"Authenticity!" "Be yourself!" "Find your voice!"
There is a ton of advice out there right now about the importance of authenticity -- about stripping down artifice and making sure that your brand is completely and utterly "you".
Great advice, right?
Thankfully, communications appears to be moving past the era of canned, non-committal "key messages," delivered by carefully-coiffed spokespeople. In the fast, personal age of social media, we want to know that we're talking to an actual human, and that we're being heard and understood, human to human.
But of course, with humanity, comes some very human flaws. We've all seen cautionary tales of business owners who lose their temper online, or who make inappropriate comments, only to lose a bunch of customers and gain a ton of bad publicity (and yes, there IS such a thing as bad publicity -- sorry to break it to you.) Even oversharing or delving into controversial topics, no matter how well-intentioned, can damage your reputation.
Some brands and individuals are very good at keeping their personal professional and their professional personal. Warm, personable, chatty, not controversial, and always interesting. They've got it.
Others of us (including yours truly) sometimes forget ourselves and wade into murky waters. On my personal Twitter account, I often comment on issues of racism, feminism, social justice and politics. It's a risk.
I know that it's probably safer to avoid those topics altogether. However, coming back to the issue of authenticity, I AM a very opinionated person who IS very passionate about certain topics. So...I could keep my personal social media accounts "safe" and only talk about lighter topics. But I'd feel stifled and censored and would not derive the great pleasure out of social media that I do now.
So how to keep strong opinions from damaging your brand? Here are two major tips:
1. BE NICE.
I cannot state this enough. Sharing opinions is one thing. Sharing them in a disrespectful, insulting manner is quite another thing. Even if the discussion is heated, keep your words polite, argue the topic (instead of insulting the person), and don't say anything you wouldn't want captioned under your photo on the front page of a national newspaper. If your blood pressure is rising and the topic is making you angry, walk away. Put down the phone, and go breathe some air. Fold some laundry or organize some files.
2. Keep your business and personal separate.
I'm not saying that nobody should know where you work. (Although that IS an option.) But keeping your business social media accounts clearly separated from your personal ones is a good way to maintain professionalism. Diving into controversial topics or getting into arguments via your company's social media accounts is unprofessional as heck and is the ultimate no-win situation for you. Keep that stuff for your personal account. Your business accounts can (and should) still sound like YOU, but like the happy, friendly you that you want to present to customers, not the cranky, loudmouthed you that you reserve for your nearest and dearest.
So...what do you think? Do you let it all hang out on social media, or do you walk on eggshells, or somewhere in between? What are your tactics for ensuring your words aren't used against you?