Social Media Online; Separating Personal from Professional

By
Services for Real Estate Pros with CyberSunshine, Inc.


Social media a new set of internet tools that enable shared community experiences, both online and in person.  As social media gains more popularity among all generations, many people are using the internet for both personal and professional reasons.  It’s a great idea to use the internet for your profession, however much like in life, it’s always best to separate your personal life from your professional life.  Social media is one example where this is crucial.

Social media is quickly becoming one of the fastest, most effective ways to network.  It can be extremely beneficial to connect and network with friends and business associates.  Many people have reconnected with people they haven’t seen in quite some time, which can be quite fun.  Sites like Facebook and MySpace can become virtual class and family reunions that allow you to share and collaborate with people you may not see that often. 

At the same time, social media can also be a great way to network professionally with business associates and clients.  Many real estate agents have begun using social media websites to network themselves with other business professionals and prospects.

Utilizing social media can be extremely effective. You build relationships with people through sharing and collaboration. The drawback is that you can find yourself sharing information that you didn’t expect- or showing your business associates and potential clients a side of you that might be less than flattering.  It’s important to remember that people may judge you not only by your behavior but by those with whom you associate.  Remember that on many social media sites, you can’t always control what other people post about you or themselves.  Your clients and prospects might not find that photo of you with friends drinking at the bar and being silly all that humorous or professional.  You can’t control what others say and do online. That’s why it’s crucial to always keep your online personal and professional life separate.

Keeping your personal and professional life separate as much as possible can be difficult when your business associates become your friends. However, if you want to use social media as a way to network with clients, you must be very skilled at navigating these tricky waters.  Your clients and business associates gain a first impression from you based on your initial contact, regardless if it was in person. That means if they ‘meet’ you online in a social media site like Facebook or MySpace, your profile page will be their first impression.  Make sure that whatever social media site you utilize that you can control the settings – you want to be able to decide who gets to see your information and what they can post.  Your friend from college might think it’s funny to post that story about your past party escapades, but your potential clients might not find it quite so intriguing.

If you wish to use a site like Facebook, setup a profile for your personal friends and family, and setup a separate one for your persona as a business professional. A word of caution! Facebook terms of use clearly state, “the Service and the Site are available for your personal, non-commercial use only”.  Do not use a Facebook personal profile page to promote or recruit for your company.  You can use it to talk about what you’re doing, accomplishments, answer client questions, post photos and more, but if you use it too much as an advertisement, Facebook may contact you and you could have your profile shut off.  If you wish to promote your company, utilize “Facebook Pages”.  Facebook Pages are special profiles used solely for commercial, political, or charitable purposes.  You can create a page for your company under your own profile login to make administrating it easy. You can also add other members of your company as admins.  There are a varitey of tools you can use on these pages that have been created specifically for business ues. I’ll cover how to utilize social media for your business in a later post.


To create a professional social media profile, here are some do’s and don’ts:

DO:


1.    Post personal information about yourself, but keep it professional.  Use a professional head shot for your profile photo.  Stay away from using photos that portray you casually.  Remember this is a professional representation of you- make sure that you’re portraying yourself appropriately. 

2.    Include relevant information that would connect you with another individual’s personal experiences.  Where you grew up, went to school, perhaps whether or not you’re married and for how long, how many children you may have and any places you’ve traveled is all fair game for a professional profile.  Other people identify with groups you may belong to- alumni groups are a great way to create a personal connection.  * Warning! Keep it brief! Don’t bore everyone with too many personal details.  Keep it only to that information you would share in a business networking situation.

3.    Post professional accomplishments, acknowledgements and designations you have achieved. This is a chance to let everyone know your true credentials. Do not, under any circumstances, embellish your accomplishments!  Even though it may be tempting, it’s very easy to verify the truth online.  If you’re caught lying about your credentials, you lose all credibility forever.  Be honest, and if you feel your profile needs more “fluff” go out and actually achieve the accomplishments you desire.

4.    Post photos that portray you engaging in appropriate activities and refrain from posting too many. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself whether or not you’d hang the photo(s)on the wall in your office.

