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Social Media’s all the rage. But is it keeping you from what you’re supposed to be doing?

We know this new technology isn’t the end-all-be-all of the PR/Advertising world, but it is significant. So much so, that some companies are hiring SM specialists to focus solely in this realm. But where does that leave the rest of us? Should we ignore our Twitter and Facebook feeds during the day? Is it wrong to read or <gasp> write a blog post between the hours of 9 and 5?

Is it wrong to use SM on company time?

chris prompt

CHRIS:

If you’re in PR, you’re responsible for your company or client’s reputation. This means knowing what people are saying about you and your brand. SM is a great place to start, especially if you operate in the consumer market. And while most PR/Marketing Communication agencies now have full-time staffers devoted to SM “listening,” many companies still avoid the SM playground for various reasons.

But why? Don’t they understand the value of monitoring sites like Twitter and Facebook? Can’t they see the value in the early warning systems of Google Alerts, or the ROI a company can gain from engaging in industry specific forums and wikis? In my eyes, it’s the role of the PR professional to be aware of these opportunities and train employees on how to take advantage of them. Social Media is about engaging with external audiences, and in my eyes, that’s the essence of public relations.

amandafaceAMANDA:

I’m not here to argue that any communications professional should ignore social media – that would just be irresponsible. Like Motrin learned from the mommy bloggers, social media is just as important as any traditional communication forum. It just takes a spark to start a wildfire, and it’s important for us to monitor what is being said about our companies online so we can address any issues before they become full-on disasters.

I will argue, however, that there is a fine line between effectively monitoring social media and letting it take over your workday. What were you hired to do? More and more companies are creating social media positions – a good idea for companies that have the resources, in my opinion. But for those at companies that haven’t jumped on that train yet – how much of your workday should be devoted to SM?

CHRIS:

While it may not appear specifically in a job description, we’re all charged with professional development throughout our careers. Over the course of five years with a company, you should not only by knowledgeable about how that company does business, but also learn more about your role and how to do it more efficiently and effectively. While management and supervisors can be great sources of wisdom and experience, an infinite amount of information is only a few clicks away – and with SM, it’s now specific and personal.

For instance, I subscribe to a number of professional newsletters and blogs that give me invaluable information specific to my job. Suggestions that help me do my job better, quicker and cheaper. Should I forgo reading these blogs on company time because they also help me personally? Not happening (and I think my employer would agree). The trick here, is looking at Twitter feeds and blog rolls through the lens of my position as the company’s communicator. I ask myself, is this relevant to my job and how can I apply it? If  it doesn’t apply, I tag it for after hours.

balance-scale

AMANDA:

Absolutely. If you grow as a professional, chances are your company will benefit – however, I think this gets tricky with social media. The fact is, social media was meant for people to engage, well, socially. Yes, professionals interact via SM constantly, and I’ve learned a lot from watching what these experienced pros say on their blogs and Twitter pages. It just seems like a slippery slope – there is virtually no hard line between what could and couldn’t be considered ultimately beneficial to your work productivity.

But, as important as my boss thinks online media is, I wasn’t hired to grow an online presence – neither mine nor the company’s. Do I ignore social media during the workday? Not at all. I have Google alerts and SM keyword searches on my company’s brand and I absolutely RT when someone tweets a positive message about the company or product. But I can’t justify focusing on social media – even if it could be considered beneficial to the company – at the expense of my assigned responsibilities.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t go above and beyond what we are hired to do – I am definitely not saying we should ignore SM or not consider what other ways we could advance our client or company. I guess all I’m trying to point out is that, as sexy as SM is, we need to make sure we aren’t sacrificing performance or efficiency in our assigned roles in favor of social media management.

CHRIS:

I’ll agree that engaging in SM while at work is all about time management, and finding a balance is definitely tricky. But ultimately, I think the PR pro is better off engaging throughout the day as the potential ROI for the company is too big to be ignored (so long as the day-to-day tasks are still being completed).

But it looks like we’ve got another sticky one here. And another one people can relate to, considering most are probably reading at work. But we want your input. With less than 4 years combined experience, Amanda and I realize our words only carry so much mustard. So, let us know what you do. Or maybe more importantly, what your employer demands you do. (FYI, if the comment box doesn’t appear below, click on the top title of the post then scroll down.)

