Conflicting personas: social media as an 'AND' role (initially titled 'AND' job which is entirely inappropriate, even for this blog)

December 29, 2009

bustedtees.04b45bfff5d5101fb824852137145107You know one of those brief tweets or status updates that can easily be lifted from bigger, continuous conversations  you’re having with online friends and followers?  Out of context stuff. Or, it’s a user’s name that’s exploited, like this from NBC news anchor Brian Williams:

“There’s no way of knowing if the incoming text from partygirl99 is being written from Tehran or Texas.”

Poor partygirl99. Williams’ statement is very true. It is hard for traditional media to vet information coming from the public in a form they’ve never seen. It’s the AND part of the job. This AND that. Reporting, fact checking, AND now monitoring & participating in worldwide network of “on the street” de facto reporters.

<digression>… another interesting tidbit from Mr. Williams, below, is worthy of its own post)

“The belief that “social media” only feeds our national self-obsession and that the often-used phrase “online community” is, in fact, an oxymoron.” (from here)

Wha??? Oxymoron? (to be continued…) </digression)

Anyway, this is one of the silly comments used in an attempt to illustrate Twitter’s (in)significance – David Letterman’s first tweets:
letterman

What’s lifted is usually day-to-day snark or silliness that fuels a community. The stuff that  can become an “inside joke” down the road. I’m always aware of that when I’m silly, snarky, or even stupid. Like recently.

I’ll try to keep this short and eventually get to my point. But first…in case you’re not up to speed on Twitter hashtags, here’s a little explanation. Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait. (Elevator music)

K. Ready?

It started with this:

quickquestion

What followed was a bunch of #whackamole tweets that eventually started to show up in a search for the game “Whack-a-Mole” on Google (Whack-a-Mole was the answer to my question).

During all this #whackamole business, I had brief exchange on Twitter with @susank about monitoring social media activity for your company. Susan is Senior PR Manager at Mzinga  who communicates with all sorts of people on Twitter. Like me, part of her daily work includes having conversations on Twitter. Our exchange…

Me: “i hope my employer is not monitoring what i’m tweeting. oh wait. i’m the one that monitors.”

That statement is a joke…snark…totally a problem if lifted by an employer with no sense of humor and/or who doesn’t get it. See, spending 10 minutes on whack-a-mole is (for a virtual worker) about the same as an inside joke in the physical office.

Now monitoring a company on Twitter is real-time customer service to me.  It’s my “AND” job. Researcher/Analyst AND “all the social media stuff.” At Brandon Hall Research, we’re all responsible in some way for social media but I guess you could say I “own” that.

These dueling roles have created a persona issue for me.

  • A local community college asked me to teach some classes about social media (for businesses) in the evening…i.e., teaching about my “AND” role.
  • A friend of a friend asked if I can give some advice on how to use social media for his new venture.
  • A member of the local Chamber of Commerce (I’m also a member) contacted me about using social media to support a book he’s writing.

These are all related to my “AND” role. I was all like, “how do I deal with this?”  What I do is no secret but it’s getting confusing. You can teach people instructional design without having an instructional design blog but I don’t think it’s as easy to teach people ‘business 2.0’ when you don’t have an online identity about that. It’s an identity thing. A credibility thing. And, it’s a transparency thing for Brandon Hall.

I’ve got information to share about both roles. I’m still learning. And here’s how I’m dealing with it:

  • A separate website for the business side of social media. It doesn’t make much sense to write about the “AND” role stuff here and it doesn’t make much sense to teach others about it when I only write about e-learning related topics here. It’s confusing.
  • Separate accounts for some social networking sites to keep topics organized.

So, I’m sticking to e-learning research here with some “AND” writing on the side about the business side of things. Because that’s the way I learn best. Write about it. Talk about it. Write about it some more.

One last thing about this conflicting persona / subject matter thing…a video from a panel Mark Oehlert led at DevLearn09 with Michelle Lentz and Aaron Silvers about reputation, authenticity, and credibility. Very smart people documenting their work  and becoming  more knowledgeable. Just not all mixed up in one place.

  • http://daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    My hunch is that a lot of people don't get the comparison you make here:…spending 10 minutes on whack-a-mole is (for a virtual worker) about the same as an inside joke in the physical office…I get the notion “when you're at work, you work.” You can see that as a form of authoritarianism, or as encouragement to focus.Regarding classroom-based, in-person training, I've always said that people take 10 minutes of break per hour, whether you schedule it or not. I think that's true of face-to-face work as well, except for literal or virtual assembly lines (the stamping plant, the call center) where someone not chained to the work interface controls what you do, how you move, and when you get to use the restroom.(One of the benefits of that control position, as every first-level supervisor learns the first day, is that you don't have to ask permission to hit the head.)

