Managing social networks with work and your personal life

Photos courtesy of Rudy Jahchan

Social networks are a funny thing... some are truly social, and others are more personal. Everyone uses them differently, but here's how I struggle to balance each of them with my professional and personal life:

Twitter

My favorite social network/web site/everything. The way I use it:

  • Following: I only follow friends I want to stay up to date with on a daily basis (ie. I rarely follow friends from out of town, friends I don't see often, friends that tweet too much for my taste, and friends that don't tweet about anything I'm interested in). To give you the general idea, I usually only follow about 100 people, while I actually personally know about 500 people on Twitter.
  • Tweets: Rather than posting purely promotional links, I try to mix it up by incorporating links that I LOVE that I believe others would be interested in. I also post overheards that I find witty/hilarious. This serves to keep my audience of followers interested without annoying them with self-promotion.
  • Replies: This is how I get my follower feedback. I don't always respond (because I hate when people post @replies ALL THE FRAKKING TIME), but I always read every one.
  • Direct Messages: Part of why I rarely follow people I'm not close friends with is because I want to minimize my DMs. I'd rather people just send me an email instead. That said, though, I usually use DMs as an introduction to new friends as a way to send them my personal email address!

Facebook

I wish I could have managed my Facebook account better from the beginning, with over 1300 friends I feel like it's beyond saving. Here's how I continually struggle to deal with having way too many friends.

  • Fan page: I don't mean to sound vain or exclusive, but if I don't know you... why are you sending me a friend request to my personal account? I'm very responsive to my Fan page as well, and would be more than happy to connect with you there.
  • Personal profile: In the past, I added everyone who sent me a friend request there... but at this point my account has become so overrun with strangers that it's impossible for me to enjoy Facebook the way a normal person does. I can't play any fun "compare people" games anymore because there are too many people I just don't know. It's sad to me, but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings by removing them. This has been an ongoing struggle for over a year now and there's really no good way to solve it. Last year, Jason Calacanis moved all his friends over to a fan page... I was pretty insulted to suddenly be his "fan", but I can understand where he's coming from.
  • Friends in common: This is the best tool on Facebook. When I get a friend request, and the person is also friends with people like Veronica Belmont, Felicia Day, Harry Knowles, etc. I know right away that they're a fan. However, if they're friends with people like Chris Brogan and Chris Penn, they're usually marketing douchebags trying to harvest friends. I always turn down the latter and feel grateful that I'm friends with the Chrises.

Flickr

I've been on Flickr for about 4 years now and I feel like Flickr has done it better than most. The ability to add people as contacts, friends, and/or family is how I manage my privacy allowances.

  • If I don't know you and your photos aren't interesting to me, I won't add you back.
  • If I don't know you, but your photos ARE interesting to me, I'll add you as a contact only.
  • If you're a friend or prospective friend, I'll add you as a friend.
  • If you're my BFF and I <3 <3 <3 you, I'll add you as a friend and family.
  • If you're actually family, I'll actually add you as family.

The only thing I wish Flickr could change is allowing me to view my contacts' photos based on which group I've placed them in. Sometimes I just want to catch up on the photos of my close friends, y'know?

MySpace

At this point, MySpace is such a junk heap that I just add everyone who sends me a friend request (except bands... MySpace made me HATE bands!). I rarely update anything, and I'm constantly blocking spammers. These days, I'm only on MySpace so that I don't close myself off from the fans I've befriended there. People who STILL use MySpace are there for a reason... so if I want to maintain that audience, my presence there must remain. Note: I use MySpace for 100% professional reasons.

Dopplr

Simple... If you're my friend in the real world, I'll add you back. But if not, I just don't want you to know where I am at all times! Too creepy. Note: I use Dopplr for 100% personal reasons.

Delicious

I don't add anyone... I don't even know if I can! I figure that Rudy is the only one really interested in seeing what I bookmark (especially since I tag certain things as "want"). Note: I use Delicious for 100% personal reasons.

Digg

OMG, Casey, you still USE this? Yup... but only about once a month. Delicious and posting/finding links on Twitter (and retweeting them) has mostly replaced this for me.

Upcoming

Yup, I still use this too! I add all friends I've met and like to socialize with IRL. Note: I use Upcoming for 100% social reasons.

YouTube

I used to add anyone back, but then "anyone" started sending me promotional messages, and now I've learned better. Now I only add real friends as my friends there.

To summarize, I pretty much only care about Twitter, Flickr and Facebook these days... but I do retain a presence on all of the above social networking sites. And, like I said, the way I use these sites will probably be different to the way you use them... and that's okay. When it comes down to it, none of these sites should really be that important to your personal life anyways - I've just grown accustomed to living this way.

General tips

  1. Block people: If someone's being a fucktard... just do it!
  2. Stick to your guns: If someone's getting hissy because you won't follow them on Twitter (this happens to me every day) just ignore it. It's your life.
  3. Keep it clean and professional: You never know who's looking... hotmale69 or mom and dad.
  4. Branding: It's easier for people to recognize you with a standardized icon and design on each social profile... choose a theme that you feel represents your personal awesomeness.
  5. Web site: It's good to have a central place to link to all your social networks, as well as represent your brand. That's what CaseyMcKinnon.com is to me... my central hub, and a montage of my talents.