Social vs. Professional Networking: Finding a Balance

The Web has allowed us to do a lot of things more easily, from watching TV shows to connecting with old friends. However, one the biggest benefits the Internet has given us is the ease at which we network.

Now, we can network with those on the other side of the world from the comfort of our own homes or offices. But, is there a limit to the kind of networking we do, namely social networking? Is there a point where we have to stop talking about our eventful weekends and start talking about our industries?

The trick is to find a balance between social and professional networking. Here’s how:

Highlight your interests in different ways. What is the point of networking if you don’t highlight your interests? Your passions should be known when you network, both through what you say and how you say it.

Further, it shouldn’t be so difficult to transition from social to professional if the topics appeal to you. For example, say you are a music buff. On Facebook, you tend to post the latest tracks from your favorite artists or bands and people always come to you for the up-to-date music news. This can be easily translated into professional networking by not only connecting with those in the music industry on Twitter, but also sharing news from the industry, like current facts and figures. The trick here is to accent things in different ways: On platforms like Facebook you can talk about things more casually, but on sites like Twitter, you should think about sending out more professional posts.

Put your personality in it. You shouldn’t have to put up a fake personality because you are networking. Just like you put your own take on things in social networking, the same should go for professional networking.

However, the tone in which you say things should change a bit. Obviously, you may be more lax on platforms like Facebook, but you can’t be so laid-back on networks like LinkedIn. But, this doesn’t mean you have to become stiff and ridged just because a professional may be looking at your page. People want to see real personalities, not ones that are conjured for an audience.

So, when you’re tweeting about the top music artists this week, be sure to give your opinion (perhaps with a link to your blog) with your personality shining through. You’ll probably get more interaction with posts that are authentic than with those that are just a re-hash or what someone else said.

Know when to put your personal life aside. Although the lines between social and professional networking may be a bit blurred, you should know when to set your personal life aside and when to put on your networking suit. Sure, networking online is less formal then networking in real life, but the base of both remains the same: When you’re networking professionally, you need to talk about industry-related topics, not your personal life. If someone wanted to hear about that, they wouldn’t be spending their time networking with you on professional matters.

Further, the way you conduct your life may be fine with you, but it may offend someone else. Be courteous when networking, especially if your personal life ever comes up. It may be the difference between getting a powerful contact and ruining your personal brand.

How do you find a social vs. professional networking balance?

Greg Harris is the Product Manager at Vizibility – he is part engineer, part researcher and designer. He comes up with ideas and new features that will make Vizibility more useful for online branding. He does this by talking to customers and partners to understand how they are using the product today and what they like and don’t like. Find Greg in Google at vizibility.com/greg.

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