Your Online Persona: Aligning Personality with Professionalism

Nov 05, 2010

If you're just venturing into social media and haven't gotten comfortable interacting via tools like Facebook or Twitter yet, it can be a bit nerve-wracking at first. How should you conduct yourself? Is it okay to make jokes? Where's the line between having fun and being unprofessional? These are common concerns and are much more important that many business owners think.


The best advice I've heard on having a social media 'persona' is to envision your business as an actual person. If you own a surf shop in San Diego, you might go to work in shorts and sandals. If you're a partner in a law firm, your clients expect a suit and tie. The same guidelines apply to how you interact online: the surf shop owner can be casual and laid back because that's what the customers probably expect. The attorney's clients, however, likely expect professionalism at all times. An off-the-cuff joke about a local political figure can have much bigger ramifications for the attorney than for the surf shop owner.


Speaking of jokes, it's always best to be cautious with them. One of the biggest challenges of interacting solely through the written word is interpreting the tone of somebody's comment. Not everyone shares the same sense of humor - what seems like a completely innocent and lighthearted comment to you could be offensive or insulting to somebody else. When we interact through social media, we only get to see the final product of somebody's thought; we see words and punctuation but have no idea of how the comment was intended to be interpreted. For example, an exclamation point can have various connotations like excitement (positive) or anger (negative). Sometimes it's difficult to tell the difference.


There's certainly nothing wrong with showing your personality and having fun when you interact via social media. In fact, it can often enhance your relationship with your clients. But remember that your persona still must align with the expectations your clients have of your business. If you use social media for your business, be cautious with humor and always stop to consider how your comment might be interpreted, despite your intentions.

Category: Marketing

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