Being Professional in an Online World

Coffee and notepad for the professional online

As a member of the digital marketing industry, my online persona is as important to me as my offline persona. So it’s key for me to be professional online without being robotic or dull. Who can forget the HUGE online blunder of PR professional Justine Sacco? That one unfortunate tweet destroyed her reputation and fundamentally changed her life.

It took a lot of consideration for me to start blogging. Time was a major player, but a secondary issue was my concern regarding my online persona. No one wants to read a boring, soulless blog, but on the flip side, I’m not keen on sharing my dirty laundry with the world, or worse causing upset to someone.

Social media is part of my daily routine. I use it to catch-up with industry trends, as well as to share my own insights. I also like to interact with friends and colleagues online too. But I draw the line between gossiping with friends over a glass of wine and sharing on social media. If I really want a frank and honest conversation with a trusted online friend I’ll Skype them.

Digital marketing personas, professional bloggers, and social media gurus all need to be conscious of their interaction online. So how can you ensure that you give the right impression?

If you can't be professional online why not use this gorgeous gold phone

Being Professional Online Whilst Still Being Human

  • Think of the online world as your digital office.
    You wouldn’t yell insults at a colleague¬†across a desk, so don’t do the same to another social media user. If you have an issue that needs resolving, contact them privately. And for goodness sake never screenshot a private conversation and share it online. It will not be well received.
  • Have a sense of humour, but be cautious of ironic humour, especially if it could be construed as offensive.
    When Justine wrote her tweet, it was an attempt at ironic satire of the privileged¬†attitude. It went down like a lead balloon. Irony does not translate well in text. It requires facial expression and vocal tone. So unless you can be absolutely clear that you are being ironic, don’t even bother trying.
  • Don’t bite off the hand that feeds.
    People are replaceable. It goes without saying that you don’t slag off your boss online, EVER, but further to this, don’t insult people in your industry. If you start ranting on social media about how all PR executives are awful (which, by the way, they aren’t – my PR colleagues are awesome) then don’t expect to be getting any outreach opportunities any time soon.
  • Respect those who’ve been in the industry longer than you.
    These people have the type of knowledge you can benefit from. I love getting tips online from digital marketing experts who’ve been in the industry for a long long time. Don’t shrug off online advice – you may need it some day.
  • Share but don’t overshare.
    Being professional online still allows you to share your personality, but there are somethings you just don’t need people to know about. I love to share husky photos on Twitter, but you’ll never hear about the ins and outs of my marriage!
  • Above all, be nice, respectful, and considerate of others.
    Gain a reputation for being a great person to interact and work with and your professional online persona will soar!

Think Before You Share

One of the best social media tips I ever heard from during the early days of Facebook. A good friend of mine made her mother sign up to Facebook and added her as a friend. When we all asked why she would want to do this (it seemed ludicrous to us early 20-somethings) she simply said, “If I don’t want my mum to read it, I shouldn’t be sharing it”. Don’t share something you wouldn’t be happy for your mum to read.

I’d suggest taking this another step, don’t share something you wouldn’t want your boss and/or colleagues to read. Because chances are they’ll find it somehow!

Any thought on your own professional online persona? Have you ever made a blunder, or are you as cautious as they come? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list for future updates.