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Summary:

A common concern among those of us in jobs that put us visible on the web is the challenge of balancing our personal and professional presence online. To me, it’s about blended, dynamic reputation. Some may call it “personal branding” but that’s always felt a little […]

998524_tranquility_4A common concern among those of us in jobs that put us visible on the web is the challenge of balancing our personal and professional presence online.

To me, it’s about blended, dynamic reputation. Some may call it “personal branding” but that’s always felt a little stilted and contrived to me. The essence is that I have control over only one side of the equation: how I present myself to the world, both online and off. The judgment rests solely in the hands of the people with whom I interact, and they’re all going to see me differently.

Drawing Boundaries

I choose not to delineate between my personal and professional presence online, except on my blogs (more on that in a moment). That means I don’t have a separate Twitter account for my business presence — as Director of Community for Radian6 — and my personal presence, or separate Facebook profiles.

Why? To me, they’re one and the same. Who I am professionally is very much who I am personally. And my belief is that in order to deliver myself, my capabilities and my trustworthiness as obviously and clearly as possible to people, I don’t want the appearance that I’m acting differently in one world than I would in another.

It’s the WYSIWYG philosophy. I want to know that what people are seeing and feeling when they interact with me is “Amber” first and foremost. Whether I’m acting in my capacity as a Radian6 representative, a business adviser, a horse enthusiast or a friend, I want them to know that they’ll always get a consistent sense of “me.”

Filters

All this does not mean, however, that I don’t filter myself at all. I do, in a couple of ways.

For my blogs, I have one that’s about my business — social media and community — and one that’s purely personal. I do that for the sake of my audience more than for me. People coming to my Altitude blog likely don’t want musings about my summer vacation muddying up the information on social media for business (they would probably just see it as noise).

I also contribute to our corporate blog, and I do that with my “community director and social media person in a corporate role” hat on. I don’t really write differently in terms of tone or personality, but I write with a specific focus.

By housing my personal blog separately, I’m setting the expectation for any visitors that they’re going to be reading more casual, personal thoughts and that they won’t necessarily find business value there.

The most important filter, though, is that of judgment. I know that the web is one big messy, interconnected mishmash of information. You can’t put up barriers very easily, or keep the peas from touching the mashed potatoes. It’s all out there in one big pile. And if people want it, they’re going to find it.

That means if there’s some bit of content — a blog post or a photo of my daughter or a snap from vacation — that I don’t want public for whatever reason, I don’t publish it. I think carefully about comments and responses that I post and the interactions I have, considering how they’ll be interpreted out of context, or after time has passed and the conversation isn’t as immediate. We all know by now that the web never forgets.

Personal Accountability

Balancing personal and professional presence online is a matter of choice and comfort level. Your mileage will and should vary, as your world is different than mine or anyone else’s.

But make no mistake: you’re driving. You choose what to publish, and where and when you do it. And you hold the responsibility of monitoring your own reputation through listening, so you know what other people are saying about you and where.

Being online shouldn’t be about being paranoid. It’s about being informed and aware, and conscious of your own choices. Consider how you’d like to be perceived. Do you want to be liked? Trusted? Known as the contrarian? Purely professional while keeping your personal life carefully hidden? On the web for fun and keeping work out of it? They’re all up to you.

Knowing your own values, boundaries and expectations for yourself are key to guiding your presence and participation, no matter where you choose to be.

Amber Naslund is Director of Community for Radian6, geek girl extraordinaire, and blogs over at AltitudeBranding.com.

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By Amber Naslund

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  2. You make a good point about how we all where different hats throughout the day. It’s very important (especially as a worker on the web) to be able to know the appropriate times to where what hat. I find that it actually helps me to keep my accounts separate for both personal and professional. Though there is a great deal of overlap between my personal and professional accounts since I manage the two different account types (or hats) myself. The overlap allows me to easily manage multiple accounts, and the separation allows me the ability to make sure I have the right “hat” on at the right time. Good read!

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  3. You do make an excellent point about the nature of the Web, and how nothing, in essence is private. So a personal picture can be seen by professional colleagues and a business blog post can be read by friends.

    I have found though, that having 2 Facebook profiles has helped in my own time management. Here’s how: I have many FB friends who are old friends I don’t keep in touch with or see very often, acquaintances, colleagues, etc. I have one profile I maintain with these friends. I have another profile, with far fewer FB friends – who are actually my close frends and family offline. This way, I can keep up with them in a meaningful way.

    Whether you look at it as time management or relationship management, it works for me!

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  4. Just moments after finishing my own blog on this very subject, someone tweeted your blog my way. ITA that it’s up to the individual to decide how personal and/or professional their online lives will be, define their own boundaries. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach to social networking.

    You’re right about control of what you self-publish as well as your responsibility to monitor what others publish. But monitoring and controlling are different, and one can’t always prevent negative tweets or hide all the Facebook photos (tagged or not).

    And while we all edit or filter ourselves, it’s often a matter of publishing content for certain audiences. People read a blog or follow tweets because the subject or writer interests them; having more than one blog or Twitter account can be as much about content as personal vs. professional.

    Good post, off to balance my act.

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  5. Great post, Amber. I especially like the part where you said “Who I am professionally is very much who I am personally.” While social media allows you to really engage and form new relationships, people are always more appealing when they showcase their personality a bit.

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  6. PERSONAL BRANDING USING SOCIAL MEDIA – MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS

    Great post. I have realized that while I would like separate personal and professional accounts for Twitter, social networking sites and blogs, I agree with Amber that they can be the same. From an administrative perspective it’s cumbersome to maintain and grow separate user accounts. I have a personal Twitter account and a business twitter account. However, as I add more companies it is unlikely that I will add more Twitter accounts. My blog is essentially a business blog. Any business that I do will pretty much have a focus that is evident in my blog. So, in my case my blog is a “one to many relationship” where one blog can refer to multiple companies.

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  7. Great article. I tend to disagree with merging the professional and personal life. I have a twitter account with 100 followers and only one of them in my facebook account.

    I have made a mistake by adding one or two of my professional colleagues on my facebook account which i will rectify when I change jobs now.

    It’s hard to express yourself freely when you have your professional colleagues on your facebook. imagine this, i have my juniors as my friends on facebook, i give out a rant that i need to introspect what I am doing. it will send a signal i am uncomfortable in my job and they will get jittery.

    I don;t want to be “correct” in my expressions with my friends, i want to be me.

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  9. Thanks, Amber. I certainly agree with you that it’s up to you to decide how open (or not) to be on the web about certain areas of your life. After being “friends” with a boss from an internship, I quickly learned that I wanted to reserve Facebook for friends and family only, and use other sites like Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, etc. for developing my identity online that has more to do with my work (I started as a Community Manager at an international brand monitoring company a few months ago).

    I can see what Ashutosh means, though, that not everyone wishes to be as visible as you are online. I was just recently discussing this very subject with a friend who also prefers not to put her name out there in the blogosphere for all to see. I think it really depends on what you are searching to get in return by putting yourself out there on the net. Like you said, though, no matter how you choose to use the net to interact with co-workers, friends, or total strangers, it is important to be conscious of the fact that everything you write is available for all to see.

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