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Sweet tweetins: Balancing personal and professional on social media

Remember the collective freakout that happened once the world realized that employers could see what prospective employees posted on social media? All those pictures of young professionals making poor decisions vanished, along with their capslocked tweets about how they wished their bosses would die in car fires.

Unfortunately, a lot of people still struggle with striking a balance between professional and personal online. Some have made their personal accounts, still rife with rage tweets and drunk pics, private and “impenetrable.” Others have gone all professional all the time and have become, well, wooden and boring.

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Assuming you’re not barred from mixing personal and professional online(and if you are, you should negotiate a change in that policy and/or get a new job), I’ve whipped up some guidelines on the best way to do things.

DO: Curate. Know what’s more interesting than a daily picture of your dinner? Almost everything. Here’s a simple way to become the best aggregator on the block:

  1. Pick your niches and fly your nerd flag high. No one, not even your boss, is interested solely in the thing that pays the bills.
  2. Watch your RSS feeds. (If you don’t already consume media this way, repent and start subscribing.) 
  3. When you find an article, image, or video you love, share it. Then follow the links embedded in that piece—and the links embedded in those pieces—until you hit the end of the road, subscribing to every worthwhile-looking site along the way.

Congratulations. You are now well and truly tapped into what you care about, from the most hallowed sector blogs to the weird bowels of toy tattoo subculture. Soon you’ll dethrone Maria Popova.

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DON'T: Be a robot. You know how brands and organizations that focus on the human element of social media are the ones worth following? Surprise: same goes for actual humans. If you curate, post interesting things interestingly. Weave in commentary and pepper all the substance with peeks behind the curtain. Ideas: “what’s the best way to seek revenge on my firework-happy neighbors?” or “considering dying my hair a color that rhymes with murple.”

DO: Toot your own horn—in moderation. I know you’re a YNP and thus you create, accomplish, and participate in awesome stuff every day, but remember to pad those announcements with content a little less self-serving. No one likes people who surface from the offline ether just long enough to sing their own praises.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to toot your workplace’s horn. Your coworkers, board members, and future employers will appreciate that. And be sure to put these updates on LinkedIn, where sharing is built for horn-tooting as well as pieces on professional development. 

DON'T: Be a Negative Nancy. Social media is an easy outlet for frustration, especially when you’re in an environment where you’re required to be pleasant to unpleasant people. But if your bad days routinely translate into tweets, you’re in trouble. Communicating your aggravation with a rapier wit may redeem you among common folk, but the same tactic probably won’t work on employers (unless you happen to hate all the same things).

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DO: Interact. What are lists and circles for, if not interaction? Talk to your friends, future-friends, and non-celebrity heroes near and far. If they’re any good at social media, they’ll talk back. In the very least, have a list of IRL friends and connections to keep close to and a list of people whose radar you’d like to be on once the opportunity for a reply is ripe. Participate in Twitter chats and, if you must, get down with hashtags.

DON'T: Act like you're better than anyone else. This is the core of Minnesota nice. There’s not an endless well of kindness and generosity here so much as passive aggressive hostility toward snobs that keeps others in check. My born-and-bred Minnesotanness is undoubtedly showing when I advise you to not loudly tear people down or pick fights. It’s fun, but it’s not becoming.

And don’t, for the love of the Lords of Kobol, tweet your annoyances with coworkers or clients. No, using a codename doesn’t make a difference.

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So, there you have it—an easy guide to stopping being so tragically wooden without becoming the harbinger of your professional demise. (Or vice versa.) For the record, no one’s perfect, and I break my own rules more than I should.  But just like there is often no “perfect candidate” for a job, there’s no perfect personal Twitter feed on the horizon…yet.

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