Navigating the Line Between Personal and Professional on Social Media by @projectmaven
This is a topic that hits very close to home for me, as I imagine it does for many of you. If you’re reading this, then chances are you saw the link on Twitter or Facebook, or maybe LinkedIn. You probably check in regularly with at least two or more social media platforms for business, and most likely for personal use as well. How do you navigate these platforms in a way that keeps your professional side intact while still allowing for personal and recreational use? Here are some things to keep in mind.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS PRIVACY
I’m going to say this a different way. Privacy is an illusion. If you have things to say that you do not want to be shared in public, then say them in person to the person to whom you’re speaking. Or write them a letter (I’m talking about taking a pen to paper.) If you are posting anything online, it is not private, regardless of your privacy settings. Once your words or images are released into the digital world, you no longer have control over them. Perhaps you can trust everyone in your private online circles, and if so, congratulations. But the fact is, the walls between private circles and public consumption are thin, and they are being breached more and more frequently all the time.
Does this mean you should be living in a state of fear and paranoia? No, it just means that if you want to preserve your professional reputation, you should refrain from bad mouthing people on Facebook, or making any other types of disparaging statements that might come back to haunt you in the future.
BUT WHAT ABOUT MY PERSONAL FACEBOOK PAGE?
Of course, your personal Facebook page is a place where you should feel comfortable letting it all hang out. Voice your political opinions, post raunchy videos and edgy jokes if you feel like it. If you stand by your choices and they speak to who you are as an individual, then go ahead and let your freak flag fly. Just know that they are now part of what could become public record. We’ve all seen the way Hillary Clinton was raked over the coals. The higher your level of public exposure, the more you will be subject to scrutiny. Just be prepared.
UNTANGLING THE WEB
At any given moment, I work on a number of different projects, most of which involve some level of social connectivity. When I’m out there promoting one client’s book or helping another client gain visibility for an upcoming event, I’m always on the lookout for appropriate people to reach out to or connect with, as I’m navigating the web. Often, due to the nature of my business, my clients have overlapping interests, and I start to see many interconnections as well as opportunities for collaboration. I may start out working on one project, and see an opportunity to link up with another one.
To make matters even more complicated, these days I try to only take on work that is personally meaningful or exciting to me. Also, the style of writing that I often employ is very immediate, from a first-person perspective. I often inject a personal note into content that I’m developing – take for instance, this very blog post! As you can imagine, it can get a little confusing sometimes. I have to regularly step back and examine my choices to make sure I am staying on track with each project, fulfilling the goals of my clients and not allowing my subjective opinions to cloud my professional judgment.
The point here is that the internet is an easy place to find endless distractions that may well sidetrack you away from your central goals. Scheduling is key. Even though your projects may overlap with one another as well as with your personal interests, try and allot specific time blocks to working on one thing at a time. If you see opportunities to connect with other people, explore other networking possibilities or investigate new ideas, keep a little running list of things to do later. Once you achieve your stated goals, you’ll be able to move onto the new things that come up. Also, keep your personal web surfing, picture sharing and commenting on your friends’ posts to limited blocks of time that don’t interfere with your work. You’ll be tempted to drift into this personal territory, so this may be the biggest challenge of all.
Social media can be a great place for expanding your community and building out a market for your services and products or those of your clients. It’s also a tricky place to navigate if you have any tendencies towards being distracted, which these days, most of us do. It seems to be the nature of the beast. If you have any particular strategies that help you keep your business navigating separate from your personal web surfing, please share them here! I’m sure we could all use some good ideas!