Mores (pronounced /ˈmɔːreɪz/) are norms or customs. Mores derive from the established practices of a society rather than its written laws. They consist of shared understandings about the kinds of behaviour likely to evoke approval, disapproval, toleration or sanction, within particular contexts. ~Wikipedia
We are changing as a society. Personal and professional lines are blurring. Extended families are all the more extended with the ability to"friend" the merest whiff of an acquaintance on social networks. Our deepest voyeuristic impulses are honed the more folks we follow on Twitter - yet we often forget that there are those who spy on us.
I've been thinking about our online behaviour and its implications recently for a couple of reasons. First, when I wrote my chapter for Age of Conversation 2, I didn't want to write a "social media is good so just do it" chapter. So I wrote three brief vignettes about the implications of social media (or online life in general) on three previously offline behaviours:
- having a crush on someone,
- discovering the changing nature of a childhood friendship, and
- worrying about getting a raise.
While each of these cases were technically fictional, they were based in a germ of reality - either my own or a friends.
Since writing these back in May, I've become a lot more aware of the implications of online behaviour, particularly from a professional perspective.
A recent post by Mitch Joel on caring more about your personal brand further highlighted the issue of online behaviour for me. Mitch observes that a number of people equate building their personal brand with self-promotion. He also paid me the very high compliment of offering me as one of group of counter-examples for whom personal brand is something more - but that's not why I'm mentioning this. Rather - Mitch's article reminded me of a recent event where I met someone, a potential client, offline who knew me first from my blog. I left the following comment over on Mitch's post:
I had a potential client say to me recently, "I feel like I know you from your blog and your Twittering. Are you really like that in real life - or is it just a 'persona'?"
Aside from this being a very astute question, it also caught me a bit off-guard. Making up a persona is a lot of work. I like to think that I (or "my brand") is consistent, no matter what channel I'm in. It was great to then meet him in person and, at the end of the conversation, have him verify that my brand is, indeed, cross-channel compliant.
A big part of maintaining my "personal brand" is looking at what gets published as well as what doesn't. There are varying levels of self-censoring that happen, depending on who you are. Some people have such compelling brands (personalities) that I want to know more about their lives - yet they are notoriously private. Others I know WAY too much about - and that can negatively affect my perception. Is that fair? Yes and no - we all make judgments. Tone & manner is so hard to read in a digital channel; although information IS information, independent of tone.
I find that balance of personal & professional particularly fascinating and troubling all at the same time.
I live a fairly transparent life online. At least in terms of factual history and my identity. And a few occasional emotional outbursts. But one thing I do guard against is disclosing too much about my clients. I generally only blog about them once I've cleared it with them. Same with Twittering. And I don't blog/twitter about pitch meetings or other daily goings on like: "just did social media training with XYZ", "just finished XYZ's marketing strategy", and "just recommended a developer to XYZ because they are revamping their entire site".
To me, this seems disrespectful of my clients, no matter how great it might look for me and my business; it shows a willingness to play fast and loose with their business simply to promote my own.
I shared this thinking with a colleague (on the client side) recently, and he told me about a case where he has chosen not to hire a new supplier because of some negative comments about their brand in the potential supplier's Twitter stream - comments made after a pitch meeting was booked. So, obviously, poor judgment on the supplier's part - but I think the issue goes deeper.
I'm speaking to social media aficionados here. We are often quite cavalier with client info. And sometimes we're the same way with friends' info too. Whether it's intentional (i.e. we've come to terms with the lack of privacy online and we think that others should too) or unintentional (i.e. we're self-absorbed and don't realise that our social media musings impact others), we need to start setting some boundaries - both professionally and personally.
I had an interesting conversation with my wife, Rosemary, the other day. We have two friends who are going through a breakup. While it is relatively amicable, it has still been difficult for them and resulted in soul-searching on both sides. And their personal blogs reflect that. And after catching up on their posts, I turned to Rosemary and made her promise me on the spot that if she and I ever get divorced, we are both verboten from blogging about it (I imagine that pre-nuptial agreements will start to include more about these social media arrangements rather than monetary ones).
To me, there are some things, personal and professional, that shouldn't be blogged, Tweeted, podcast or otherwise published online - Facebook relationship status change notwithstanding.
So, I'm wondering, what's your take on this? Am I a digital Puritan? Are social media consultants ignoring or redefining business mores? I'd love to hear your stories about this brave new personal and professional transparency.