Image by Leon Riskin via flickr
Whether it’s intentional or not, your personal and professional brand on social media overlap. Followers on LinkedIn might hunt down your Instagram account. Facebook friends will find you on Twitter. It can be hard to keep the professional brand professional when the audience contains as many friends and family members as it does clients and coworkers.
Being too personal with your business audience can impact how you’re perceived in a professional context, potentially putting that relationship in jeopardy. If you’re concerned about maintaining your professional brand on social media, there are ways to segment your audience and keep on engaging.
The easiest way to distinguish between personal and professional social media profiles is through your bios. A Twitter bio that references your company and professional title is a clear indication that the account is a professional one. It helps to signal to your audience what you’re trying to do with each account, increasing your chances of having a really engaged following.
Keywords contained within your bio will also affect your searchability. On networks like LinkedIn and Facebook, keyword searches will bring up suggested contacts and this is a great way to expand your professional network. A computer salesperson should have keywords like computers, sales, tech, mac, pc, dell, etc., within their bio.
On the same vein, make sure your content reflects your bio. Don’t say that you’re a financial expert and never once Tweet about finance. Your audience’s first impression of you will often come from your bio, so ensure the content you share is largely relevant to that persona.
While on the subject of bios, you might be a guru, or ninja, or samurai, but very few people care. These monikers are overused, so consider coming up with something more original, or even (gasp!) use your real title—people will appreciate the honesty.
Social media isn’t about broadcasting news and updates, it’s about engaging around topics that interest you and your followers. Including some personality in your professional profiles can do a lot of good — as long as the information positively contributes to how people see you.
If you’re a business owner, talk about your company culture and the employees that are contributing to your success. Distinguish yourself from other professionals in your industry by sharing your personal interests or skills. As content strategist Jay Baer explained, “When tweeting or blogging or status updating about your personal life, it should be something that actually reveals a dimension of your life, or character, or belief system.” A CEO that also competes in triathlons shouldn’t be afraid to talk about that, as it might reveal his determination, a commitment to fitness, a drive that continues outside of the business environment.
Getting personal is valuable when you’re engaging with followers. That said, don’t bog down professional discussions and Twitter chats with personal anecdotes. Take stock of the tone of the discussion, and respond appropriately.
Maintaining a personal brand means keeping on top of your privacy settings. The goal is not to stop sharing personal stories or photos, but simply to silo the very personal items within a specific circle of social contacts. Look at the types of posts you share on Facebook, from photos to status updates. Consider whether you don’t want them to be viewed by any of your contacts—perhaps people you work with or clients you may have added to Facebook. Then go through your Facebook privacy settings and limit these types of posts to the audience of your choice.
Other networks allow you to have accounts blocked from public view. Instagram lets you choose who can see your photos while Pinterest has secret boards, giving you the freedom to use these networks in private. By contrast, Twitter is a default public network — don’t ever forget that.
It’s worth noting that if you don’t want the majority of your posts to be seen by certain contacts, it might be the time to remove them from Facebook or other social networks altogether. If there’s no interaction or engagement taking place on the social network, you likely will not be missed by them either.
Distinguishing between your personal and professional brand isn’t just about you; it’s about knowing your audience. If your Facebook is very private and confined to close friends and family, you may be able to air grievances or talk politics. But public profiles that can be searched and viewed by employers or clients are not the place to discuss sensitive subjects.
There are lots of opinions we may be inclined to express on social media. But maintaining a professional brand on social media means staying positive and stick to topics of interest to your professional audience. Not every topic is right for every social network, and realizing that is an essential part of successfully using social media to advance your career and business.
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