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Sharpening Your Social Media Persona

Posted May 1, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Networking Buzz
There are hundreds of classes, seminars, webinars, teleseries, and events centered around learning how to effectively use social media for both personal and professional means. Anywhere you turn in today’s web 2.0 world, there is an “expert” purporting definitions and how to’s about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and even the lesser known Digg, Stumbleupon, Meetup, and more. And while some of these experts are experts, and some are not, you’ll hear a variety of metaphors used by these individuals to describe social media websites. My favorite is this one – if social media sites were events you might attend, Twitter would be a large cocktail party thrown by an acquaintance, Facebook would be a backyard barbeque with your family and closest friends, and LinkedIn is a business luncheon complete with suits and business cards.

Once you learn this clear delineation, it may seem easy to separate who your friends are on each site, and what part of yourself you might showcase in each individual area. Perhaps, then, you use Twitter to post interesting news in your industry or sector, Facebook to post photos of your children for grandparents to love and high school friends to be jealous of, and LinkedIn is where you connect with people who can help you get your next job or succeed in your current job. Until, of course, someone from work pops up in your “Friend Requests” on Facebook or someone in your personal life sends you an invitation on LinkedIn. Then what do you do?

More and more, we are developing a strange type of multiple personality disorder when it comes to our social networks, and one has to ask the question, “When are we compartmentalizing our lives so much we’re actually becoming inauthentic?” If you live on Twitter and constantly tweet news of your industry, but never allow your followers to get to know who you are, you’ll never have success with the platform. Conversely, if you spend your days uploading pictures of your kids on Facebook with little news about other areas of your life, eventually your friends will get sick of little Nicky’s smiling face. What’s most important in social media is authenticity, not division.

Some would argue that to combat this multiple personality disorder of sorts, we should move to a less privatized version of our social media networks. I disagree. I certainly don’t want my ex-boss or ex-husband perusing my Facebook page, and neither does anyone else. So I ensure my privacy there, but not on Twitter. What I’d advocate is not less separation, but more well-rounded personas on every medium.

A quick exercise to check your social media authenticity. Write on the top of a piece of paper these two words: “I am…” Then, list 10 one word descriptions. Take me, for example. I might write wife, daughter, entrepreneur, sister, aunt, writer, early-adopter, ambitious, yogi, and wine-snob. After you’ve made your list, take a glance at your last month of posts on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social media sites you frequent. Can you see all or most of those words in your posts? Or do you just see one or two?

If your Twitter just says “entrepreneur, entrepreneur, entrepreneur,” you’re not using it to the best of your ability. And if your Facebook just says, “mom, mom, mom, mom, mom,” you aren’t using it well either. Your social media profiles shouldn’t have multiple personality disorder, they should have authentic personality within them. Let your friends, acquaintances, and colleagues learn about you, trust you, and engage with you. You don’t need to sacrifice your privacy to ensure your authenticity. And trust me, if you spend your days showing your audience parts of yourself that are equally meaningful instead of one part that seems marketable, you’ll have a sharper persona online and in-person.

Take the metaphor of the cocktail party, backyard barbeque, and power luncheon with you as you create your social media personas. What things might you chat with your acquaintances, friends, and colleagues about at these events? Bring those with you to the web, and you’ll see growth, conversation, and increased engagement of your followers and friends. And that, my friends, is how you build a strong network that marries you and your brand, no matter your goals for social media.

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."