Have you ever made a slight faux pas on Facebook? Been tactless on Twitter?
Quite honestly it would surprise me if you have not. I know I certainly have.
If you are showing any kind of personality in your writing, then I would guess that you have also expressed an opinion, shared a personal detail, or made an observation too far.
I mean the kind of thing that you wish you hadn’t said at a networking meeting, or at a dinner party, but it’s too late, it is out there.
In conversation it is easier to soften the comment with facial expressions and body language, or to follow with humour to lighten the moment – ‘Oops, did I really say that out loud? Sorry, that didn’t really come out quite right!’
But it’s more difficult once it has been released into the ether on your social media pages. Of course you can delete it from your stream, but you can never truly delete it, and in any case it may have already been seen. And it could already have caused offence.
Unfortunately it sometimes takes a while to think better of that comment you felt justified in making at the time.
My advice? Show personality, but don’t get personal.
Consider what you want your social media presence to be.
- Use a photo that people will connect with, preferably a professional headshot, not overly formal, but not a snap taken in the pub!
- Write your bio to convey who you are, not just what you do.
- Free-writing as you speak allows your personality to show through, just learn to tailor this to the chosen media, and the character limitations.
- Be true to your brand, but don’t spout advertising speak, or corporate jargon, and find your own way to stay ‘on message’ with personality.
- Remember the ubiquitous 80:20 rule. Keep it 80% business, and 20% conversation. People like to engage in the same way as they would over a cup of coffee away from their busy desk for a small part of their working day.
- Listen to what your online community are saying, and join in the conversation with a helpful comment. Listening enables you to assess what sort of contribution would be welcome from you.
- Be authentic, and it won’t be too difficult to know what to say, in the right tone.
- Share some of your life and observations to show your personality, but keep clear boundaries.
- Set your own boundaries in advance. What are you prepared to share to show personality, and what should remain personal to you and your nearest and dearest?
- My personal boundaries say it is okay to Tweet about a great restaurant experience, but not to post a picture of my partner eating his dinner.
- Those conversations that you would avoid having at a business networking event are probably best avoided on social media too.
- Unless your ‘business’ is religion or politics, these hot topics are best avoided as they are, by nature, inflammatory to someone.
- Try not to make personal comments about anybody, except to compliment them.
- Remember that humour can be misunderstood – nobody can see the cheeky grin that accompanies the slightly edgy comment, so play it safe.
- It’s probably best not to post when upset with anybody, as even if you are right, you may not come across as rational in that heated moment.
- If your personality/personal boundaries are quite relaxed, remember your posts need to be appropriate to your audience, who may have drawn those lines in a different place.
There are of course some ‘celebrity’ social media accounts whose success is due to the personal nature of their posts. But this in itself reflects their brand.
If this is not your brand message, then show personality, but don’t get personal.