  • http://daveswhiteboard.com/ Dave Ferguson

    My hunch is that a lot of people don't get the comparison you make here:

    …spending 10 minutes on whack-a-mole is (for a virtual worker) about the same as an inside joke in the physical office…

    I get the notion “when you're at work, you work.” You can see that as a form of authoritarianism, or as encouragement to focus.

    Regarding classroom-based, in-person training, I've always said that people take 10 minutes of break per hour, whether you schedule it or not. I think that's true of face-to-face work as well, except for literal or virtual assembly lines (the stamping plant, the call center) where someone not chained to the work interface controls what you do, how you move, and when you get to use the restroom.

    (One of the benefits of that control position, as every first-level supervisor learns the first day, is that you don't have to ask permission to hit the head.)

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  • http://twitter.com/mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers

    From 2005-2008, I ran three blogs (at least) to facilitate different aspects of my online presence: flashforlearning.com (my “professional” side), s1lvers.com (my familial side) and gen1.us (my personal / freudian “id”). Quite frankly, it was too much work. I *love* talking about learning to the core of my being. To understand my take on learning and technology's role in the practice, you inevitably have to know a bit about me — the bits that only come out by knowing what I'm into, what ticks me off, etc. It further helps to understand my day-to-day both at work and at home — my particular insights (such as they may be insights) about SCORM can be understood at one level abstracted from everything else. Without the context of who I'm friends with, who influences me, who I learn from, the pattern of things that excite and annoy me — without that messy stuff, I don't think anyone can get all the juice out of the fruit of my “professional” insights. Not without more explanation, or more caveats.In fall of '08, I collapsed everything down to one blog (aaronsilvers.com). There are things I can't talk about (like my day job); my organization is just not comfortable yet with the notion that every employee is an ambassador of the organization, worts and all.The day may come once again when I need to assume a federated identity, tweeting from one account about professional things with another account about the personal — but I'm skeptical about how successfully I, as a human, can govern myself so strictly. It's a lot easier to just be “me” and stay mindful of the boundaries I just can't cross when everything is on the record, even if you don't mean it to be. That means mixing it up in one place and people who follow what I talk about on Twitter, Facebook or my blog can choose to tune out or tune in as appropriate, understanding that's how I'm rolling. I will probably never have thousands and thousands of followers — but I don't need that. I need followers who find something of value in what I say and can use it to influence their own networks.I feel very fortunate that personally and professionally, I'm at a sense of personal convergence where my professional and personal interests are on the same path for the most part. The question your post has put in my head now is this: are my explicit personal/professional interests being meshed a result of or the cause of my implicit decision to not differentiate them?

  • http://twitter.com/mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers

    From 2005-2008, I ran three blogs (at least) to facilitate different aspects of my online presence: flashforlearning.com (my “professional” side), s1lvers.com (my familial side) and gen1.us (my personal / freudian “id”). Quite frankly, it was too much work. I *love* talking about learning to the core of my being. To understand my take on learning and technology's role in the practice, you inevitably have to know a bit about me — the bits that only come out by knowing what I'm into, what ticks me off, etc. It further helps to understand my day-to-day both at work and at home — my particular insights (such as they may be insights) about SCORM can be understood at one level abstracted from everything else. Without the context of who I'm friends with, who influences me, who I learn from, the pattern of things that excite and annoy me — without that messy stuff, I don't think anyone can get all the juice out of the fruit of my “professional” insights. Not without more explanation, or more caveats.

    In fall of '08, I collapsed everything down to one blog (aaronsilvers.com). There are things I can't talk about (like my day job); my organization is just not comfortable yet with the notion that every employee is an ambassador of the organization, worts and all.

    The day may come once again when I need to assume a federated identity, tweeting from one account about professional things with another account about the personal — but I'm skeptical about how successfully I, as a human, can govern myself so strictly. It's a lot easier to just be “me” and stay mindful of the boundaries I just can't cross when everything is on the record, even if you don't mean it to be.

    That means mixing it up in one place and people who follow what I talk about on Twitter, Facebook or my blog can choose to tune out or tune in as appropriate, understanding that's how I'm rolling. I will probably never have thousands and thousands of followers — but I don't need that. I need followers who find something of value in what I say and can use it to influence their own networks.

