A student recently asked me the following question:
I wanted to ask you about incorporating personal branding with social media. I have ALWAYS used social media to vent - but if that makes you less favorable in the eyes of employers, it seems that there is no longer a medium in which we can post semi-inappropriate statuses, or share our actual thoughts in the moment, when Twitter/Facebook is being monitored by employers. What I'm really asking for is advice on finding that balance. How do you do it?
Here is what I said:
This is a GREAT question. Personal branding and your online persona go hand in hand, but you are right: it requires balance.
While it can be hard to figure out how to balance your personal and professional self on social media, the process is actually easier than you think. The key is to be intentional and thoughtful about why you have social media and the results you desire from your posts.
For example, ask yourself: is social media a way for you to A) connect with professionals, network, and find jobs, B) connect with friends, or C) both?
A) Professionals: If you primarily desire for your social media to be professional, think of all your channels as a LinkedIn, and focus on adding value in your field and remaining positive and helpful. Notice the social media channels of the top professionals in your field and use them as role models.
B) Friends: If social media is a way for you to vent and be your uninhibited self, you'll want to be very intentional about your privacy settings and who you allow to be your friend on Facebook or who you let follow you on Twitter.
C) Both: For me, social media is both an important part of my job (I get most of my clients from it), and a vital part of my social life (I love my Facebook friends and Twitter peeps). Since that is the decision I've made, I'm very intentional about remaining positive, fun, and helpful. If I have a horrid day or need to vent, I do that with my close friends, in-person or in a direct message. You can also consider having two separate profiles, a private one just for friends and a public one for networking.
Again, the key is being intentional. The worst mistakes people make with social media come when they don't think about it at all. Choose your number one social media priority, and then post accordingly.
Have fun with it and be yourself, but remember to adjust depending on your desired audience, just as you do when you choose how to dress for an interview versus a party.
Only you can decide your social media priorities, and once you decide, you'll be far ahead of the majority of people who don't even think about it.