How Should Professional and Personal Social Media Presences Differ?

How Should Professional and Personal Social Media Presences Differ?

Wake up! It’s 2011 — If you’re a professional in any field, you need to be doing social media. If you aren’t connected, the world is completely blind to you. But there is an inherent problem with maintaining a professional social media presence, and it stems from social networking’s humble beginnings. Most people began doing social media as a personal hobby, connecting with friends, family, and having care-free fun on their networks of choice.

Once you establish a new, separate professional account for yourself or your business, it’s an entirely new game. How should you differentiate between your two online lives? What behavior is appropriate, and is a personal presence even all that personal anymore? Today we explore how to successfully nurture both online presences without stepping on your own toes.

Overlap is Okay to a Degree

Before launching any personal or professional social media, you need to determine your intentions for each campaign. Keep in mind that it is perfectly reasonable for there to be some overlap here, just as there is surely overlap between your life at home and at work. Non-profit business resource Big Duck advises you to “Consider your personal goals and those of the organization you work for. Where do these goals meet and how do they differ?”

Imagine that the company you work for (or own) is in the business of animal rescue, care, and adoption. You probably want your professional page to discuss your latest rescues, the pets you have up for adoption, and touch people’s hearts with stories and photographs of your work. At the same time, you need to appear as an expert in the field of animal care, and your personal page should reflect this interest by sharing more intimate musings on your work and passions. Be careful not to spam your friends and family with re-postings of everything your business does — this will annoy them fast.

Both Should Focus on Relationship Building

You may be surprised to learn that your professional social media presence will consist of almost as much relationship-building as your personal one. Gone are the days of clear division between “Businesses” and “Friends”; the best professionals make their business relationships feel as cordial and important as their personal ones.

Social Media Magic tells us that in 2011, success with professional social media demands that you treat your social presence this way. “The businesses that are making the most money off social media are the ones that spend the most time nurturing genuine relationships,” they report. “The only way to manage your professional relationships this year is to work at them – like you do with your real friends.”

Don’t waste time crafting emotionless reports to blast out and then disappear for days at a time, hoping that conversation will magically occur — this is the old way of doing things. People don’t log onto Facebook or Twitter to be preached to, they come for interaction and conversation. This isn’t to say you should be sharing your baby pictures with your latest joint-venture partner, but it does mean you should keep up with your professional connections and engage them in appropriate, meaningful discussion.

Be Aware of Your Personal Social Behavior

If it hasn’t been made clear by now, nothing is private on the Internet. The safest assumption you can make is that absolutely everything you publish on your personal page can and will be read by everyone you come into contact with. This includes your upper-managers, business partners, interviewers, etc — you need to watch over your profile like a hawk.

Put another way, it isn’t appropriate to keep pictures of your last-ever college keg party on your personal page, and allow friends to post comments about how “wild Atlantic City was last night.” The Internet is the eternal public stage, and all someone has to do is point the spotlight at you to reveal everything you bring to the performance. Don’t assume that just because you show people your professional page they won’t find your personal one. Nine times out of ten they will, so tread lightly.

Determine Your Two “Positioning Statements”

Social media makes it so simple to do so much that it can be very easy to lose sight of your purpose online. To effectively make decisions about what you should and shouldn’t do with each of your presences, you need to remember why you’re there.

Perhaps the easiest way to accomplish this is by designing two separate social “positioning statements,” one for your professional and one for your personal campaign. Big Duck describes this as, “The big idea you want people to associate with you,” and provides the following template for designing them:

“I am a ___________ in _________ for __________.”

Once you’ve carefully thought about these statements and filled in the blanks, keep them by your computer. Whenever you find yourself questioning your social activity, re-read them and ask whether what you’re doing is in line with these goals.

Be More Accessible With Your Professional Presence

Most social media outlets now offer a number of privacy settings, and its only natural to wonder how public you should make each of your presences. With your professional media, the answer is to be as open and accessible as possible. Social Media Magic likens this to treating your customers and business connections like friends. “That’s how you build a real relationship with your community. Friends expect you to always be there for them!” they proclaim. “They expect to be contacted, filled in about your life and asked to participate in it.”

On the other side, your personal presence might either be completely locked down or as open as your professional one. This decision depends entirely on your personal positioning statement and the goals you have for that presence. If your intentions are simply to maintain a close-knit community of friends and family, share pictures and talk on a very casual level, you should treat it like an exclusive club that only very important people are given access to.

Don’t Over Think It

As important as it is to think about the differences between your personal and professional campaigns, you should keep in mind that few deals are ever closed by online image alone. Social media should be seen as a way to establish relationships and wet mouths, but never as a substitute for in-person or by-phone relationship building. To that end, remember the principles for sound social media management and adhere to your separate online purposes, but don’t spend too much time endlessly optimizing your pages when you could alternatively seek out those who are already interested in working with you in person.

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