    I feel very fortunate that personally and professionally, I'm at a sense of personal convergence where my professional and personal interests are on the same path for the most part. The question your post has put in my head now is this: are my explicit personal/professional interests being meshed a result of or the cause of my implicit decision to not differentiate them?

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    I'm thinking the 10-mins is not really about 'work' but about moments over time where relationships are formed. Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're saying.

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    I'm thinking the 10-mins is not really about 'work' but about moments over time where relationships are formed. Or perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you're saying.

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    Wow. I'm so glad to hear from you on this. You seem to have worked through some of the issues I've been struggling with already and I found myself nodding my head as I read your comments. In my mind, I see separation as a way for me to say what I want to say by creating spaces where I am more likely to learn (and hopefully) share topic-specific info. What's unique to me I think is my position, i.e. the “employee” writing about the work. I'm reading this series from Andy Oram for O'Reilly Radar called “Being online: Group identities and social network identities.” (http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/oreilly/radar/at…). He writes that identity is a group construct. I'm a member of the L&D; group so if I'm writing about the struggle to work the right amount of hours on the company's online presence stuff vs. balancing my own stuff and referring to #s that other social media managers spend on their work and how that's viewed by their employer, blah blah blah, for example, does that leave an impression on the (L&D;) group that I didn't intend? I could write here about that balance in terms of working and learning in the corporate environment but I'm not likely to find the personal balance I'm looking for without communicating with different groups. I'm naturally going to spin it.Your question is a profound one…”Are my explicit personal/professional interests being meshed a result of or the cause of my implicit decision to not differentiate them?”Hmm. Will have to think about that one.

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    Wow. I'm so glad to hear from you on this. You seem to have worked through some of the issues I've been struggling with already and I found myself nodding my head as I read your comments.

    In my mind, I see separation as a way for me to say what I want to say by creating spaces where I am more likely to learn (and hopefully) share topic-specific info. What's unique to me I think is my position, i.e. the “employee” writing about the work.

    I'm reading this series from Andy Oram for O'Reilly Radar called “Being online: Group identities and social network identities.” (http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/oreilly/radar/at…). He writes that identity is a group construct. I'm a member of the L&D group so if I'm writing about the struggle to work the right amount of hours on the company's online presence stuff vs. balancing my own stuff and referring to #s that other social media managers spend on their work and how that's viewed by their employer, blah blah blah, for example, does that leave an impression on the (L&D) group that I didn't intend? I could write here about that balance in terms of working and learning in the corporate environment but I'm not likely to find the personal balance I'm looking for without communicating with different groups. I'm naturally going to spin it.

    Your question is a profound one…”Are my explicit personal/professional interests being meshed a result of or the cause of my implicit decision to not differentiate them?”

    Hmm. Will have to think about that one.

  • http://twitter.com/mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers

    As I was writing the comment, I also thought that for you, the game is a little different because of what your job is — your job is to be part of a certain community and to provide your perspective and insight in this space. So while your personal opinions about professional subjects may very well be aligned with your “assumed” professional opinions (by nature of your very role), there's probably a bunch of personal stuff that you may not wish to disclose to give yourself the wiggle room to grow.If I were to take on a role in my organization where my job was to be the persona, present in one or many communities — I might need to create the space to grow, too.

  • http://twitter.com/mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers

    As I was writing the comment, I also thought that for you, the game is a little different because of what your job is — your job is to be part of a certain community and to provide your perspective and insight in this space. So while your personal opinions about professional subjects may very well be aligned with your “assumed” professional opinions (by nature of your very role), there's probably a bunch of personal stuff that you may not wish to disclose to give yourself the wiggle room to grow.

    If I were to take on a role in my organization where my job was to be the persona, present in one or many communities — I might need to create the space to grow, too.

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    Perhaps I should just think of this as wearing different colors of the same mask. It feels more authentic to me. Better than separation. All that aside, will I actually have the time to do this right.

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    Perhaps I should just think of this as wearing different colors of the same mask. It feels more authentic to me. Better than separation. All that aside, will I actually have the time to do this right.

  • daveferguson

    Flippin' Disqus wants to use your picture for mine? Okay…What I thought I was saying was that there's lots of time “wasted” even in a workplace where everyone's in the same physical location. “Wasted” in the sense that you're not actually grinding out deliverables.Your point, which I agree with, is that at least some of this “waste” actually goes to forming and strengthening connections that can (though not necessarily will increase your effectiveness.Those moments are just harder to count. And I had in mind a somewhat smug post I'd read on an HR-oriented site; its overall tone was clearly that internet access (much less social-site access) was simply a way to turbocharge the speed of your hell-bound handbasket.

