Reputationphoto © 2010 F Delventhal | more info (via: Wylio)

Your personal “brand” becomes the window that your online network will view you through. Challenged with the limitation of knowing you mostly through a series of posts, tweets and chats, your every bit and byte makes up the persona that you eventually become known as. So it’s crucial to make sure that this online version of you is painting the portrait that benefits you and your business needs.

Many new users to tools of social media struggle with the decision of what exactly that means for them. Will they share only business-related information? Is it better to lay it all out there for everyone to see? Is it possible to balance the two?

Whatever you decide, keep the following things in mind when you share information online.

Don’t try to de-personalize. It can be very easy to separate the business from the personal. We do it all the time in real life. We chose not to share family stories with co-workers or dive into the details of a work experience with our family members. And often times there is a very good reason for this – especially when it’s not something relevant. However, your audience will probably enjoy seeing small glimpses into your personal life on occasion. It reminds them that you have more in common than the same interest in technology or knitting, and thus helps establish a deeper relationship than you might have had just sharing links and tidbits related to your ‘obvious’ commonalities.

Do give yourself a voice. One of the challenges of electronic communication is that it is very easy to get hidden behind a stream of link-shares and retweets. You are a human being with a personality – not some spam-bot churning out automated rubbish. Whether you have a southern accent, complete with the occasional y’all, or a Brit with a tendency to use the letter ‘s’ instead of ‘z’, allow that bit of personality to shine through in what you write. Your readers will appreciate the honesty you share with them and they will probably find those small touches to be more endearing than annoying.

Don’t be foolish. Above all, keep in mind that what you share contributes to the overall “brand” that people will see and judge you by so make sure you keep that in mind whenever you type up anything to be viewed by others. This can include tweets, blog posts, discussion comments, or even silly things you share on your Facebook page. Read and re-read anything you plan to share.  Think before you click the share or submit button. Ask yourself “does this reflect how I want others to see me?”  You might be able to change your mind and delete something later, but it may be after someone else has already passed it along – forever engraving it in infamy.

Do Be proud of who you are and what you do. Whether you own your own business, work for a large company, or write a blog out of your basement while the kids nap, you have worked hard to get to this point and it should show. Allow your expertise to shine through and share your knowledge with others. This is what will set you apart from others with a similar calling to yours. Don’t self-deprecate, second guess, or put yourself down. That’s a quick way to lose your audience.

All of this can be applied to your online networks as much as your real life. Consider your audience to be one in the same and you should have no trouble establishing and maintaining your brand.

– Christy