Professional or personal

Nov 02, 2016 · 3 min read

Not that long ago, when social media was still considered as a very new and unknown thing, businesses were scared about it. As I interviewed representatives of big companies for my thesis about social media in b2b marketing, it was a recurring theme. They didn't know what to do, they didn't want to be the first ones to test things, they didn't want to share the business secrets, they didn't want to appear unprofessional. Social media, the big unknown, had an aura of unprofessionalism.

Professional or personal -- Mervi Emilia

Times have changed. These days, if a business doesn't utilise social media it's making a huge mistake. Blogging has became a profession, something which pays bills of those who have lucked out with monetising it. Company without a website is a company set to a failure. People, who 20 years ago didn't find a need for emailing, are sharing photos of their children on Facebook daily basis. The Internet is an essential part of life and work.

For those who are shopping for jobs, selling products and services, setting up businesses, or just interested in sharing ideas, the online world offers a challenge. While sharing is so easy, creating a blog doesn't require knowledge in HTML, and social media is being used during work and out of the office, the choice between being professional or being personal can't be ignored. It appears to be one or another. Be professional or be personal.

People and businesses are desperately trying to be professional, and at the same time build interest. Day after day they notice they've been beaten by cat pictures and funny gifs. This has lead to many to go full on unprofessional. Especially notable this has been with the decay in journalism, when popularism and shock value has trumped the research and sense. Professional is boring. Unprofessional is fun and personable and shareable and creates clicks. I understand the misunderstanding.

That's where the best ones thrive. Those who create sales, build strong online presences, and find new jobs. They do both.

It's not really a question of one or another. Even businesses can, and often should, go with mixing professional with personal. That's how most people use the Internet. On the other hand, we use it for personal and fun stuff. On the other hand, we use it for professional and serious stuff. Very often you jump from paying bills in online bank to having personal conversation on Facebook to sending a work email to posting an Instagram photo about your lunch to buying things you need for your business to buying cosmetics. Not necessarily exactly like this, but as an example.

Today, if you don't have a wide and, at least partially, personal online footmark, you appear suspicious. Too impersonal, and you will emit an image of make believe. You probably are a spammer or a scammer.

As a matter of a fact, without personal you will not present yourself as a professional. Professional requires trust. Trust requires knowing who you are. I don't know what you look like. How can I trust you are the person you say you are? I don't know your values. How can I know if you will not betray me?

Trust is the keyword here. Trust leads to sales and clients. And people online have learned not to trust cold, impersonal sales talks.

When you look at those who have built successful businesses online or with the help of the Internet, you notice they mix personal and professional. They tell about their lives, the good and the bad. They tell how they struggle with depression, they tell about their families, they tell about the high points of their lives. They show their faces, usually as the first thing you see on their sites and profiles. You know them by their name, you know personal details, you know who they are.

And still, those same people manage to maintain a professional appearance. They ask you to like their Facebook pages, not friend their personal accounts. (Like my page, by the way.) They are friendly and personal, but also give an impression of being professionals of their chosen fields.

It's about finding a balance. The same way as you balance with being a person with a job and being a person with a life outside the job, you can balance your online presence between professional and personal.

There's no choice between professional or personal with your online presence. To have a great online presence, choose both.

Do you trust online presences, which lean only to professional and impersonal? Do share your thoughts in the comments section.


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