Younification: Merging Personal and Professional in Social Media

by Holland-Mark | October 23, 2009

iStock_000003002901SmallWe had the Holland-Mark Digital launch party last night, which was a lot of fun (content to follow).

At a party like that you get to talk to people you work with about stuff that has nothing to do with work. One of our clients has an 18-year-old son, and is struggling with his impending departure from home. We had a great conversation about what that’s like, something I’ve been thinking about now that our oldest is 11. I met the spouses of several folks I’ve known for a while, which somehow always sheds new light on people (my Mom, Dad, and wife came to the event; I’m sure others felt the same). With others I talked politics, song lyrics, the terrorist fiasco in my hometown of Sudbury, cooking, travel, old times, women (with men), men (with women), and football.

The Two Yous

Most of us are more than the roles we play at work, on a team, or in a single project. Moving past the cardboard cutout and getting to know the complete person makes work and life in general more interesting, with the added side bonus of making teams stronger and more effective.

Adding Social Media

Embracing this is the key to engaging effectively in social media. You should approach Twitter in the same state-of-mind you do a cocktail party like last night — sharing yourself authentically, getting to know each person you meet for the interest of it, building a network of relationships, and letting the mutual benefits emerge naturally.

Last night I met someone new who went out of her way to tell me so-and-so from her office said hello. “So-and-so” was a guy I met in person once, but who I felt I’d really gotten to know on facebook over the last two years. He and I have shared thoughts on digital media, but I’ve also seen him react honestly to job changes, watched his kids grow, witnessed his trials and triumphs from afar. He’d apparently done the same for me, and felt he knew me in the way I knew him. That’s powerful ju-ju, I think. If there’s magic in social media, that’s it.

This morning I got a YouTube video from another client, featuring her CEO horsing around in an on-camera skit. He’s the kind of person you instantly know is more than his title when you meet him; a warm and open wit, and a personality that fills the room. Seeing that video validates and enriches my understanding of him as a person, and makes me want to see him succeed.


The blurring of the “professional” you and the “personal” you that happens on the web – younification – is decried in some circles, and I respect that. My wife would say my work life creeps into my home life a little too much, and, if I were wired differently, one or another of my digitally immortalized indiscretions might be embarrassing. But I’ve always thought good business is personal. And social media at its best really just boils down to that.

It gets us all a little closer to the truth. And in the long run, that can only be a good thing.

That’s how I see it, anyway. But this is a tricky one, and I welcome your thoughts.

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