Your reputation follows you everywhere. From personal to professional, people will remember you: Are you kind? A hard worker? Do you complain often? Do you go above and beyond?
However, in the age of social media, the way you’re perceived doesn’t end here. For this reason, it’s more important than ever to understand how you’re portraying yourself online and work to monitor your digital reputation just as diligently as you would your physical one.
Having worked in PR and strategic positioning for 17-plus years, I’ve gathered many tips on reputation management. Below you’ll find five areas to keep in mind when evaluating your digital persona, as well as how you can work your social channels for personal and professional benefit.
1. Not all social channels are created equal.
My Facebook, for example, has a lot more of my real-life friends and family following me; my Twitter, rather, is more industry experts and media. I must keep these different audiences in mind when deciding what I want to post, and you should too. One way I keep it balanced is knowing each channel and understanding its purpose, which helps me make smart decisions on sharing.
While I keep my Twitter more professional, I love sharing my love of football by following my teams and posting thoughts on the game, even though the majority of my followers are professionals who know me through my company.
However, this is a great way to share more about myself beyond what goes on at work. We all have interests outside of our jobs, and sharing something I’m passionate about shows my personality while still being professional (you’ll never find me angry Tweeting about a bad call or smack talking another team because that’s not me). I like to spread positivity, so although it’s not work related, my followers are learning about me.
On Facebook, my friends, family and clients follow me. I’ll post once or twice a week, keeping the majority of posts focused on my business. With Snapchat and Instagram, however, you’ll see more of me in my real element: at home, at work, with my daughter, walking my dog … the possibilities are endless. These two platforms show more of a balance of my life because I know the majority of my strictly professional audience isn’t relying on Snapchat or Instagram for PR-related content.
2. Keep it classy: Stay away from certain topics.
Regardless of who’s following you, stay professional across the board (especially if you’re an entrepreneur or executive with a large industry voice) by staying away from a few big topics.
Major political opinions: This is just to be safe because you don’t want to start off by retaining enemies. Unfortunately, that’s what happens with politics. While you may have passionate views, responsible debates can easily be hijacked by someone looking to argue. Don’t let yourself get carried down.
Too many thoughts on religion: Unless your business is of a religious background, you want to be as agnostic as possible. You want people to focus on the awesome things you’re doing in your career and with your business.
Anything else that will spark an argument: People love to argue behind the safety of a screen so before you tempt someone, consider if engaging with them is worth your time.
Don’t forget: Everything you post online lives forever. Even if you delete it, it never truly goes away. Think twice before you post.
3. Be smart about who’s in your circle.
Be smart about who you bring into your social community. To attract greatness, you’ll often have to go out and find it yourself. Look at hashtags and find conversations and content from similar people. Remember, just as you’re seeking them, they are also seeking you. If you have a community of people who don’t align with your vision, it’ll lessen your chances of connecting with other awesome professionals.
A lot of work goes into building a following, and not much goes into depleting it. Attract good people and be a great resource. Your online community stays with you forever and you never know when an opportunity may arise from it.
4. You don’t have to put everything on social media.
As a business owner, I want people to take me seriously. If all I’m doing is posting mommy pictures or boyfriend/girlfriend pictures, people won’t look at me as a serious businesswoman.
While I choose to keep certain things close to me, I’m not saying you have to avoid all things personal. If you love sharing family pictures or something with a significant other, that is completely okay as long as it works for your personal brand (and it’s not the only thing you post). The key is moderation.
5. You can find a great mix.
It is possible to balance being personal and professional online. You know I love football and I’m a PR pro, so I’ll often combine the two for the benefit of my followers. The recent publicity scandals in the NFL, for example, provide a great opportunity for me to share my expertise on the issues at hand in a thoughtful way, all while combining two things I love.
Any business owner who has been in their industry for years should have opinions on things and should educate people. It would be doing your audience a disservice by not sharing those opinions. If you feel passionate about an issue, write your own thought leadership article, publish it and share on social media. People are following you for your expertise, so they’re going to listen to you.
In the end, it’s possible to maintain a great personal and professional persona online, and these tips are a great place to start. If all else fails, always use your best judgment. Be smart, be safe, be yourself and have fun, but also be mindful, respectful and know that your digital reputation will stick with you forever.
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