One of the most talked about points of contention in social networking to date is the idea of separating personal and professional networks. I've heard this from friends in the industry as well as from non-marketing friends. My industry friends all have an opinion. They, mostly, have all moved to Facebook and have limited interaction with LinkedIn. I don't, however, think this speaks for the majority of people as evidenced by my non-marketing friends who work in a variety of fields from non-profit, office equipment and financial services. They're just starting to connect with LinkedIn (the social networking primer?) and Facebook is a buzzword about as far away from them as the moon ("It's for kids").
Single Network with Overlap
Like I said, I have heard both sides of this story. Facebook, for example, is betting on the fact that you will consolidate all of your contacts (professional and personal) into one network. Further, they're releasing a way for people to group their contacts into personal and professional groups to aid you in this separation. (Note that it would be impossible to use LinkedIn as a social network in the way Facebook operates.)
The question with the consolidated network idea, in my mind, is the overlap. How do you deal with a co-worker, client or other contact who you know outside and inside the office? Do you want the client (no matter how close you are) seeing your weekend party images or images of "your friends" going back to homecoming and doing keg stands? That is the real trick with segmenting the overlap.
Separate Networks with Overlap
On the other side of the coin sits LinkedIn. They don't want to be your social network, they want to be your professional network. LinkedIn is betting that a physical separation between social and professional is how people want to keep things. LinkedIn is very professionally focused, image-light and keeps out-of-office banter to a minimum.
The main issue with this segmented approach is, again, the overlap. If you have professional friends on Facebook who you have professional contact with, you have to go to LinkedIn and invite them there as well. The same thing happens in LinkedIn where you have to go to Facebook to invite those you have social contact with.
In the end, I don't think this is an either/or situation. I think that this plays out at the individual level. Personally, I keep these two networks in sync manually and, in the end, they blur together for me. I don't post anything too personal on Facebook so I'll connect with anybody. LinkedIn is set up to do more with my information from a professional point of view. I can search companies, see who is connected easily, etc. Facebook needs to build these tools in to truly compete at the professional level.
The next generation of professional may use their Facebook network as the end-all, pro/social network where they do everything.
So how do you distinguish between the two? Do you actual patrol the people who you connect with on each and keep them separated? Do you keep em separated?