Please note: this blog post was originally created for the Leaders After Hours Tumblr page and has been re-edited for this blog by the original author.
Social media rules our lives. It’s a simple fact that most of us use our social media accounts multiple times per day. It’s on our phones, in our homes, and in front of our faces for multiple minutes per day and multiple hours per week. Even those of us who don’t love social media can see that it is an important connecting tool for friends and family, but when used effectively it is also an awesome tool for connecting with our clients, customers, and colleagues.
But how do we do that and stay professional?
First off, consider creating accounts on your favorite social media that are for work/professional life only. If you choose to use your social media for work, you should have an account where only your work/professional life is handled.
Perks: Having these separate accounts will allow you to maintain professional, social relationships with your co-workers and customers, check in at professional events, share important messages in status updates regarding your business, etc. without worrying about clients and coworkers getting a hold of too much of your personal information, personal photos, or worrying about being tagged in something that your customers/coworkers do not need to know (i.e. college photos of you drinking, unflattering childhood photos, that weekend of your best friend’s bachelor party, etc.).
Cons: Having to balance two accounts is not easy. Make sure that you understand the technology well using your various computer and mobile machines and be very careful to use the professional one and your personal one separately. No one on your client list/professional account needs to know what you look like in a bathing suit (unless you’re a swim suit model-then that might be relevant). Make sure you pay attention to what account is logged in when and where.
Alternative solution: Create a business page for your professional workings on Facebook and invite your customers/clients/coworkers to use that page for contact with you. This page can be managed from your personal account. Take heed, if your personal account is littered with items that you would rather your coworkers and customers not know about, clean that up first. Then, make sure you have it set so that people can like your page without being your friend.
After you’ve established what social media sites you will be using and how, remember to be relevant. Building your audience on social media is extremely beneficial to you professionally if it is done well. An example of this is relevant content to what you do. If you are someone who handles professional development for your company, frequently post items to your Twitter, blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram that are relevant to your work and trainings or offerings that you would like people to take an interest in. Whether you write the posts or you simply read and share materials that are important to you, building your credibility using social media will help you develop and maintain an audience and will open other doors for you down the road.
Also, don’t be afraid to share awesome achievements with your professional life. I know I said to keep them completely separate, but if you just graduated with your PhD., wrote an article for a local paper, adopted a shelter dog, climbed a mountain, or took a life altering trip to the Swiss Alps, share that. These interesting achievements in your life are things that you may have the opportunity to discuss with coworkers and clients and make you awesome. Share the awesomeness and let your professional contacts know that you are a real person outside of work. That being said, also follow the rules of “best foot forward” and do not put up personal struggles, trivial “What I’m doing now” statuses or family issues on your professional social media. I would also recommend leaving these things off your personal social media for the sake of your followers and friends.
In communicating on social media, don’t be an over-sharer. As harsh as that may sound, being one of those people who posts every single thing they think, eat, say, experience, etc. is a terrible idea from a personal or professional standpoint. You will lose your audience and have minimal engagement with the people you want to reach if you handle your social media this way. Communicate things that are legitimately interesting and you will build a following of people who are interested and respect what you do.
In addition to that, refrain from trash talking and bad mouthing ANYONE (again-emphasis is necessary). As a social media savvy individual, I can honestly say nothing is more frustrating or less professional than reading an adult’s social media platform and seeing them say things that they would never say in real life. Also, it’s bad for business. No one wants deal with an individual who is willing to say awful things about their friends, family, coworkers, friends, etc into the void that is the internet. Remembering that social media is a large part of how we are perceived by the world will help. When in doubt, ask yourself if you would say/show this to your new significant other’s 90 year old grandmother. If the answer is “probably not”, don’t post it.
Social Media communication can be tricky, but there are lots of great ways to get involved and learn more. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am happy to provide great resources and trainings to individuals interested in learning more about using social media wisely.
-Megan Cole, Educational Coordinator, The Leader, Corning, NY