You are actively managing your career and know that social media can be a great way to get noticed by hiring influencers. You want to establish your reputation as a professional, and as an industry expert. However, you already have accounts on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter…and those profiles were established for personal use and you don’t want to lose that connection with friends and family. How do you balance personal vs. professional use of social media?
There are two ways to handle this online duality. You can preserve existing social media accounts as purely private and personal, and establish new profiles for your career and professional use. Or, you can start over with all new accounts that serve both purposes.
Limit access to the personal, and create new professional accounts.
There are three options here, and you should pick the one that seems best for you.
- Change your name on your personal-use social media profiles. Use a nickname, maiden name, or an alias (Michael Smith could go by Mike Smith or Big Mike. As an alias, he could use Jane’s Mike. Or Mike-loves-Jane. There’s 1,001 possibilities.). Once you have changed the names on your old personal-use profiles, create new accounts for professional use under your full name. This is a great option if you’re just beginning your career or if you expect to change industries in the future, or don’t mind being a little silly on your personal profiles.). Invite business contacts to your professional-use accounts.
- Leave your current name on your personal-use profiles, but open new professional profiles with your industry or profession after the name (Michael Smith could keep his old Facebook profile, and add “Michael Smith, Insurance” or “Michael Smith Actuary”). This option is for those who are sure they’ll stay in their field/industry for many years to come. Most social media platforms put a limit on how many times you can change or edit your name.
- Decide that one platform is for personal use, and the rest are for professional use. Deflect professional contacts away from your “friends and family” platform and toward LinkedIn and any other “professional” platforms you choose to use for work. You’ll have to contact any colleagues in your friends list about your change in social media strategy if you want to transition them from the personal to the professional medium. This option is best for those who already choose not to add work contacts to one particular social media platform, as no matter how practical the strategy, it’s inescapably rude to move someone out of the friend-zone and into the professional-zone.
Note: With any of these 3 options, you’ll need to change your privacy settings on your personal social media accounts/profiles to the most private available, including changing the privacy settings on the photos. This prevents search engines from pointing to your personal-use profiles or platforms. After changing the privacy levels, search your name to find your own public posts and tags on other people’s photos of you. Decide whether to remove/change privacy on your posts and their tags. This limits what anyone who isn’t on your friends list can see. For Twitter, you can “protect” all your tweets and limit who can see them to friends-only (be aware, if you later change your privacy settings to public again, ALL tweets become public – from first to last).
Start over with all-new public accounts that work for both personal and professional use.
This may be the simplest of options. Here’s how to make it as fast and simple as possible.
- Save your photos from your current personal account(s)/profile(s).
- Make a list of contacts you want to be sure to retain. A screen shot of each page of your contact list is an easy way to do this.
- Choose the name you’ll be using on your profile(s). Ideally, it should match your resume and your LinkedIn.
- Make an announcement of the changeover on your social media platforms. You may also want to use any “instant message” features to send every contact on your list that same announcement.
- Change the name on your existing profiles. Sometimes the software balks at letting two users have the same name, even if one deletes the old account first (which you don’t want to do.).
- Create new profile(s)/account(s) under your real name, see #3. Fill the profile(s) in as completely as possible, adding professional information wherever you can. Choose the personal information you upload very carefully.
- Use a professional headshot or a photo of you in your professional role.
- Load any photos which are appropriate for the new dual-use account(s). Save the rest for personal use on your computer or storage medium.
- Add your contacts, using your screenshots/list as a guide.
- Post another announcement about the impending closure on your old account(s), and a welcome on your new one(s).
- Delete the old account(s).
- Begin using the new one(s).
Note: Some platforms resist closure or deletion of accounts. This is one of the reasons for the direction to change the name on the old account(s). If you run into this issue, simply change the privacy settings on your posts, photos, etc., to “Only Me” or “Friends Only” and delete your friends list.
Why not simply use existing accounts and profiles for both personal and professional contacts?
You can, but chances are, your casual personal style doesn’t match your consummate professional presentation. If it does, great! Go for it. It presents a certain amount of risk, but only you can decide if that risk is worthwhile. What risk? Cousin Jimmy may dig up that photo of you that should NEVER see the light of day again, and post it on one of your accounts as a joke. Or that angry post about Manulife 10 years ago may come back to haunt you during an interview for their Board. Recent accounts are easy to “clean up” by removing material that could look unprofessional. Older accounts may not be worth the amount of time it could take. Only you know how you want to manage your social media.