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Using the social technologies of the web effectively while staying out of trouble

I’ve been using LinkedIn more and more these days on the recommendation of two people I’m currently working with. Part of what makes LinkedIn such a great networking tool is it’s active set of groups, each with their own discussion board. The conversation is great, the information is top-notch, and people are so ready and willing to share the information that made them successful in the first place (myself included).

I really enjoy poking around in the design group that I’m a part of and have been recently adding my two cents here and there. One of person I responded to, Breanna Cooke, reached out to me directly through LinkedIn and asked me a question. I thought I’d share my answer with everyone…

I was reading your thoughts on social media and wondered about any tips on balancing your personal online presence with your day job’s online presence?  I’m trying to do a better job of branding myself as a designer, but am feeling conflicted in where to draw the line with the social media I leverage for myself and what I want to leverage for my 9-5.

This is an interesting question, one that I’ve been reading about more and more lately. I don’t know that there is a right answer but I think you can maintain both.

First and foremost, you have to be ok with overlap between your personal and professional life. For me, the two are very intertwined so I’ve stopped trying to draw a distinct line beween them. I don’t maintain two separate personas anymore, probably because I haven’t received a W2 in years. This is something I’ve become comfortable with because my business comes both from professional circles (networking, LinkedIn, through other clients) and personal ones (friends of friends, friends of family members, through school). For me, it’s worth it to keep my business in mind with every online interaction.

That being said, my line, if any, is drawn between sites and email accounts. Facebook, for example, is more geared towards personal interactions. I don’t add anyone I haven’t met in person (or have known for a while online). I post a few personal photos, I’m likely to be more sarcastic, and I’m less concerned about grammar/spelling. At the same time, I’m wary about what I write and I keep details about my social life to a minimum. I have people I work with added on there so it’s worth it to me to be careful. (Though, to be honest, there’s not really anything I’m doing right now that would warrant extreme discretion.)

I use LinkedIn differently. I restrict connections to people I know personally or professionally or have at least talked to (virtually) about something business-related. I am, however, a bit more open about connecting with people and, as such, keep my conversation very “business-oriented.” Friends and family aside, I assume that every person I talk with is potentially someone I could work with on a project.  I keep personal details to a minimum (I can be a bit of an over-sharer sometimes) and I keep the conversation on track. I try to avoid “:)s” and spelling/grammar errors and I stay away from “internet speak” (LOL, OMG, WTF… I really don’t use those anyways).

I think the biggest piece of advice I can offer is to always keep in mind that online conversations CAN and WILL cross over, no matter how separate you try and keep them. Being comfortable with this mingling I part of being a good social technology user. That assume that everything you write, every comment, every post, every picture, unless it’s being shared over email to someone you trust, has the possibility of becoming very public. I might have something unconstructive to say about someone or something but, unless I’m prepared to put my name behind it (like a bad review of a product/service/company), I’m not going to type it out and post it.

Keeping in mind that your online life is, for the most part, entirely public offers you a chance to show a unique side of yourself. Not many people want to hire an automaton and, if they do, you’re probably doing yourself a favor by scaring them off with your fun personal life. My humor and personality and creativity flows through a lot of what I do and that makes me a gerat person to work with if you’re interested in doing something interesting, trying something new, or pushing the boundaries a little bit. I see the sum of my personal and professional interactions online as a vibrant, intimate resume that goes far beyond what I can compile in a PDF.

So, to summarize:

  • Keep it positive and productive
  • Treat everything online as though everyone can read/see it
  • Make it work to your advantage

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