How are you (informally/professionally) using social sites these days?  In the beginning of the online party, there was sparse professional participation.  MySpace and Friendster were more or less social sites, platforms where friends could connect in informal fashions.

Somewhere in the mid 00′s, Facebook clearly became a social force, changing the way people engage online.  It didn’t take long for businesses to get friendly with consumers and target markets.  These days social participation is recognized as an integral part of the online marketing pie.  I’ve referenced this before because Gianluca Fiorelli’s post (on the new Google) clearly demonstrates social participation’s importance in modern-day online marketing.

Social participation allows a brand to engage with consumers in real time.  The landscape of marketing is shifting; online marketing has evolved from attempting to dominate search results; it’s about creating a community.  It makes sense.   Read Dr. Pete’s SEO metrics post from yesterday; what’s likely to happen to a brand, which places emphasis on topping SERPs yet doesn’t create a community or a valuable user experience?  Can you say bounce rates?  The brand may attract traffic but will they make conversions or create community?  Wake up! (to use Gianluca’s sentiments); there’s a new SEO process emerging (Read Mike King’s post); and, it’s consumer centric.  Social media participation is a great way for brand handles and multiple brand workers to engage markets.

In a time when online socializing has become increasingly important (professionally speaking), how does it influence social media’s nascent and informal roots?  A Pew Internet study was released today, indicating more people are actually ‘pruning’ their social accounts, dropping friends and increasing their level of privacy.

Here are some quick extractions:

-          About 2/3 Web users leverage social sites

-          Deleting ‘friends’ from networks is more common (up from 2009)

-          44% delete comments from friends

-          37% have removed their names from tagged photos

-          Women and younger people are more likely than men to de-friend

People may de-friend for a barrage of reasons but I suspect in many cases it has to do with informal and formal worlds colliding (Remember how Costanza’s social and relationship worlds were colliding when his fiancé and Elaine started getting chummy?  I thought that makes for a good analogy; so did Josh Porter, six years ago…)

Professionally speaking, how are you leveraging social sites?  I’ll use myself as an example; I had a Facebook account for years and closed it out in 2010.  Why?  Because having a marketing and public relations background, I thought informal notions would affect how I’m seen as a professional.  Do you have the same concerns?  I have multiple friends from multiple eras of my life; there’s a time and place to keep in touch with friends, yet I’m not going to leave my professional life susceptible to the (possible) poor tastes and bad judgments of friends and acquaintances.  An Eddie Vedder quote comes to mind -”Some words spoken can’t be taken back…”  Once others catch a glimpse of a questionable friend comments, videos, pictures, etc, you may never be able to make reparations to your professional image.

Melissa Fach from Search Engine Journal uploaded a survey recently, inquiring about deleted friends.  While the ‘social’ sentiment of such media sites as Facebook and Twitter is obvious, is it professionally detrimental to host a single account (for both formal and informal purposes)?

Employee and executive social media accounts can greatly benefit a brand, but can the opposite occur?  Can informal and unprofessional posts on your accounts influence how potential partners and consumers view your brand?  It doesn’t seem completely fair; it’s almost like the paparazzi chasing celebs around during their off-screen lives; yet, it happens.  Don’t take chances with your brand’s reputation; it takes a long time to develop a good reputation and only takes one mistake to soil it.

Have you or your brand had similar concerns or situations arise?  Share with us.