Balancing Personal And Professional Social Media Use

Balancing Personal And Professional Social Media Use

Social media is a powerful tool to build your professional brand. It is also an excellent way to keep in touch with friends and family. People use social networking activities in every aspect of their lives. They use it to build friendships, find romantic partners, and even find professional opportunities. What happens when the line between the personal and professional blur?

How can you enjoy using social media without damaging your professional brand? How you can use your social media accounts to promote your professional brand without annoying your friends and family? One of the most important modern life-skills is finding the right balance online.

There are a couple of approaches you can use. Whichever method you use, it is important to make an intentional choice.

Separating Personal And Professional

The classic approach is to keep your personal and professional activities separate. For example, you might use Facebook and Snapchat to keep in touch with family and casual friends. Then you might use LinkedIn and Twitter for your professional network.

While this approach may seem cleanest, it can be awkward. You need prepare to deal with friend requests from colleagues, customers, clients or bosses. Also, this approach requires current awareness of each social channels privacy settings.

Social media channels like Facebook frequently change privacy settings. You would want to review the settings regularly. Also, be sure to look at the search settings. For example, if you choose to keep your Facebook account private, you may also want to hide it from search results.

Some take this strategy a step further and decide to keep their personal lives offline.

What To Do When The Personal And Professional Blend

Sometimes, complete separation between the personal and professional is awkward or even impossible. Be aware that if you develop personal friendships with colleagues, you may want to include them in your personal circle. If those friends happen to be Facebook friends with other colleagues, then this may cause issues. Adjust your privacy settings, but do not rely on privacy settings too much. You also want to use good judgment about anything you post (see the section later in this post).

Treat All Social Media As An Extension Of Both Your Personal And Professional Brand

Some just choose to use to use their personal social channels as an extension of their brand. You may decide to include your professional connections as friends and followers. Most likely, your friends and family will get bored if you constantly post self-promotional content and links to trade journal articles. This strategy involves using the channel to selectively express both your personal interests as well as your professional expertise.

Accept the lines will be blurred, but be sure not to post anything that harms your reputation. On some channels, use your privacy settings in situations where it may feel awkward to decline a connection request. One idea is to create a smart group for colleagues. Then block members of that group from seeing content others post on your Facebook feed.

Sometimes, experts advise people to only post content relevant to their profession. This is great advice for LinkedIn and may work well if you use Twitter just for brand building. It may be less realistic if it is a more personal channel like Facebook. On personal channels like Facebook, it is common to show your personal interests and a hint of your private life. Just be careful not to share anything too private.

In many cases, hobbies can help you look good and provide common ground with others. For example, if you love to run 5k races, it shows you have self-discipline and that you prioritize fitness. A colleague in another department may notice and invite you to join her relay team. Joining the team provides an opportunity to build relationships and informally enhance your brand.

The biggest concern with this strategy is privacy. Do you feel comfortable sharing pictures of your family with professional connections? That is a question only you can answer for yourself and your personal brand. In some cases, you can use the privacy settings to limit access to specific images. With more public channels like Twitter, realize anything you post may be public. Yes, you can make your profile private, but that may not always guarantee privacy if someone else shares your post.

Be Careful What You Post

Even if you opt to keep some of your accounts private, that may not be enough to protect your brand. Please keep in mind, friends of your friends may still see some of your comments or posts that you are tagged in. Also, many online publications now use Facebook within their commenting system. Colleagues may happen across some of these comments.

The best strategy is to be careful what you post. This is important whether you keep your professional and personal accounts separate or not.

Be wary of Posting:

  • Avoid posting anything that hints to bad judgment. Be careful about “party pictures” posted by either you or your friends. People have lost jobs, child custody disputes and have caused all sorts of problems for themselves through social media. Employers, clients, and even attorneys look at your public social media posts when making decisions about your judgment.
  • Be cautious about posting potentially offensive, religious or politically charged statements. If polarizing comments are not part of your brand, then think twice before you post. However, the choice is always yours to make.
  • Avoid posting complaints or rants about customers, clients, colleagues or your boss. Yes, you have the right to express your permission to your personal support network. However, many people have damaged career prospects by posting rants or complaints on social media. A little discretion and classy behavior are always good for your brand.
  • Also, be sure to watch what others post about you or when they tag you. Would that picture from Spring break three years ago boost or harm your brand? What if a long lost friend posts it and tags you in the picture? Consider requiring approval before the picture appears on your timeline.
  • Realize that even if you delete a post, the content still exists somewhere. Most likely, you know someone who suffered embarrassment over a misguided Snapchat, Facebook or Twitter post. If not, you only need to look to the evening news to see examples. Members of Congress, teenagers, or celebrities all faced scandals due to foolish tweets.
  • If you are looking for another position or working a side gig, be especially tactful and discreet. Be aware that it is unlikely that your employer will not see or hear about these activities. What To Do When You already Made A Mistake
  • Delete or hide the post once you are able, in some cases, this may be enough.
  • If you shared misinformation, you could post a brief apology with corrected information.
  • Whatever you do, do not further ruin your brand by airing inappropriate “dirty laundry” on your page. This rarely ends well.
  • Everyone makes mistakes in life. Unfortunately, in the social media age, our mistakes are less private than other’s mistakes in the distant past. If your lapses in judgment cause professional embarrassment, own it and take responsibility. This usually is better for your brand than making excuses or trying to cover it up.

If you are building your brand online, it is essential that you develop a good social media strategy. One of the most important choices is how you want to balance your personal and professional online activities.

Caution, discretion, and self-awareness can go a long way in protecting your brand. Whichever strategy you choose works best with a careful strategy.

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