Should I have separate Twitter accounts: professional and personal?

I had a quick conversation with my friend Peter Anello yesterday (@AnelloPJ) about whether to have two Twitter accounts: one for personal use, and one for professional use. I currently have a single Twitter account, @bgrasley, which I use both for professional stuff (like #edtech thoughts) and personal stuff (yes, @timrobinsonj, for the #elliptical information).

My first thought was that I don’t mind everything being out there; if I had two Twitter accounts they would both be publicly visible, so there is no need for two. But Pete’s point was that it’s more for followers to be able to choose which parts of my life they’re interested in following – for example, many people would only be interested in the education stuff.

I hadn’t really thought about it before. He mentioned an article about how it bothers people to read your personal stuff if they follow you professionally (I haven’t read the article yet). I certainly have experienced that before, when someone has a stream of 42 tweets about their lovely dinner menu, and it “clutters” the feed.

Steve Gibson of GRC does this: he has @SGgrc for Security, hardware, and similar “work” stuff, @SGvlc for very low carb stuff, @SGpad for tablet/iPad stuff, and @SGreads for books/reading stuff. I don’t think managing it is that difficult from his end, and I imagine people who want security news but not low-carb information are pleased.

On the other hand, I’ve had some good non-professional conversations with people who I might otherwise only know professionally. If they didn’t follow me for both my thoughts on e-Learning and for my #NaPoWriMo posts, our relationships wouldn’t be as rich. The owl post (Great Grey Owl snow-plunges and catches mouse!) is a great example of this – it’s not work-related, but I had more conversations about it with members of my PLN than about most other education-related items. I also don’t have 40,000 followers like Steve Gibson has, so I’m not inconveniencing a large number of people. :)

I wonder how hashtags fit into this as well – if we’re careful to include hashtags in our posts, that helps to separate conversations by theme. Is this enough? I primarily dip into my Timeline to see what’s happening, and only look at searches or lists sporadically. I don’t think hashtags would help me that much, except when following an event.

So, please weigh in – would you rather see two accounts (Professional Brandon and Personal Brandon) or just one? Why?

16 thoughts on “Should I have separate Twitter accounts: professional and personal?

  1. Mr Grasley!
    Thanks for the mention!
    By the way, after some debate and username changes when creating my personal account, I’m back to @pjanello for work! :)
    I think it comes down to a few factors when deciding to separate accounts or not. For me, it was as you mentioned my following that made me decide to separate. I’m a newbie to twitter and don’t have 1000 followers or anything, but when I did sign up, I had a few friends following me where we’d converse as we would about anything (sports, plans for the weekend, etc..). But now my following is primarily made up of people who are only following me to see what I have to say/share on the topics of education, GAFE/chromebooks, technology, etc…, and that’s mostly how I’ve been using Twitter lately. My tweeting has become a life-changing component of my work; without it, I wouldn’t have learned half of what I know now.
    So in the end, I figured my friends were probably getting a bit annoyed of all of the techy education geek tweets that I was posting, so I separated my accounts. With Tweetdeck and the ease of managing multiple accounts on mobile and desktop devices, flipping from one to the other is simple.
    I would consider following the personal Brandon – only if you post your elliptical results with more detail! :)

    • Thanks for your comments, Pete. In my case my Twitter following is 95% professional, so I’m not worried about irritating the friends-who-aren’t-colleagues, but just about irritating the other education folks.
      I think I’ll post again with the reasons, but I’m going to stick with one account for now. Maybe I’ll listen to an education podcast while I’m running or something. :)

  2. Hi Brandon;

    Thanks for posting this thinking. There are a lot of layers to it. I have tried (and failed) at having two Twitter accounts – one personal and one professional – though I do maintain two Facebook accounts because the personal sharing is so very different from the professional sharing in that network.

    On Facebook, I have lots of friends who have no interest in my professional life. Those same people don’t connect with me on Twitter. If they did, I might move to a separate Twitter account for my interactions with them.

    My profession, being education, permeates my life 24/7. While I try to tweet mostly about education, my life seeps into it, and I think that is positive. We all have so much to learn from each other on so many topics that I enjoy other things my PLN people are doing. I also filter my Twitter feed so that I collect posts under various topics and lists on Tweetdeck, and I rarely pay attention to actual full stream (unless I am bored in a grocery store check-out lineup).

    My non-education postings on Twitter have connected me to so many interesting people who have made important contributions to my understanding and my learning. I think we need to ensure Twitter is not an echo chamber, so I welcome conversations from people outside my profession on topics that may not seem directly related to education. I encourage people to challenge my thinking. My followers can filter what they don’t want to read.

