier posts I wrote around personal brand management online, and another where I describe how to leverage that to find your dream job.

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Filed under: Miscellaneous

10 Responses

  1. Although it is definitely true that we tend to present one face professionally and another personally, the lines are really blurred. So if your ‘at work’ face and your ‘at home’ are completely different, then people will wonder which one is the real you.

    You can do things to keep the two separated and you should make a conscious decision regarding which one gets more ‘air’ or ‘online’ time. But it is very difficult to keep the two separated. Each of your brands (professional vs. personal) should have some type of common theme or denominator. That way each brand is complementary or a natural extension of the other.


  2. Mario Sundar says:

    Let me clarify, Margaret.

    1. I think what’s often forgotten, even in the NYT piece, is that it’s NOT about misrepresenting who you are NOR is it about presenting TWO faces.

    I believe it’s about presenting two different sides to the same face. And, you’re right in saying that one should complement the other. For e.g. my social profile is a lot more about politics – controversial stuff I’d rather not talk about on my blog (except on rare occasions) and never in my professional profile.

    2. Private vs. Public – I think social is meant to be private and professional being public actually serves you well. My social profile on Facebook is visible ONLY to my current network whereas my professional profile (career blog & LinkedIn) finds prominent exposure on any google result around my name.

    Hope that helps.


  3. Mark says:

    great article and great site. keep it up!!


  4. Ari Herzog says:

    Do you also have online profiles on social networking sites like Facebook or Myspace? And, if you were not employed by Linkedin, would you still have a profile there?


  5. Mario Sundar says:

    Thanks, Mark!

    Hi Ari,
    As a matter of fact, I’d a LinkedIn profile and was an evangelist way before I officially became “the evangelist”. Currently, I also have a profile on Facebook but this was more recent.


  6. Rhyo says:

    Yes, We have to keep Social Networking and Professional Networking Seperate.


  7. […] post which includes 10 tips for online professional networking which are very interesting, “Social Networking vs. Professional Networking” post written by Mario Sundar (Community Evangelist at LinkedIn) or “Facebook and […]


  8. […] referred to this very situation in an earlier post where I quoted Keith N. Hampton, an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication […]


  9. […] over 100 tips for tapping the Wisdom of the Crowds (people you know) – using LinkedIn – a “professional” rather than “social” site. Of course, the tips were collected in the same […]


  10. […] as I’ve said before – I’d recommend keeping your social and professional life separate. More importantly, the post doesn’t make any mention of LinkedIn (and I find that surprising) […]


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