Personal Accounts, Work Accounts – What To Do?

Sometimes, I get these types of questions:

“I’m learning about social media tools, and a patron saw I was online and asked me a question … but I wasn’t at work! What should I do?”

“I was at work, and a friend saw I was online in Facebook and started asking me about the party last night. What should I do?”

    Here’s my take. I’d love for you to add to the discussion!

    First, for the patron/after-hours question. There are a few different ways to deal with this:

    • Answer the question. Really, this isn’t much different than getting stopped in the store and asked a question (yep – I think I have an “I’m a librarian! Ask me” sticker stuck to my forehead – don’t you?).
    • Alternatively, simply say “I’m off-duty. Email me the question, and I’ll answer it tomorrow.”

    How about the friend-contacting-you-at-work thing? For starters, I’d say chatting with a friend while at work is perfectly fine (as long as you’re getting your work done). You’re learning the tool with someone you trust. That’s a great way to gain new skills.

    What if that staff member is spending too much time in Facebook? Think about your work phone for a sec. In most jobs, it’s fine to get an occasional call from a friend. But if you’re spending 5 hours a day on the phone with that friend, then it’s a problem. And it’s not a problem with the phone – it’s a behavioral issue that the employer needs to deal with. Same thing with Facebook. Deal with the problem (spending too much time talking to friends while at work) – not the symptom (phone/Facebook).

    While I’m on the topic, a related question that I’m also asked is this: “Should I set up separate work and personal accounts in social networks, or set up one for everything?”

    I’m not convinced the question is completely warranted anymore. Some social networks have made this issue pretty easy to figure out without worrying too much about personal/work-related stuff. For example, Facebook has two types of accounts – personal profiles nad organizational Pages. If you set up an organizational library Page, and you set up a personal profile that’s you, the two don’t really cross over.

    There is one kinda tricky part to Facebook Pages. To set up a Facebook Page, you use your personal profile. That organizational Page is connected to, or owned by, whoever originally sets up the Page. This is important to think through! Do you create a “library david” profile, then create the Page (which sorta goes against Facebook’s policy – one profile per person)? Or do you use your real personal profile to set up the page? I know more than one librarian who has gotten another job, moved out of state … and still technically “owns” the Facebook Page from the old job. That can get weird fast!

    There’s also one slightly tricky part with Twitter, too. My library has a library Twitter account. And I have my personal Twitter account. Easy enough. I also do a lot of “listening” via Twitter searches for my library. So, when someone asks a question or says something about the library – even if they don’t use the proper @topekalibrary to do it – I see that comment. I usually reply to them using my @davidleeking account. What do you think – is that ok, or should I use the @topekalibrary account? Not sure.

    S0 – what do you do? Do you find it easy or hard to separate your work life from your personal life online? Let me know – and share what you do!

    photo by anomalily

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    • carleenhuxley

      This is definitely tricky and I'm not sure I have an answer, but I thought I'd share one experience I've had with our library Facebook fan page. I kind of use two accounts to update our library FB fan page (my personal one and another one a created for the purpose of creating the fan page).

      I initially started out creating a whole new profile using our reference email to start the page. But then I added my personal profile as an admin because it allowed me to suggest the page to collegues and even a few students I had as my friends. So, now I essentially had two different ways to post and add content to our library page…either by logging in with our reference email or just logging in as myself as admin. The only time this became an issue for me was when I posted an article on our library FB wall that focused on “the future of libraries”. We ended up with several comments from fans who didn't like the direction the article was going in (the whole libraries will no longer have books and will resemble more of a noisy coffee shop kind of thing). Just the kind of discussion I was hoping to engage on our Fan Page. I wanted to leave a response to their comments with a “librarian” perspective but I didn't really want to do it as “our library” because we all of differing opinions on this too. So, I took the admin privileges away from my personal account so I could comment as me, with my profile pic showing, etc. It was definitely a time when I was glad that I had created the fan page using a different account. I know having two is kind of against the rules, but I made the account that I used to create the fan page into a sort of a library persona. Our library is called Melvil Dewey Library, so I made the profile Melvilla Dewey and use her profile during Facebook Privacy Workshops to show people how to apply privacy settings, etc.

      After re-reading all that, it sounds very confusing. Hope it all makes sense.

    • Justin Keiser

      I started out thinking that there should be a division between personal and work accounts. Now I'm not so sure. Last week I noticed a tweet about our Overdrive audiobooks not working for them. I responded using my personal Twitter while not at work because I couldn't let the negative comment sit there. Since then I've started monitoring our library mentions on Twitter with searches. It's something that we should be aware of and respond to even if they are not directed toward us.

    • taxonomylady

      Great questions! I responded, in part, here:

    • Katerina

      A very interesting questions. I don't think my colleagues in Russia, that have just started to learn about all that internet-services stuff – they are discovering blogs and social networks :) have though about that, but i'll ask.
      My personal answers are:
      1. If a user asks me a question when i am off work, i'll answer it, if i can – it does not matter, if i am online (at home or at the library)… or we just met at the book store or any other place.
      2. I think that setting up 2 different accounts – personal and “professional” makes sense, though i don't like having too many various passwords and logins, especially for one service. If you have only one account, you should be very careful in what you are posting and saying.

    • aarontay

      “My library has a library Twitter account. And I have my personal Twitter account. Easy enough. I also do a lot of “listening” via Twitter searches for my library. So, when someone asks a question or says something about the library – even if they don’t use the proper @topekalibrary to do it – I see that comment. I usually reply to them using my @davidleeking account. What do you think – is that ok, or should I use the @topekalibrary account?”

      I'm sure you know this isn't a problem in terms of technical issues. Use something like Tweetdeck or a dozen other Twitter clients and you can easily choose which account you want to respond with.

      When I first started out, we didn't have a library twitter account, so I used my personal twitter account, the side-effect was that some patrons starting following my personal account and sending tweets there even after we had a official one . Which was fine, since I have nothing to hide about what I tweet in my personal account, but I would rather they follow the official account, since my personal account tweets only about librarianship, why any non-librarian would want to follow me is beyond me.

      I've sensed that sometimes patrons prefer to follow personal accounts because they perceived there is someone “real” behind them, as opposed to corporate accounts. I've seen people tweet corporate accounts asking if there is a human behind it. But this goes more to the tweeting style.

    • aarontay

      Hi Justin, I blogged about some of the techniques I used for scanning Twitter to identify relevant tweets for libraries at… .

    • davidleeking

      Yep – I use Tweetdeck, and get the whole techie part. Honestly, when I was writing this post, it dawned on me that I should maybe be using the @topekalibrary account to answer those listening questions. It just never occurred to me!

      I like the personal touch with the real name, but wonder if sometimes people I'm responding to don't know why this dude is responding to my library question… I'll have to try it and see if anything changes.

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    • duttlingerb

      I also have mashed my personal and professional accounts. I think it helps me remember the public nature of the Internet, and it makes me think twice about whether I want the information posted for all to see.

    • michaelwick

      To be honest, I'm surprised you'd start a Twitter account for your library & then not use it as a platform to encourage discussion between patrons & their library–just using it to push notifications reinforces the idea that Twitter isn't as useful/long-term of a solution to fostering interaction. Even if a corporate account seems impersonal at first, the interaction with personal accounts would quickly dispel that impression.

      When starting our Twitter account, I'd search for mentions of our library and respond when appropriate and/or follow the person tweeting. For example, had someone mention to a friend to check out the library & see if we had a museum pass available. I responded with a link to our online reservation system, which led to the two people following our account and tweeting about the experience; and hopefully that drove a few other of their friends to follow our tweets.

      All in all, it's been a really great experience, and if/when I leave the library they won't be worried about the Twitter account/followers moving with me.

    • davidleeking

      Well, to be a bit more clear – we DO use our library twitter account to engage with patrons – we don't just push out info. Someone else is our main twitter person. But I do much of the listening part – not listening to people responding to our library twitter account, but listening to local people who happen to tweet the words “topeka” and “library” – it's those people I'm responding to.

