Thursday, May 17, 2012

How to be professional online

Many of us, particularly those of us over age 40, struggle with knowing what is "appropriate" to post online: everything we do is available to everyone.  Whether I post a tweet, to my facebook page, my LinkedIn page, or I comment on someone else's blog, that information is available to current colleagues, potential clients, my children, my neighbors, and anyone else who cares to notice.

I grew up in a generation that was taught to be careful what we discussed at work -- certain topics were clearly unprofessional (sex, religion, and politics were the big 3 no no's), while others we should gear toward our audience. I might discuss my garden with a colleague who also gardens, but I wouldn't discuss energy conservation with a colleague driving an SUV -- he'd view me as sanctimonious, which could hurt our future dealings.  Good old fashioned New England culture (like the Brits they came from) teaches that sometimes it's best to turn a blind eye to the differences between us.

So, do I write a rant about water use on my Facebook page, presumably a place only my friends would look, and keep my blog and twitter feeds focused on business?  That's been my practice, but I'm not sure it really matters given how whatever I write will show up in any search.

Allison Fine has some good advice for those of us who did not grow up believing it's best to share everything about ourselves with everyone in her article for the Harvard Business Review, "What Does 'Professional' Look Like Today?"

Here's a summary of her ideas: