One of the most frustrating conversations surrounding social media is the role which online transparency plays in our lives. This refers to the question of ‘how much is too much‘ when judging what to share and what not to share online and it’s probably something you’ve discussed with parents, teachers, or employers at some point in your lifetime.

What’s frustrating about a topic like this isn’t the fact that it plays such a role in determining your success as a potential candidate, intern, or person. What’s actually frustrating is the fact that much of literature or advice taken as common knowledge is actually a little skewed from the truth.

But, don’t worry. I’m here to set a few things straight…

Let’s be real…

There’s a difference between your professional and personal personas. The way you interact with coworkers is different from the way you’d interact with family members and it’s sometimes removed from the way you’d interact with close friends. In general, we live in a world where professionalism is defined by your ability to censor yourself and adhere to strict-ish guidelines for behavior. Many workplaces are working to redefine what professionalism means but the fact that so many people manage personal and professional social media profiles (and have been informed to do so) is symptomatic of the bigger issue.

So let me be clear: If you’re alright with keeping those two personas separate and with trying to manage a consistent voice on, not one, but two representations of yourself, then by all means – keep on trucking! But, for many of us, that kind of reality is just a little frustrating. It raises the question: Is this really how it has to be? I mean, managing one version of yourself is hard enough, let alone managing two presumably separate portrayals of yourself.

Plus, in many cases, one version winds up lacking in content and substance… and it’s almost always the professional version.

‘Professional’ Personas are Boring

Recent studies have shown that employers are unsatisfied with the information available through a candidate’s LinkedIn account. It’s a solid start for getting to know the nitty-gritty of someone’s professional experience but fails to go beyond much more than a living resume. And having done a study on the design philosophy of LinkedIn and its placement in the larger social media sphere, I can tell you that it’s… not great. But you probably already knew that.

On average, the typical LinkedIn user logs in maybe once a week, checks their growing network, scrolls through one or two posts, and calls it a day. There’s little engagement between users and, as such, the site has become a soundboard for egos, self-promotion, and industry-driven conversation. This is beneficial for those looking to discuss their professional efforts but is largely unsatisfying for the large percentage of the population seeking to be more than a job description. So, in this case, LinkedIn fails to paint a robust picture of who you are.

Which is why employers are not looking at your LinkedIn. At least not at first.

Research shows that a large percentage of employers are looking at your Facebook as a first resource, followed by your Twitter and Instagram. A significant amount of employers gloss over one’s LinkedIn account altogether.

Employers want to see authenticity. They want to know who the real you is and they want something more constructive or informative than an online resume, some highly censored/intentional communication, and a vanilla-flavored online presence. They’re becoming more aware of the value of having a rich online presence and the value of finding employees who exemplify truthfulness in who they are.

In short: They’re less interested in separate personas than they are in one complete picture of who a person is.

But how do I balance one image?

The short answer: You don’t.

The long answer: You follow a few rules for online communication and you embrace the value that your weird self has to bring to a company.

Am I saying to ditch LinkedIn entirely? Of course not – we live in a world where that’s not an easy claim to make. Instead, I’m suggesting that you stop by my digital branding workshops next week so I can explain this point a bit further and provide some thinking points to get you started in the right direction.

(Or, if you’re unable to attend, stay tuned for a follow-up post to this conversation surrounding Digital Branding.)

Regardless, it’s time to reclaim your identity… your way.

RSVP for one of Anders’ Digital Branding Workshops next week:

March 20th, 2pm – 3pm

March 21st, 4pm – 5pm

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