    • Michael Wick

      That makes a lot more sense, but still–why isn't the main twitter person doing that too? I suspect you're getting a lot more mentions than our library with your large service area, so that might have some impact. I think you might be on to something about the random dude aspect of you responding from your personal account, but hopefully most people would take you to be an employee or just a very helpful (and enthusiastic) fellow library patron. 😉

    • aarontay

      Micheal, David

      Okay we know libraries can use twitter for many purposes, but it seems to break down into 3 uses

      1. Push updates
      2. Reply to @ and dms sent directly to designated account
      3. Listen/scan for tweets where you might intervene, and tweet users without being unsolicited

      Accounts that do only #1 tend to have little interaction even those in the form of #2 , particularly if #1 is done badly with twitterfeed + poor titles so it looks like there is no-one behind it, so none of your followers will think of tweeting you

      The way out of this is to do #3 as well. Doing #3 automatically shows personality.

      That seems to be the insight I have from looking at library twitter accounts.

    • davidleeking

      Good point, Aaron! And I think you're right – do your #3 well, and you will
      look like a real person behind the Twitter account.

    • Houston Librarian

      If you are still at the library and not on duty, then shame on ya. I think you need to answer the questions. If you're off duty, stay in the work room, go home or go to a different library.

    • Jenny Reiswig

      We actually got a written complaint from a patron seeing library staff on Facebook, suggesting that people who don't have enough work to do should be fired. We have no idea if they were working on the library's facebook pages or personal ones, but the Facebook site is recognizable at a distance and carries the perception of goofing off. Social media tools have a lot of mixed social baggage – I'm constantly struggling with finding the right balance.

    • Justin Hoenke

      I'm a fan of opening things up. I feel like it allows me to connect with the teens I serve a lot more. I don't have anything to hide so…why not?

      I just posted this article over at Tame The Web on this subject!

    • Jeff Ingram

      Interesting and relevant question. Where I work, it's all a bit of a gray muddle. We're not supposed to view personal email/facebook/twitter etc accounts on work time, but my FB/Blog posts/email are mixed in: ie some work email goes to a personal account, personal FB account often promotes library events, etc. Some supervisors understand, some don't care, and others don't want to know.

    • Colleen Greene

      I use my Twitter and Facebook accounts for both personal and professional purposes, although anything I post officially on behalf of the library goes on our library Facebook page and Twitter account. I'm fine with patrons contact me via my personal accounts — I even have students friending me on Foursquare now.

      I'm very aware of what I post online and am comfortable with mixing persona and professional content together, but then I tend to have a personal policy of never posting anything I'd be embarrassed for a) my mom, b) my kids, c) my employers, or d) my pastors to see — because they're all Facebook (and some, Twitter) pals of mine.

    • boycetrus

      I think organisational accounts are the way to go, providing anyone that posts to them does so in a personal style. We want to make sure that the voice of real people shows through in the public face of our libraries.

      I do, however, encourage anyone starting out in a new social media space to sign up for a personal account. That way you can get to know the culture of the space before you start using that service as a way to present your library.

      I guess what I am trying to avoid is a situation where someone starts an work account on something like twitter and comes across as an impersonal, bureaucratic organisation – rather than as a human being trying to make connections on behalf of their library.

    • Colleen Greene

      I agree about not wanting to sound impersonal, but I don't require our library faculty and staff to first have a personal Twitter account and get familiar with that account prior to Tweeting under our organizational account. If I required that, I'd only have 3 Tweeters in our entire library.

      I encourage Twitter-curious library personnel to monitor our library account for a little while, then sign up for a CoTweet account so that they can Tweet on behalf of the library. Then, if they like it and see value in it, they're more willing to try opening up their own account.

      I chair our Social Media Team (all active social networkers), who work with personnel new to social media, to help teach them how to use the tools and craft a more personable voice.

    • Julian

      An easy way to log into multiple accounts at the same time (twitter, facebook, or many others) is to use different browsers. Say, work stuff in IE, personal in Chrome, ham radio club twitter in Safari (there is a Windows version), and your local “Library Folk in the Pub” group in Firefox or Opera.
      Ubuntu / Linux also allows various browsers, so have @LFIP in Galeon @VK2YJS (me) in FF, @VK2MA (club) in Epiphany.

    • verizongowtham