Social media and social networks, to say the least, have become one of the most common ways for people to communicate. Just about everyone — even your mom, probably — has connected somehow with someone else through as social-media tool.
That makes it an exciting time, but also one with entirely new risks, especially for professionals with a reputation to uphold. For better or worse, all of your social media entries are out there, publicly, for the entire world to see. It's fairly common nowadays for organizations to review a job candidate's Facebook page as part of their process for vetting them. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It's not good enough any more to just say, "I use Facebook for personal stuff, and LinkedIn for professional stuff." It's just not that simple.
Today, everything you do online is representative of who you are as an individual and as a professional. Your activity also represents your organization — after all, your Facebook page probably says where you work, right? (And those pictures of you at the company holiday party ... they represent your organization, as well.)
This is especially important for training professionals, as so much of training is starting to move on to social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. How we conduct ourselves in those places reflects how people expect us to conduct ourselves in person. Further, training pros need to be able to monitor their personal "brand," and be aware of the messages potential clients or future employers might be getting from your online profile.
So follow a few simple tips to make sure you don't scare away some future client who stumbles onto your Facebook timeline:
Consider Who You Do — and Don't — Connect With
I’m always amazed by people who are willing to connect with anyone and everyone on social media services, especially Facebook. Facebook is a very personal service, allowing people to share pictures and stories about their life. However, some of the things you might share with friends may be different than what you might share with a co-worker or potential employer. The more intimate, private, or possibly controversial your Facebook posts are, the more stringent your control over who you share it with should be. Be selective.
Separate Your Personal and Professional Personas
I get Facebook friend requests from business colleagues pretty often. For closer relationships — that are both friend and colleague — I accept the request. For others, I decline and point them to a place that I may share from a more professional-based perspective.
In many cases that might be your LinkedIn profile. But what if the person looking to connect with you isn’t on LinkedIn? One under-utilized tool for creating a personal professional "brand" is the Facebook brand page. Facebook pages are traditionally looked at as being for companies and organizations, but they can also be used by individuals. They provide an excellent place to connect and share with individuals on a professional level without requiring a connection with your personal Facebook page. As an example, here’s a link to my Facebook page, and more information on Facebook pages.
Regardless which social media tools you use, participation, more than anything else, helps define your brand. It’s what helps individuals see what value you contribute and strengthens the overall relationship. Participation also helps prepare you for the emergence of social media communities in your organization.
While this post focuses primarily on personal social media strategy, it also directly applies to organizational social media strategy and the role trainers play in that growing world. Setting up communities is one thing; managing the community and fostering the type of interactions needed to have the community grow into an internal resource is something else entirely. In order for the overall community to flourish, the individuals must know how to participate appropriately.
Screenshot courtesy of David Kelly.
David Kelly is the director of training at Carver Federal Savings Bank and member of the ASTD National Advisors for Chapters. He is also the author of the blog Misadventures in Learning, where he discusses the future of the learning field and curates the backchannel of learning conferences.