As the traditional 9-to-5 workday collapses and we begin to share more of ourselves through social media sites, the line between our personal and professional lives is being drawn thinner every day. We are constantly trying to balance our personal and professional relationships on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, raising the question of how personal our personal branding should be. Even President Barack Obama chimed in on the debate, warning the nation’s youth “to be careful about what you post on Facebook … in the YouTube age.”

For our first-ever Budding Heads PR post, we ask the question:

Should you censor your online personality for the sake of your professional life?

Chris:  Trying to separate your social online persona from your professional online image is not only impossible, but will result in a lack-luster personal branding effort.

chris promptI’ve wrestled with the term “personal branding” for a long time and am finally deciding to make a stance on how I feel about these two words: THEY’RE STUPID.

While I understand the value of creating a consistent “brand” in the traditional marketing sense of the word, applying this idea to oneself is hypocritical and inauthentic. To me, creating a “personal brand” means deciding who others want you to be and trying to portray that fictional persona to the world.

Often, for young professionals, this means hesitating to share on social networking sites. It means de-tagging pictures on Facebook and making sure your LinkedIn profile picture is a snapshot of you in job interview form.

But why? Why try to be someone you’re not? Aren’t you good enough being JUST YOU?

I am who I am, NOT who I say I am. (And, no, I’m not trying to be Eminem *profanity warning on link.) Granted that perception is reality, as a young professional entering the digital landscape, my words and actions will shape these perceptions. What I do defines who I am. Nothing I say can change that.

My point is that actions have always and will always speak louder than words. If you’re doing one thing and saying another, you’re not transparent, thus breaking one of the cardinal rules of Grunig’s Excellent Public Relations.

Ultimately, the falsified personal brands will be seen for what they really are. Rubish. But that’s to say that folks who are creating a false sense of themselves are even noticed. All too often, young pros fail to take advantage of the personal and professional networking opportunities in SM. If they do engage, they have their trigger finger on the delete & de-tag buttons, fearing that what they do in their personal lives will haunt them in their professional lives.

I say: Get Real.

To me, refraining from being yourself in the online world is like censoring your life. Doctoring your thoughts and actions online to fit into some type of SM normalcy is a bad move. This type of personal branding (READ: life censoring) will leave a young pro lost in a sea of SM celibates, appearing uninspired or unaware of the importance of online networking.

Engage intelligently, but engage authentically.

Amanda: Controlling one’s social media image is necessary to maintain personal integrity and the respect of both professional and personal colleagues.

amandaIt’s okay, Kanye, we all make mistakes.

Tales of public figures’ youthful mistakes have been scrutinized for centuries – think Washington and the cherry tree – but new technology will cement this generation’s mistakes online forever.

When we were kids, gossip was word-of-mouth hearsay, whereas today’s kids can prove who kissed whom at Sarah’s party – with pictures. Students interact with friends via social media, but they are also sending that information to the world when they click “upload.”

This idea applies to all of us – would you show your mom that pic of you bonging a beer?  Do you want a potential employer’s first impression of you to include a “sexy cat” costume? Do you think anyone WANTS to know that chili at lunch gave you heartburn?

Of course, there are countless examples of people getting into trouble because of social media  . We’ve all heard ‘em – and most of us realize posting pictures from Halloween that just happened to be the same day you were “sick” is a bad idea.

When it comes to making questionable decisions, I’m guilty as any college student. Do I have fun with my friends on weekends? Sure. But do I want my boss to see on Twitter that I’m “nursing an AWFUL hangover”? No, thanks. (You can bet I’ll be whining to someone, though.)

And what if someday you become more than just another person, but a public figure? If your not-so-proud moments are embedded in the Web, there’s a better chance than ever they will come back to haunt you. Michael Phelps found that out the hard way.

I’m not saying we should take our personalities completely out of social media, but we need to make sure we’d be comfortable letting anyone and everyone – in our professional and personal circles – into our lives. If you can maintain your integrity with that post or picture, go for it.

Last point I’ll make: Those annoying social media mavens – the ones who post every 5 seconds about where they are or what they’re eating – doesn’t it seem a little egotistical? Do we like to just hear ourselves type? Maybe I’m missing something, but is there anything wrong with a little self-censorship?

images courtesy of : atr.org & valleywag.gawker.com