5.    Post information about your company or your industry experience.  Where the business is located, how you got your start, and where you are today are all great points.  Include contact information and your website.

6.    Post your professional news. This is your chance to get the word out about what you’re doing lately.  Announce a new client/listing, a recent sale, and recent accomplishments.  Brag about your successes and achievements- this is your chance!

7.    Keep current clients and potential clients informed about changes in your industry or your business practices. If you’re now offering title insurance, or you just partnered with a great banker, get the word out on your profile page. It might just prompt someone to contact you!

8.    Use “status updates” as a way to show how busy you are.  Let people know you just updated your website or posted to your blog.  Include a link.

9.    Join networks that are specific to your area and profession. These can be great ways to connect with others who share your interests; a great starting point for business relations.

10.    Connect with clients by posting relevant information to their profile pages; let your clients know you sold a property in their area, or market conditions that affect them. They’ll appreciate the real-time updates and insider information they get from you first hand.

DON’T:


1.    DON’T inundate your contacts with ‘special requests’ (like sending someone a shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day or silly quizzes, etc.) Remember much of what you do on these sites gets emailed to your contacts when you do it. If you annoy your contacts with a constant barrage of irrelevant items, they’ll start treating you like they treat their spam email…they’ll delete you!

2.    DON’T try to friend people just to gain as many contacts as you can and don’t send people you don’t know your other contacts unless they have indicated they are interested in them.  If you suggest friends to other people, make sure you genuinely feel they might know them or benefit from knowing them. It’s irritating to get friend requests from people you don’t know and are not interested in knowing. Keep your profile page relevant and personal. Make sure you are communicating with people who will actually find your information relevant to them.

3.     DON’T use status updates to show how mundane your life is.  No one cares that you just did the dishes or that you just watched American Idol.

4.     DON’T talk about your love life. It is unprofessional to air your ‘dirty laundry’ to professional business contacts. “Hook ups” and break ups are off limits and whatever you do, don’t talk about your relationship problems!

5.    DON’T put someone else down. Keep it professional and above board. If you wouldn’t say it to everyone you’ve ever known or talked to, then don’t say it online.

6.    DON’T put other companies, previous employees, agents or anyone else down or use social media to slander others. It’s poor business practice and only makes you look unprofessional. This is your chance to shine; don’t waste your precious time on making others look bad.

7.    DON’T forget that everything you do online is traceable.  Make sure that whatever you say or do remains professional. You very often can’t take back things that are said and done online.

8.    DON’T post photos of you in compromising situations. Refrain from posting photos of you partying, drinking, or engaging in any illegal or questionable activity.  It only takes one unsavory photo to ruin your reputation forever. If you wouldn’t give it to the media, don’t put it online.

9.    DON’T use your social media outlets just to connect with other real estate professionals. Use it as a way to connect with clients and potential clients as well. Offer them valuable information and they’ll keep coming back for more.  Encourage referrals!

10.    Finally…never, EVER joke about engaging in illegal or dishonest activities or business practices online in either your personal or professional profile. As social media catches on, more employers and business associates will utilize social media to find out information about you. Though it can be a successful business tool, it can also be detrimental if you make a wrong move.  Make sure that whatever you post online you’re prepared to defend.


Once you have setup your professional social media sites online, there are a variety of ways you can use them to benefit your business.  I’ll cover that in a later post. Until then, happy socializing!

Comments (2)

Debra Cernick
DeShazer Ryan Realty - Libby, MT

Thank you for the great DO 's and Don't List.  The blog contained alot of information.

Apr 02, 2009 06:30 AM
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Cassandra - I enjoyed your Do's and Don'ts post.  For the most part I follow your ideas, but I think in trying to keep business and personal items seperated, sometimes one ends up with too sterile of a online identity.  Clients often relate to us as people, not just "Corporate Entities".  I think there's something to be said for letting it all hang out (although that's not my personal style).  Some of the most successful people are also the most controversial (Think Howard Stern, Anne Coulter, Bill Maher, Rush Limbaugh).  The controvery feeds their audience material that is very relatable and creates legions of loyal fans.  Just thought I'd throw counterpoint in there.  Thanks for your post!

Apr 02, 2009 07:09 AM