Twitter Fail WhaleOne of the most powerful benefits of social media is that – as a form of media – it brings us closer to our readers. It brings us closer to our customers. In fact, it seems to strip away layers and layers of process, red tape and hierarchy at the click of a mouse. On sites like LinkedIn, I can find, connect to and communicate with business leaders the world over. Here on my blog I can share thoughts and ideas and receive feedback from some of the brightest minds of the business world. And it is a relatively simple process. Deceptively so.

For while we have never been more connected, we are also more exposed. With social media we find both success and failure within our grasp.

Some time ago, when I wrote about the work-life balance, I was of the opinion that we all live on a continuum – where sometimes our work lives take precedence and at others that our personal lives do. But social media is complicating this spectrum – what we say, do and even believe in one part of our lives can impact other parts. And not just other parts. Other people.

Take, for example, the situation where Brooklyn based journalist Caitlin Curran found herself unemployed after participating in the Occupy Wall Street movement. In How Occupy Wall Street Cost Me My Job, Caitlin came face to face with the contradictions and complexities of this new world.

With every tweet, blog post, status update, photo, video or podcast, we push ourselves – our individual selves into spaces and situations for which we are not always prepared. And while many have embraced this new communications freedom, they often do so without understanding (or even imagining the consequences). But this is a problem that is not confined to the young or inexperienced – nor is a problem that is going to go away.

If analyst, Paul Greenberg is right, and we are shifting from a focus on customer management to a focus on customer engagement, then the same focus should apply to all other business disciplines. And social media will be at the heart of these cross line of business shifts. As leaders, it’s time we not only began to engage with these technologies, but with the shifts that they are making within and across our businesses. We need to find a way to grapple with and understand these pressures and then work with our teams to integrate this all intelligently.

Nina Nets it Out: Increasingly our passionate employees, business partners and customers are engaging in social media in one form or other. Inevitably the lines between our personal and professional lives will blur – but rather than being penalized for this, we need to find a new way to make this work.

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Ilse via Compfight