Every tweet, like, connection, and share defines who you are.
“To RT or not to RT, that is the question.”
– William Shakespeare (reincarnated in the 21st Century)
So, you shared that hysterical pie-in-the-face video. What’s the big deal?
You started following @KimKardashian. No harm, right?
You joined the LinkedIn group, “Cannabis Reform Now.” Isn’t it about time they legalized weed?
After all, it’s only social media, #amiright? How can any of this stuff have any impact on my business or my career?
Did you actually just ask that? It’s one thing when a college junior indiscreetly posts a drunken selfie from an all-night beer-pong competition; but you? You’re a respectable executive / entrepreneur / professional / consultant / board member / adult with dignity – surely you know better.
And it’s not just the over-the-top examples I cited above. If you are a business owner or professional, it’s important to understand that almost every action on social media can be seen by clients, colleagues, prospects, bosses, and employees. What you post and share automatically becomes attached to your online persona and contributes to defining your personal brand.
Let’s take a broad view of personal branding do’s and don’t’s on social media:
Maintain Content Integrity:
You are known as a tough negotiator, astute businessperson, accomplished leader, and confident decision-maker. Your posts on social media need to reflect these qualities. Every tweet, update, discussion starter, and comment needs to project the same image that you have worked so hard to build.
There is nothing wrong with adding a personal touch to your content strategy, as people connect and engage more with people who are genuine and display their humanness on social media; but even this human side of you needs to be in keeping with the qualities you want to project. If you are known as someone with a sharp sense of humor, then feel free to sprinkle in a few witty quotes from famous entrepreneurs or thought leaders you respect. But indiscriminately posting content you just happen to find funny can begin to tear away at the fabric of your brand.
The same holds true for political or controversial posts. Unless you want to be known as a person with a strong stand on a trending issue, why take the risk in alienating half of your audience? If your stances do not pertain to your core business or help bring you closer to your goals, do not invite controversy for controversy’s sake; do not veer away from the messaging your audience wants and expects.
While this may seem obvious to many of you, off-brand posts and shares are rampant on social media. We recently experienced an issue with a high-level client of ours. After spending months carefully crafting and implementing a content strategy to build credibility, trust, and thought leadership, we noticed our client jumping on to his Twitter stream with a barrage of tweets, encouraging his followers to cast a vote for his favorite in a reality-TV singing competition. All the strides we made in building a powerful social media presence were in danger of collapsing – from a few careless, impulsive tweets.
Share with Care:
There is an argument within the social media community regarding how much personal responsibility one has when sharing content from an outside source. In other words, when you retweet or share content, are you implicitly endorsing the content? Some say that a retweet carries the same accountability as an original post. Take high-profile executives or politicians, for example. Whenever they retweet a controversial post, they are forced to defend their actions as if they originated the material. Others say that you are simply sharing something you found of interest, and the content does not necessarily reflect your personal opinion.
Whichever camp you are in, it is undeniable that anything appearing on your feed – whether original content or a shared post – helps to shape the image you are portraying to the social media universe. Can that pie-in-the-face video you shared possibly cause any harm? Well, not if you want to be known as the type of person who occasionally posts silly material; but if you are known as a no-nonsense executive in a no-nonsense industry, this type of off-brand share will have a negative impact on your brand and your overall credibility. As a general rule, only share, like, or retweet content that you would be proud to post yourself.
Choose Your Friends Wisely: You Are Known By The Company You Keep!
Didn’t your mother ever tell you that? Well, her advice translates over to social media as well. The people you choose to follow, connect with, friend, and interact with also play a part in shaping your brand. On LinkedIn, you can tell a lot about people by scrolling down their profiles and seeing which influencers and companies they follow, which groups they’ve joined, and which outside organizations they’ve listed. When building your presence on LinkedIn or any other network, carefully consider the groups you display, as this will impact how you are viewed by others.
Connect with people who can add value to your social media experience, or those who are aligned with your brand, goals, and messaging. People can scroll through your connections to see who is in your network, so extend and accept connection invitations with care.
First Impressions: Create a Branded Profile
Perhaps the most obvious and important component of your personal brand on social media is your profile. On Twitter, you have 160 characters; on LinkedIn you have a 2,000 character limit in your summary; Instagram allows 150. Each network gives you a certain amount of space to tell your story. Take the time to present information that is aligned with the image you want to project. The best profiles discuss value and results, and not a list of tasks, achievements and impact, and not generic descriptions. For tips on creating an excellent LinkedIn profile, take a look here.
Your digital footprint is an asset to your business and career, and it should be carefully built, maintained, and monitored. If you’d like an assessment of your current social media presence, feel free to contact us here.