When Personal and Professional Branding Clash, Everybody Loses

Think about the last get together you had with a group of friends. Maybe you discussed sports, fashion, or the latest episode of your favorite reality TV show.

Now picture the last face-to-face meeting you had with your boss or a professor.

Did any of these topics come up in conversation? Probably not.

Social media allows friends, colleagues, clients, superiors, and millions of other interesting people to read and participate in the same dialogue. This hyper-connectedness presents a potential problem for social media users and employers who are both active in the digital space.

Authenticity is critical to success in social media. But there is a distinction between accurately representing your personal and professional self. Chats among friends, photos from parties and opinions about current news, politics, or other issues that appear on accounts used for both business and personal networking can make it difficult to distinguish professional commentary from personal conversation. This ambiguity can cost both employers and employees. Companies may suffer reputation damage, and employees may lose their accounts or even their jobs.

How can workers and companies coexist on social media? Consider making protected accounts for personal connections and public accounts for business-related news. If your company has a social media policy in place, follow it. Plain and simple.

The bottom line, think about this before you post something: if you were out to lunch with your employer and a client, would your post be an appropriate conversation starter? Unless your response is an emphatic “Yes!” think about keeping your views private. It could save your job.

The author of this article is Steve Murray (@PRbySteve), who is a 2010 Strategic Communications graduate of Elon University. His PR experience has included working for an agency and as a social media intern for a national nonprofit organization. Feeel free to e-mail him at stephen.murray99@gmail.com.

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2 comments on “When Personal and Professional Branding Clash, Everybody Loses

  1. Great post. What happens when your clients “friend” you? Traditionally, Facebook was for private/non-work social friends and events however if a client requests your friendship can you turn them down?

    Depending on the type of relationship that client is seeking (i.e.; to be your friend) I say no. So you limit your profile and hope for the best. Unfortunately, there may come a time when you forget to limit a photo album or a link/conversation on your wall lets them know a little more than you would like.

    The good news is, most employers if they are good about knowing their clients know that this could be an issue. They are willing to work with you to make the best of the situation and support you.

    Then again I am not talking about keg stands…so who knows.

    • Hi Laney,

      Thanks! You raise a great question about what to do when clients want to connect with accounts used for personal networking. I agree with you that it’s probably not a good idea to turn down a client’s request. As you said, it’s your own mistake if you don’t limit your sharing capabilities and spread information you didn’t intend to.

      You’re right about employers – most recognize the power of social media and the fact that most employees are active in the digital space and either have good SM policies for the company as a whole or are able to provide guidance for specific situations.

      Thanks for reading!

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