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How to combine personal and professional online without pissing people off

How do you combine personal and professional online without pissing people off?

This guest post has been contributed by Monica O’Brien, author of the book Social Pollination: Escape the Hype of Social Media and Join the Companies Winning At It. Social Pollination provides a strategic blueprint that helps businesses leverage social media for crazy growth!

This is what Monica has to say:

Back in high school, one of my teachers told the class that he never had a glass of wine when he went out to dinner with his wife. It wasn’t because he didn’t drink, he said, but rather because if he were pulled over on the way home, a DUI would tarnish his reputation in the community and ruin his chances of becoming principal someday. I remember thinking, the guy never stops being a disciplinarian – an example for others. He never lets loose.

And I knew that day that I never wanted a profession where I couldn’t have a regular life after work.

10 years later, the entire world is doing exactly what my former teacher (now high school principal) did to manage his career. Nowadays, everyone has a personal brand – a way to demonstrate value to others quickly and succinctly. And everyone’s personal brand seems to combine professional pursuits with interests and hobbies, blending the traditional worker and his relationships into a 24/7 experience put on display for all to see.

And yet, there seems to be an ongoing war between the people who use social media for personal relationships and the people who use social media for business. The personal side looks at the others and says, “Man, stop selling your stuff to us, we just want to chat with each other and be cool,” and the business side replies, “Dudes, why are you investing so much effort – working so hard at this social media thing – if you can’t eventually feed yourself from it?”

I use my accounts for both personal and professional – but I know from the feedback I get that I have a “personal branding issue.” My clients complain that I tweet too much about things they don’t care about with people they don’t know. My friends who knew me before I was consulting complain that I’m not fun, that all I ever do is talk about what I’m reading and learning, and that I never share my personal stories on my blog anymore – the reason they initially subscribed.

Personal branding is a conundrum for most people – we don’t want to be boring or sales-ish or an expert and we don’t want to be wild or gossipy or strange, and the two words are unmashable, like trying to force two magnets with opposite charges to touch. There is no win, no way to talk to people in our personal and professional lives the same way.

But it has to be done, because there is also no way to separate our personal lives from our professional ones. So here are my thoughts on how to handle the issue:

Accept that social media is a marketplace.

Everyone has something to sell, even the cool kids. Maybe it’s a website – maybe they are trying to get a promotion at work. Maybe they are just trying to cure self-esteem issues with @replies and comments, or maybe they have a product that they want you to purchase. The sooner we all accept this, the better.

Use Twitter and Facebook and your blog to both sell stuff and to talk to friends.

People think they don’t want to be friends with anyone who is a salesperson. But nobody want to buy something from a robot, so part of personal branding is learning how to sell to your friends without damaging the friendship. I write about online marketing mostly, but not always – I sometimes write about eating chocolate before a work out, or Obama winning the Nobel Peace prize. I want to be friends with you, but I also want to tell you what I’m up to professionally.

Refrain from ranting on social media, even if you would in real life to your friends.

I don’t think the world is a better place when people say what they want, rather than what’s nice. I refrain from ranting not because I’m afraid of confrontation, but because some of my clients can find it – and I want them to trust me, not think I’m an insane person with a bad attitude who can’t control her emotions.

Realize it’s expensive to be flippant.

Like this writer I know, who writes about sex a lot. But she represents a company, and sometimes when she writes about sex one of the potential partner companies calls to pull out of a deal. Negative ROI, baby.

To end, I leave you with a great quote I found today:

“You might think that going for years without ‘pitching’ anything would endear you to your audience. But in fact, it tends to just make them cranky when you finally get around to asking for the sale.” ~ Sonia Simone

How do you combine personal and professional online?

Please share your thoughts and add your questions to the comments below. I’ll try to provide as many answers as possible in my future online videos, seminars, workshops, masterclasses and blog posts.

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