By now it should be clear to us all that one of the benefits of social media — widespread accessibility — can also be a burden. Anything you post on the internet unless in private spaces, can be viewed by people you may not have intended to be the primary audience. Not only that, but there’s also a degree of permanence to it. Even if you go back and delete posts you might later regret, there’s a chance that someone could have screen-grabbed or shared it.
As a result, while your social channels can be a boon to your profession, they may also prove to be problematic. When not treated with the utmost care and attention, an ill-judged post on your Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook account could be destructive to your reputation. At the same time, it can also be a deeply personal medium that helps you showcase who you are and what is important to you. This serves to make it difficult to know how and where to draw the line between the personal and the professional.
We’re going to take a closer look at some useful directions for your attention in this potential online minefield. What are some best practices to adopt? How can you balance demonstrating your professional prowess, while exhibiting your personality and making connections?
Separation of Home and Work
While it’s important to act authentically while online, it is not always wise to approach personal and professional social media in the same way. Think of it this way: if you were going to a networking event, would you necessarily talk about the same things you would with your close friends? Would you dress the same, and share the same jokes? Chances are, you’d perhaps give a little glimpse of this — after all, it’s part of your personality — but it’s not likely you’d go all-in! Therefore, it’s wise to take an approach to your social media that makes a clear delineation between home and work.
This is difficult to do on one account. This is why many of us have begun to create different social media accounts for our professional and private lives. This is not a dishonest thing to do — after all, it’s healthy to be able to have a space entirely your own and not connected to your profession. It’s also fine to set your personal Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts to private, ensuring that these are viewable only by those closest to you.
That said, this is only an effective and ethical approach if you also utilize your separate, professional accounts honestly. If you’re using social media to reach out to prospects or potential employers, they need to see that you are a human being, not just some robot! Create posts sharing content that reflect your professional and personal interests, and where they converge. Make comments on the accounts of others in your industry, showing your personality through the dialogue you create with them.
Take a Branded Approach
In order to keep your social channels professional, it can also be useful to approach them from the perspective of an entrepreneur. Use them to build your personal brand. Creating a strategy as though you’re a brand can help keep your channels looking clean.
Your approach can include:
- Build a Brand Voice. Settle on an attitude that best reflects how you’d like to represent yourself to the professional world. Social media is different from how you’d answer your professional emails, in that it is often innately more personal. Make notes on the type of vocabulary you find to be a positive representation of yourself. Don’t make this formulaic, though. Just as with any brand voicing, your notes should be a guideline to work with, rather than a stiff, inauthentic rulebook.
- Keep a Schedule. Any brand’s social media manager will tell you that keeping a schedule is important to developing your presence. Even when you’re utilizing LinkedIn to network, one of the key points of your approach needs to be maintaining consistency. Keep engaging with groups, and post ideas on a regular basis. If it helps, use a social media management tool that incorporates a calendar and prompts you to take action.
- Create Content. What you post on social media is a reflection of your brand — personal or otherwise. It is therefore imperative that you pay some attention to creating content that supports the impression you wish to present to those who are visiting your channels. Write articles showing you have useful insights into specific areas of interest. Create videos or podcasts that demonstrate your curiosity and expertise. Even when sharing other people’s content, make certain that this is consistent with your professional brand’s values and ideas.
Check Your Behavior
Perhaps one of the most damaging things you can do on social media is taking a casual approach to your general behavior. At the best of times, social media can be fraught with ethically questionable actors, and there’s an overriding sense of relaxed rules and attitudes. This makes it easy to fall into the trap of not taking a strict stance on how we undertake our interactions.
Particularly in the current climate, tensions are running high. As a result, there is a slew of anger being expressed on social media. While you may feel as though you should get involved, even defend a position, don’t be reactive. No matter how passionate you are, don’t get into arguments, don’t trade insults.
You may even think you’ve created a witty retort to a troll, but this might come across as petty or unnecessary. That doesn’t mean to say that you shouldn’t post on issues that are important to you. However, take the time to think about how you should react as a professional as well as a passionate human being.
Your attention to your social media behavior also needs to extend to your physical environment. While your channels are an important part of your professional and networking life, you also have to demonstrate a high level of cell-phone etiquette. Even in circumstances where you’re having meetings online, don’t become distracted by your social accounts, or make posts during discussions. Keep engaged with the people you’re with — remotely or otherwise.
This is a matter of respect and informs people’s perceptions of you as a professional. It can even be wise to remove your phone from your location entirely and place it in another room, taking away the temptation to browse.
Social media is both a useful tool and a ubiquitous minefield. It’s vital that you adopt tactics to ensure your channels remain a positive reflection of you as a professional. Consider setting up separate accounts, take a branded attitude, and keep a weather eye on your behavior online and in person.