Recently, a young woman early in her career asked me a great question.
She’d spoken with a more experienced leader about the use of social media and was strongly advised to draw a distinct line between her personal and professional personas. Her bottom line? Facebook is personal and LinkedIn is for business.
Generally, I agree. But there are nuances.
When I meet LinkedIn connections in person, they say they feel like they know me. That’s because I’m open about my values, my perspectives and my experiences. Every now and then, beyond sharing commentary on culture and leadership issues, I’ll post something I’m personally struggling to understand. Or something I’m excited about. Or shout-out someone who inspires me. I don’t believe being professional requires abandoning the personal touch. In fact, I think the best leaders are effective because they embrace their humanity, and vulnerability and transparency are part of that journey. I’ve built a wonderful network on this platform by balancing the personal and professional. Each individual has to assess what’s right for her or him, but I thought I’d share the guidelines I abide by in case others have the same great question.
It’s okay to get personal on LinkedIn when…
1. You’re sharing a personal perspective on a business issue: “I personally think this business decision makes sense because…” or “I personally think this leadership crisis exists because…”
2. Your personal experience relates to your professional life: “I have struggled with (x) and it made me a better leader” or “I just achieved (y) – now my professional dream is that much closer!” or “My (partner) is my backbone. Without (him or her), I couldn’t do what I do.”
3. Your personal view or experience solidifies your credibility in your field: “I lost 500 pounds doing this; I’m a nutritionist!” or “Here’s a beautiful photo of me just hanging out; I’m a model!” or “This thing just happened in the civil rights arena, and I’m a writer/teacher/attorney/consultant who delves into civil rights.”
4. Your personal story benefits others professionally, even if indirectly: “Here is my human experience, and because we’re all human, it might inspire you” or “This is my fatherhood experience – many of us are also parents, so this might be relevant.”
5. Your business IS personal: “I work in HR/wellness/education/journalism, etc…and people and their real lives are at the heart of what I do.”
It’s NOT okay to get personal on LinkedIn when…
1. You’re ranting about politics or politicians or the media or…
2. You’re waxing religious with no connection to leadership or business or work/life harmony.
3. You’re trying to get a date. (Seriously – STOP.)
4. You just want attention. (Bathroom selfies, anyone?)
5. EVERYTHING you post is about YOU. (These patterns are very noticeable – if you post all the time and get relatively low engagement, this might be the reason.)
Disclaimer: this is not a comprehensive list of “Dos” and “Don’ts” – this is simply the way I experience LinkedIn. I’m sure I forgot some good ones. You may also have differing opinions on this topic. If so, feel free to share your perspective in the comments.
Happy week, all. Go ahead and get personal…if it makes sense for you.
Based in Dallas, TX, Tara Jaye Frank is the President at TJF Career Modeling., and was previously the Vice President of Multicultural Strategy for Hallmark Cards, Inc, where she held a series of Director and Vice President positions in Creative Writing, Consumer Platforms and Editorial. She is the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, published by Gold House Press earlier this year. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.