How to Fight Social Media Multiple Personality Disorder…and Win

I have a confession; I’ve had multiple personalities.

The demands of branding, multiple projects and multiple outlets pressured me into a schism, until the constant streams of tweets, updates, chats and posts left me drowning.

Tired of suffering from SM-MPD (Social Media Multiple Personality Disorder), I began the process of self-brand recovery. It’s messy and you might lose a few friends, but reintegration is worth it.

At my peak I had five twitter accounts. I was split into one personal account for  NeilJohnston, one for car reviews with a pink twist, one for the motorcycle journalism, and one for travel and adventure. I was well into YATA – Yet Another Twitter Account syndrome. Then a new project loomed, one that would require just one more account. I scrambled to keep up with the constant inflow and outflow of tweets and direct messages.

What had I posted where? Did that tweet about the car review calling the Pontiac Solstice the most phallic car on the market go to @OneWheelDrive by mistake? Should the joke about Iceland finally having an export go to all the accounts? Was the tweet about the travel article to foodie supposed to go to the car and bike site? Should I have a foodie account? Did I have time to respond to the mentions and DMs? I was in overload.

Likely I’m not alone. The theoretical cognitive limit to the number of stable social relationships you can maintain — Dunbar’s Number — sits at approximately 150 people. The mean is a nice number based on average hunter/gatherer village sizes and relative neocortex size (there are tools to help with this, but that’s another article).

Personal experience shows that Dunbar’s magic number is divisible by the number of online personas — so each of me could only deal with a handful of followers. I needed to simplify, but Twitter doesn’t let you merge accounts.

It was time for a risk, one that would correct my original Twitter sin of backing multiple business personas rather than my own personal brand. To integrate, I was betting my followers were coming for my writing, rather than the subject area. There were over 1,050 followers of OneWheelDrive who knew me as a motorcycle journalist, but would they be amicable to the occasional gay car review, a bit of culture and technology writing, and a good dose of travel and adventure?

I knew there would be attrition, but I came up with a strategy to mitigate it. Key to it all would be disclosure of the breadth of my interests, the fact that twitter lets you rename your account on the Settings page under User Name, and the speed I could do this at.

Beyond OneWheelDrive, my two other dominant twitter personas were OutDrive and NeilJohnston, both with under 200 followers. My aim was to consolidate under NeilJohnston, without loosing the OneWheelDrive massive. So, as NeilJohnston, I could point to my efforts wherever they lay on the web and be congruent about who I am in my tweets.

My re-branding was an account-name shell game. The NeilJohnston account was renamed to a placeholder of NeilJohnston604, freeing it up that user name. I then quickly went to my OneWheelDrive account and renamed it NeilJohnston, so my 1050 plus followers now see me for who I really am rather than the OneWheelDrive brand. I plan to revel in that freedom.

Finally, to minimize the follower losses, I went back to NeilJohnston604 and changed the name to OneWheelDrive, then made the tweets private. This way I can contact anyone who messages or mentions me under OneWheelDrive, and let them know about my rebrand to NeilJohnston.

As for OutDrive? It became OutExplorer in preparation for a new project, but I’ve already moved most of the followers from this account to NeilJohnston via Direct Messages, encouraging them to jump ship to NeilJohnston.

All reintegration on Twitter required was to:

  • already be holding all the names
  • be willing to lose followers from the lesser accounts
  • move fast

The latter is important because there are no guarantees that another user won’t be requesting the same user name as you want, at the same time.

The true takeaway, other than the reintegration shell game how-to, is the importance in social media of branding yourself rather than your commercial entities. It’s easy to splinter yourself off into various business facets, but you’re running a risk of becoming overwhelmed by the workload.

Worse, by splintering you’re on your way to becoming a mono-maniacal personality on the other end of the twitter conversation, like that bore at a dinner party who can only talk about motorcycles, for example, or (even more vile) only tries to sell a product.

The strange thing is, despite knowing that these twitter accounts were only projections of the whole person behind them into the Internet, it’s a relief  to have unified them. The act of integration has given me a sense of my social media self that had been missing. By merging my business and personal selves, I think I’m finally recovering from SM-MPD and able to more fully share my life as a human. I can be found on twitter as @NeilJohnston.

Photo Credits

“Twitter” petesimon @ Some Rights Reserved.

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  1. avatar says

    Interesting experience Neil – I am considering adding a Twitter account to the two I now use but will rethink that. Thanks for sharing your tactics – in case I need to retreat from a multiplicity of Tweets.

    • avatar says

      There are tools to help you with the flow of the conversation, but multiple accounts can seriously split efforts.
      At least there’s a path to retreat… sort of.

  2. avatarQuBe says

    I’ve had a whack of twitter accounts…although not concurrently.
    The cause of my high turnover rate is twofold:
    Forgetting my password only to realize I have also long ago kiboshed the Yahoo or Gmail account I made the Twitter account with…making password recovery unviable.
    Virtual Society Fatigue – i.e the point where one becomes bored by the medium, or perhaps offended in one way or another by activities therein. (e.g. I have to made deliberate efforts not to see the trending topics…the persistence of Justin Beiber’s name there makes the bile rise in my throat with great hydraulic force even though I know almost nothing about him. Idolotry of any sort is, for me, a most potent emetic.)

    Oh well, congrats on your identity consilidation, Neilwheeldriveout.


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