As social media becomes increasingly popular for both work and play, many employees run into a conundrum: do they need separate social accounts for their professional and personal lives? With some networks, the answer is fairly clear-cut. LinkedIn, for example, has a singular business focus and it would be unnecessary and somewhat silly to create an account for strictly personal use. However, with networks such as Facebook and Twitter, the lines between professional and personal use can become blurred.

There are no steadfast rules and the right solution depends on your business and personal needs. However, we’ll walk you through what you need to consider when deciding how to set up your personal and professional social presence.

Check In On Your Business Needs

Not everyone needs a social account for business use, but some employees — especially if they’re speaking for or may be perceived as speaking for the company  — may find having a business-specific social presence a useful tool. Anyone whose job involves social activity, from customer service representatives to the sales team members to the CEO, may want a social account just for work to focus their messages on business topics while keeping personal matters personal.

A customer service rep may need a company-branded social account to use in order to answer questions over social channels. Consumers who interact directly with a brand’s account know they’re talking to a business, but having a brand-focused individual reply allows those interactions to have the sense of talking to someone one-on-one. Sales reps might use branded social accounts to find and interact with potential customers. And CEOs can be found on Twitter speaking with authority on business-related issues — which helps build the brand’s messaging as a whole. Even an employee who doesn’t typically use social for work may find a business-focused presence on social useful as a place to talk about business matters with colleagues — while leaving personal content to a separate account.

But do you need a separate business accounts? Your company’s social needs are a good guide here: some businesses want as much social involvement as possible in order to expand their reach while others may prefer that employees avoid talking about work on social media entirely. If your business does encourage social participation, the next question you’ll want to ask is what your company’s social media policy is. Whether you’re talking on social channels for business or simply for fun, you’ll want to know your employer’s social media policy by heart, because it may dictate just what you can say about work online. Check with HR or your social media team if you’re not sure what’s appropriate.

How Do You Use Social?

Once you’ve decided that you want to use your social presence for business in some fashion — and doing so is okay with your company — your next consideration is how you use social channels. If you have a tendency to share particularly personal information, then that tone might not be well-suited for a professional account that ties you to your business. If you’re discussing or sharing content that might not mesh with your professional life, having a separate business account lets you keep your personal life for just friends.

However, if you’re minding your manners on social, taking care with what you post, and already using social to reach out to business contacts, having a separate account might not be necessary. Having a single account gives business partners a picture of the whole you — with business info alongside personal interests — and can help humanize your brand. Running one account for both business and personal does require special care to ensure you’re not going too far out of bounds on the business or the personal fronts, but if you’re comfortable walking that fine line, it’s easier than juggling multiple accounts.

Are You Comfortable With Multiple Accounts?

While multiple accounts cleanly separate your business and personal life, managing multiple accounts just for your personal social presence can be a hassle. If you’re not interested in the extra work, then taking care with your messaging to maintain a single account for both business and personal is your best bet.

Another option can be to dedicate different social networks to different purposes — for example, Twitter for business use and Facebook for personal use. On your personal network, you may want to lock down your security settings so no one but friends can see what you’re posting or confuse your personal account for a business account. Make sure you only connect with friends and family. This helps keep your business and personal lives separate online, but doesn’t entail switching from one Twitter login to another to be sure your messages are going to the right individuals.

Who’s Following You?

Where you draw the line between business and personal also depends on your followers — or the people you want to be your followers. Taking the time to consider what type of information your followers want can also help you decide what kind of account setup you need. If you think some followers are only interested in business or only interested in personal — and cultivating those followers is important to you — having separate accounts may be ideal. But if your ideal followers might be interested in seeing the broader picture of you — or if you or your company are trying to present a more relatable side — having an account with some personal information isn’t a bad thing.

When you figure out who you’re talking to, be sure to set up your social profile accordingly. Make it clear whether this is a business or personal account and what you’ll be talking about. Moving forward, stick to the messaging you laid out in your profile and your followers will always know what to expect.

I’m Still Not Sure What to Choose!

If you’re still undecided, here are the pros and cons for using separate or combined accounts.
You should consider using separate business and personal accounts if:

  • You want your personal life and your professional life to be distinct, separate entities.
  • You typically share more with your friends than would be appropriate on a business account.
  • Your business contacts wouldn’t be interested in personal information.
  • You don’t mind juggling multiple accounts.

You should consider using a single account for both business and personal needs if:

  • You can maintain a sufficiently professional persona while also sharing personal information.
  • You’re comfortable sharing personal information with business contacts and business information with personal contacts.
  • You want to add some personality to your professional profile by including more personal information.
  • You don’t want the hassle of managing multiple accounts

Whatever you decide, remember: there’s no right choice for everyone. Plenty of individuals have had success with both single and multiple accounts, so picking the right answer is really about deciding which solution fits in best with how you use social media.