    I have been thinking a great deal about how we visualize our personal and professional lives in the profession of K-12 education, and your post has help to move my thinking forward.

    Thanks for this!

    Donna @fryed

    • Thanks Donna. I’ve had some of the same experiences as you have, it sounds like.

      I’m particularly interested in your comment about ensuring we don’t let Twitter become our echo chamber. This is an easy trap for like minded people, and I’ve been pleased to see discussions and debates (and to have been part of some) with wildly differing opinions. That’s a healthy thing for our PLNs.

      I have also been fascinated to note that many of my blog followers are not involved in education (to my knowledge), but some are still interested in the education talk (if “likes” are a good indication).

  3. The problem with your question is the word “should”. There is no right way. Do what you like, be who you like. Keep your worlds apart or put them together.

    Personally, I’ve got one account and I explain why here:

    But if you want to keep two accounts don’t do it for my sake. People should be their own filters, it’s not my job to do that for you. I prefer to see the whole person since it tends to provide context to their professional side. But again, that’s me and others are fine to disagree.

    The one aspect I do think is important that sometimes gets lost is that twitter is social media. The word social should give us a clue as to how these spaces have been designed. That’s not to say they can’t be hacked to be used differently but they are inherently social and that’s why they work.

    • Hi Dean,

      Thanks for your comments, and the video. I like your approach, and I also appreciate that you are up front with the mixey nature of your Twitter stream.

      I did a quite scroll back through a week’s tweets, and it seems my non-replies are about 80-90% professional. I think that’s professional enough to keep everyone happy.

      And I’m not overly concerned with ensuring everyone’s comfortable. As you say, it’s my space to use as I please. I’m mostly just trying to make it as useful for everyone (including me) as possible. Sifting through and curating this stuff is pretty hard already, so I think it’s good to make it easier if we can.

      I’ll try to use hashtags so that people like Donna Fry who use searches more than timelines can find stuff. Everyone else can enjoy pictures of the weather, security breach information, which book I just finished, and my thoughts about assessment. Maybe avoiding the echo chamber and encouraging people to converse with me about non-ed stuff is what’s most important anyway.

      Thanks again!

  4. I was training some colleagues on the pros and cons of Twitter this weekend and I posed the same question. My Twitter account covers a number of very different topics – from education philosophy and technology to federation stuff, classroom conversations, weather updates, and reviews of microbrews. I commented that I wished I could go back and create multiple profiles but at this point, with an established identity, it would be too difficult – and that it was up to my followers to decide whether or not it was worth navigating through those topics.

    As others have said, an important point is to ensure I’m always using a filter, regardless of the topic.

    One account works best for me. I agree with Donna: the different topics humanize me and have connected me with some interesting people, some of which have crossed topics, (i.e. other microbrew-loving technology advocate union supporting weather enthusiasts)

    • Thanks Steve. I’ve noticed myself enjoying the other, non-ed parts of your stream for a while, so it’s worth it to include those things. Sometimes those other components will expand our networks, and sometimes they’ll strengthen our existing networks in new ways. Either way, we’re richer for it!

  5. I’m personally not in favour of separate accounts. I’m not sure what the point of it is. Everything in twitter is public so what are you hiding with a separate account? A bigger factor though is what is lost. Teaching is about relationships and trust and these are strengthened with honesty and openness. By revealing part of the personal behind the professional we strengthen our roles as teachers. The more we let people see us as who we truly are the more likely they are to care about what we say to them.

    • Yup, that’s mostly where I’m landing on this one too (although I don’t want to hide things, just maybe help people filter). But if I share all of these things with everyone, I’ll have stronger relationships. And there are non-teaching parts of my life that are really important; maybe people don’t care what I made for supper, but they need to hear about the security breach. Plus, maybe we’ve read the same book or something, and I’d like to talk about that. :)
      Thanks, Andrew.

  6. I just found this post because I was wondering about how to advise my 17-year-old daughter about this. Her Twitter is 100% social at this point, but I would like her to start thinking about her professional life (she will start college in the Fall). I want to encourage her to follow thought leaders in fields she is interested in and start creating a online professional presence for herself, and I do think it would make sense for her to have separate personal and professional Twitter handles. I wonder what you as an educator advise students? I currently have only one Twitter account. I started it for personal use, but have begun to use it a lot for professional postings, and I am thinking of establishing a new personal account – I Tweet a lot about political issues, and I don’t know what the point is of sharing that with my professional network.

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