  • daveferguson

    Flippin' Disqus wants to use your picture for mine? Okay…

    What I thought I was saying was that there's lots of time “wasted” even in a workplace where everyone's in the same physical location. “Wasted” in the sense that you're not actually grinding out deliverables.

    Your point, which I agree with, is that at least some of this “waste” actually goes to forming and strengthening connections that can (though not necessarily will increase your effectiveness.

    Those moments are just harder to count. And I had in mind a somewhat smug post I'd read on an HR-oriented site; its overall tone was clearly that internet access (much less social-site access) was simply a way to turbocharge the speed of your hell-bound handbasket.

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    I know. I spent like 20 minutes trying to fix the picture thing. WTF Disqus???Hell-bound handbasket. Only you.

  • http://brandon-hall.com/janetclarey jclarey

    I know. I spent like 20 minutes trying to fix the picture thing. WTF Disqus???

    Hell-bound handbasket. Only you.

  • http://twitter.com/mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers

    Well, the nice thing about being people is that you can always change your mind, right? :)Go forward with the notion that you have a different color mask to go with whatever venue you're writing or speaking through. Get a sense for, in general what's inappropriate in all your venues, and what's on the edge of appropriate in those venues, too. Know the boundaries.Wherever you're present, in whatever mask — write to the edge. Don't go over.

  • http://twitter.com/mrch0mp3rs Aaron Silvers

    Well, the nice thing about being people is that you can always change your mind, right? 🙂

    Go forward with the notion that you have a different color mask to go with whatever venue you're writing or speaking through. Get a sense for, in general what's inappropriate in all your venues, and what's on the edge of appropriate in those venues, too. Know the boundaries.

    Wherever you're present, in whatever mask — write to the edge. Don't go over.

  • http://iliveisl.com/ Ener Hax

    spot on with diff personnas. online for virtual worlds i am Ener Hax and iLIVEisl, she even has a LinkedIn account, Facebook, own domain name, Yahoo and Gmail accounts, etc. and very good social reach imo (3800 FB friends, 5700 followers, ~1000 hits a day on the blog, and SEO out the roof)but it's separate from the real me. as Ener Hax, i write without caps (a nod to Bauhaus principles btw), use lots of smilies, and am very much a distinct personna from rl me. but . . . it's all authentic. i believe you can have two personnas and be authentic (i reach out to my inner child). i think of Geico and their major ad campaigns running at the same time: caveman, money with googly eyes, and gecko. all represent the same thingit is authentic because what that personna does is real (actions, not just words promising $$ with twitter!). well, virtually real anyway and backed up by real service solutionsin my case, it does not matter who the real person is, the virtual personna has to deliver and has a reputation to maintain and a real business to attend toit becomes the brand for my real efforts and thus is authentic and crediblenice post (love the digressions!) =)

  • http://iliveisl.com/ Ener Hax

    spot on with diff personnas. online for virtual worlds i am Ener Hax and iLIVEisl, she even has a LinkedIn account, Facebook, own domain name, Yahoo and Gmail accounts, etc. and very good social reach imo (3800 FB friends, 5700 followers, ~1000 hits a day on the blog, and SEO out the roof)

    but it's separate from the real me. as Ener Hax, i write without caps (a nod to Bauhaus principles btw), use lots of smilies, and am very much a distinct personna from rl me. but . . . it's all authentic. i believe you can have two personnas and be authentic (i reach out to my inner child). i think of Geico and their major ad campaigns running at the same time: caveman, money with googly eyes, and gecko. all represent the same thing

    it is authentic because what that personna does is real (actions, not just words promising $$ with twitter!). well, virtually real anyway and backed up by real service solutions

    in my case, it does not matter who the real person is, the virtual personna has to deliver and has a reputation to maintain and a real business to attend to

    it becomes the brand for my real efforts and thus is authentic and credible

    nice post (love the digressions!) =)

  • http://twitter.com/iliveisl Ener Hax

    disqus is annoying, but now my gravatar is picked up (w00t – my virtual identity is whole once again)

  • http://twitter.com/iliveisl Ener Hax

    disqus is annoying, but now my gravatar is picked up (w00t – my virtual identity is whole once again)

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