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.
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.”
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.
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.
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