Are you really my friend?

We have had some very interesting discussions here at AHA about the blurring of lines between friend, colleague and boss on social media network sites.  It’s a hot topic right now and everyone has their perspective on it.  I believe that my business partner Paul and I have a pretty good working relationship with everyone on our crew.  Each of the communications professionals who work here are just that – professionals. They come in to each project and each client interaction with their “A game.” It’s not just something that we as the owners expect, it’s something that comes from within each person.  This commitment to excellence shows and is rewarded.

We aren’t a big agency and our culture is one of collaboration and partnership. It isn’t often that we pull rank. But the fact is, when it comes right down to it, Paul and I are where the buck stops. The reality is that sometimes, we are “the boss” and it is in that role where the blurring lines of social media can get a little messy.  Personal and professional lives collide in the social media ring. Whether it’s a client and agency, boss and employee or even colleagues, it can create tension, resentment or hostility.

I am sure that I wrinkle people on our crew sometimes. I send things back to be rewritten, I ask for changes, I request that more research be done and I completely understand if someone complained about it to their friends. But what happens when I am connected to them through Facebook or Twitter. What happens if I happen to hear about a great patio party they are at on Sunday afternoon via tweets and on Monday, they can’t finish a project because they are sick. It’s very interesting. Or what if a client is following me on Facebook and I write about being too busy and that client knows we are developing an important document for them. What am I communicating to our client?

It’s a messy world right now. Be careful what you say out loud (because that’s what social media is), you don’t know who might hear you. The world between personal and professional is very blurry right now and I think it will take some time before we fully realize the ramifications of this.

Another good blog post on this topic is by Jeremiah Owang. The post and the comments are worth a read.

2 Comments, RSS

  1. Ron Goyette September 8, 2009 @ 6:48 PM

    Ruth,
    Great perspective on the topic and I have experienced some of this myself. Before social media it was a little easier to control that line between friend and superior/subordinate, but not necessarily always. And when the line did get crossed there would sometimes be major ramifications, some subtle, some not, to many others around you.

    Accordingly I have tried to be careful as to who I would include as a “friend” on facebook, but twitter has added another element of blurring that line. It certainly is an area to be very careful of.

    Thanks for the blog post!

  2. Ruth Atherley September 9, 2009 @ 2:33 PM

    Thanks for the comment Ron.

    We are in the middle of a communication evolution and I think that some of the most dramatic changes will come from the more subtle changes and shifts as the lines of professional and personal lives blur and maybe even disappear.

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