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Amy Sample Ward 6 min read

Guide to Personal and Professional Branding

Who are you friends with on Facebook? Do you care who sees where you check in on FourSquare? Last week, Farra Trompeter of Big Duck and Danielle Brigida of National Wildlife Federation presented at the Bridge Conference last week about personal and professional branding. In preparation for their presentation, they circulated a survey to over 200 nonprofit professionals, asking how they use various social platforms. The responses lean towards a reality in which our online presence is just as diverse as our offline personalities - people are connecting with a mix of others on difference platforms.

Are you mixing your personal and professional self online? Here are some helpful tips to keep you on your own message:

Use privacy options to your advantage! "72% of the 209 respondents describe their approaches to personal/professional use of social media as either 'blended' or 'segmented by channel'." Facebook friends aren't created equal; or, rather, Facebook gives you the options to treat your friends differently. Use the functionality in the system to ensure you can share as much as you like, with the people you want to see it. Create lists so that you can easily add people as you connect with them, and set your privacy settings to some secure options like none of your photos or photos that you are tagged in are visible to people in your "work only" list. Similarly, Google+ allows you to filter general actions or content as well as post-by-post content to certain groups.

Set your own tone! According to Farra and Danielle's survey respondents, Twitter is the top three platforms for both personal and professional use. Twitter doesn't provide much room for a bio, but be sure to squeeze in a statement that "the views expressed here are my own" (or however you'd like to phrase it in your own way!). You can include a disclaimer in all of your profiles, actually! Additionally, on Facebook or any other social platform, you may want to include an explicit statement about who you want to connect with and how. For example, you could include a statement that says your personal friends are encouraged to make a friend request but that all professional contacts should subscribe to public posts - or whatever your preferred options are.

Be a social recommender! "Almost everyone uses LinkedIn, but hardly anyone asks for recommendations with any regularity (despite the fact that your LinkedIn profile is one of the top results for your name in Google)." The social Web is social because we are all humans, connecting and talking with each other. And it is the Web because we are connected and networked across and around the world. Don't be shy: Ask for a recommendation, and give one to someone else! Think of it as the social media version of a good deed or social capital investments.

Choose your own path! "Most people tend to favor using blogs and LinkedIn 'professionally' and Foursquare, Google+, and Instagram 'personally'." Do you love taking photos of your kid (also known as the worlds cutest kid, I know!)? Not sure you want to overwhelm your professional network every evening with more photos of her cute face? You don't have to mix your channels! You can keep that flickr account or Instagram profile private and shared with just your family and closest (photo-tolerant) friends. Even if you are a social media manager or a social tech lover, you can still claim profiles and platforms as purely personal or professional, especially if it means you enjoy the connections and content that much more. After all, some of this is supposed to be for fun, right?

I'd love to hear what you think about the results of Farra and Danielle's survey: do you mix your profiles or use some for only personal or professional purposes? What are your tips for keeping them straight and managing your personal presence online?