Monday, April 19, 2010

How I balance personal & professional on Twitter

One of my nicer compliments for a personal tweet,
 from Karen Malone Wright
I use social networks for personal as well as professional reasons, and have been trying to do so without restricting who sees what--in part to show my clients that it's possible, in part because I want to be the same person in work, in real life and in social networks. Twitter is where I get the most questions (and compliments) about how I balance my posts between the personal and the professional, although I try to follow the same path on other sites.  Here, at the request of many fellow tweeters, are the tactics I use to guide my balancing act:
  1. Don't be afraid to share personal details and perspective:  Despite the arch implication by this New York Times reporter that people don't think before they post on Twitter, I hear from plenty of folks who think too much about much so, they don't dare share anything personal.  Just as you share some personal information in the office or at networking events--your golf game, family vacations or pictures, big life events, what you thought about the big game, what you're doing this weekend--you can expand our view of you online, as well.  We're ready for you.
  2. Think through what to leave out:  In my Twitter posts, you will not read about disagreements with clients, bad dates, my location at any given moment, or how bored I am in this meeting. I withhold plenty of personal (and professional) information without hesitation, since my work world is part of this scene.  All the usual limits apply here, so if information is confidential or should be, leave it out...and figure out where you'll draw your boundaries so you are comfortable.  Then, step out of them a bit.
  3. Pick--and stick to--a few personal topics:  The trick to interleaving your posts with personality, I've found, is to select a few personal topics about which you're passionate.  Those who follow me on Twitter often read about what I'm preparing for dinner or recipes that catch my eye, my progress with guitar lessons, a little about my travel, the art projects I'm working on and music I'm listening to or excited about.  But you might love dogs, row competitively, see interesting things on your walk home from work through a big city, or be on a quest to find the best barbecue within 100 miles, with tips to share. Tell us about it.  Choosing a few topics, and tweeting about them regularly, gives people the chance to follow you in a different way. Make yourself "sticky" and memorable.
  4. Make sure you're adding value in general:  Having a good reputation for sharing quality information of your own, balanced with shared posts from others, makes you an MVP on Twitter. When you add the spice of real-life topics, you've got me hooked.
  5. Don't try too hard to be personally perfect.  Sharing a tweet that says "I'm writing team memos at midnight and loving it!" or "Basking in the warm glow of all the compliments from today's highly successful panel discussion at the Very Important Networking Group Luncheon" are not the candid, personal tweets I'm talking about.  Try not to try so hard.  As I've said before, you can't be Mary Poppins in social media.  Trust me on this:  Your relentless parade of professional accomplishment reads as, well, just plain relentless.  Show us the human in there.  It's called "social" media, so be sociable.
  6. Be ready and responsive when people react:  Just as in real life, sharing some details about your interests will spark conversations and reactions.  Don't crawl back into your turtle shell when this happens! Instead, ask about the other person's perspective, and find out more about what makes them tick on this topic.  I've done that, and now I know who all my guitar-playing, cooking, art-making, traveling clients are. Expect that people will be genuinely interested. Be open to their interest.
  7. Engage your followers on your non-work topics:  As part of my exploration of learning guitar, I took a road trip to the Martin Guitar factory last summer...and asked my Twitter followers to suggest songs I could put together for an ultimate guitar playlist for the trip, which resulted in 4 CDs of songs.  And many nights, my "what I'm making for dinner" post results in a recipe request or inspires another home cook among my tribe. Engaging followers on the personal side helps cement relationships
You can find me on Twitter as @dontgetcaught.  How do you balance personal and professional on Twitter and other social networking sites?

Related posts:  United's deft hand with social media

You can't be Mary Poppins in social media: Why you gotta be willing to suck

Your infinite variety in social media

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