How Professional Should Social Voice Be?

A few months ago I decided to be more active in social media from a professional perspective. I’m already active on a social basis and I use networks like Facebook and Instagram to communicate with my friends and family on a regular basis. However, I decided that I should have more of a professional presence as well. So I revived my twitter handle and started tweeting, I started sharing more professional articles and links on LinkedIn and I even restarted blogging, as you can see if you’re reading this.

Within these new channels (Twitter, LinkedIn and Blog) I’ve focused on being professional. I share articles about product management and social media, I retweet shares from people in my industry and I share updates on hiring and open reqs. Which is all fine and well, except it’s boring the hell out of me, and I suspect it’s boring the hell out of my readers too.

Why?  Because It’s BORING!

Who wants to read endless articles about social media except other social media professionals who are sharing their own articles about social media? Who wants to read endless articles about product management except other product managers who already know all this crap? Honestly, it seems like a gigantic echo chamber in which we (the professionals) are both author and audience. We don’t produce anything new, we don’t provide anything useful, we just repeat the same things over and over hoping that people think we sound cool.

So I’ve been struggling with the question of just how professional my professional presence needs to be on social media. Should I keep it clean and strictly business or can I include the occasional shout out to my friends and the occasional check in at the gym?

Looking Around

I proceeded to do my research along two different avenues.  First, I looked at social accounts that I really enjoyed reading.

Observation

When I look at these accounts I notice that they’re the ones with their own unique voice. They’re the ones talking about social media but also their dog. They’re the ones who share links to cool articles from their professional niche but also cool links to the latest sci-fi movie trailers they’re really excited about. Their links are more credible because I know they’re using Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn to authentically communicate with me as opposed to pitch me some marketing crap. The articles they link out are the ones they thought were worth linking, not just twitter link bait.

I did notice that on “open” channels (which is pretty much every social network except Facebook), the accounts I like are relatively clean. They don’t include the usual desperate cries for attention, passive aggressive nonsense or drunken ramblings that you’ll frequently see on Facebook. Even the non professional posts are still clean enough to keep me thinking of the account owner as a person I might one day enjoy working with as opposed to a hot mess.

Experimentation

My second avenue of research was experimentation.  Using Buffer’s excellent app, I’ve been looking at how well my social accounts are doing when I’m being more or less professional.  The first two weeks I did nothing but share professional links.  Result?  Almost no interactions and my audience/ Klout score shrank.  The second two weeks I mixed in some personal notes with the professional ones.  I included links to things I found interesting even if they weren’t related to my job.  I also added my own comments to the professional links I was sharing.  Result?  About 10,000% more interactions with my audience (which sounds like a lot but really isn’t since my interactions in the first two weeks were almost zero), a growing audience and 2 points higher on Klout (yes, I know, pretty meaningless but still ego boosting).

btn-orange-register-now.png

Sooo….

Which brings me back to my original question, just how professional does my professional social presence need to be? I will now go ahead and state my grand conclusion as “Gal’s Theorem for Acceptable Social Behavior For Professionals” or GTA-SBFoP.

My social presence should be personal enough to show people who I am, professional enough to show them that I know what Im talking about when it comes to work topics, varied enough so that even non social media product managers find something interesting in it and clean enough that some future CEO or VC doesn’t look at it and think “whoa! Let’s find someone else”.

  • Personal enough – This means that posting about my interests such as dogs, hiking and food is ok. The occasional family pic is also awesome. I want people to know me as more than an empty twitter handle.
  • Professional enough – This means that many of the links I will post are indeed about product management, start ups, social media and high tech. That’s fine because that’s the world I live in. However, these should be links I truly found useful and not just shared to fulfill my Twitter quota for the day. Also, where possible, I should include my own personal opinion on the link and not just an empty reshare. That last one is important. It turns me from reshare device that no one cares about to curator and moderator who adds value to the conversation.
  • Varied enough – This means I should just post articles about product management, start ups, social media and high tech. I should also post articles about immigration reform, consumer products, books and movies if I find them interesting. I love discovering new content this way and I think my readers do too. Plus content from other fields is the best way to get new ideas for your own field.
  • Clean enough – If it’s something that my mother might call me about later and say “I can’t believe you said that!” then I probably shouldn’t post it anywhere other than Facebook.

As a corollary to GTA-SBFoP, I would like to add my “Facebook is for friends” rule. Which I am about to go implement by unfriending multiple colleagues who I don’t share any connection with other than the professional one. Sorry guys, you can still follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn and the only things you’ll miss are my occasional movie review of “Sharktopus” and my endless puns. No big loss there.