5 min Read
March 4, 2011

10 tips to manage your professional and personal brand in social media

Whether you are the executive director, development associate, program specialist, or social media strategist, you are your nonprofit’s brand. With the rising use of social media, the lines between our professional and personal presence are blurring and blending.


So how can you make sure your social media presence is benefiting both your organization and yourself? Here are ten steps to get you started…

1. Decide your goals for communicating in social media.

Consider your personal goals and those of the organization you work for. Where do these goals meet and how do they differ? For example, say one of your organization’s goals is to connect to donors using social media and one of your own goals is to be seen as a seasoned fundraising professional. As a staff person, you might update your Facebook status or tweet about how passionate you are about the issue and offer ways people can donate. Perhaps you could even donate your birthday to raise funds for your cause.

These efforts could help your contacts connect both to you and the organization, while also demonstrating your understanding about how to use these tools professionally. Of course, your personal goals could be just that. Maybe you want to cook more, so you follow and read blogs and updates about new recipes to try.

2. Draft a personal positioning statement for yourself.
What is the big idea you want people to associate with you? What should come to mind when they hear or see your name? To answer this, start by thinking about not only how you would describe yourself but also how others describe you too. Google yourself and see what the interwebs have to say about who you are. Now stop and think about how you want the world to see you. What are you passionate about and what makes you unique? Who are the people you are trying to reach?

Get out some paper and a pen and write a personal positioning statement. Try this structure:

I am a ___________ <qualifying adjectives> in _________<niche topic> for __________<audience>.

3. Identify what social media tools best tell your story and find any places where your presence is required.

Tack that personal positioning statement up at your desk and hop on Google to see where your audience is. By searching various keyword phrases, try to find the specific social networks, blogs, and other online hangouts popular among your topic and target audience. At the time of this writing, location-based networks like Foursquare and Facebook Places are all the rage–but that doesn’t mean you have to be there and check-in to every office, restaurant, and store you go to. If the audiences you are trying to connect with love these tools, great. Maybe you should too. On the flip side, your community may be made up of spectators and lurkers–“liking” your posts or mentioning a blog you wrote when they see you, but never commenting online. Again, let your personal positioning statement be your guide.

4. Make it easy for peers and friends to find you.

It all starts with your name. Okay, this should be an easy one, but who owns your name online? Have you set a vanity URL for your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles? Is your Twitter handle similar to your Skype handle? Do you own your name as a domain? Do you include your organization in your handle? Beyond consistency, it is good to claim your name before someone else does.

5. Select keywords or phrases to listen for online.

Pick three-to-five phrases that you want people to associate with your name. Perhaps it’s that same list of keyword phrases you just searched for to find your audience. Set up tools to listen for these terms, like Google alerts (for web and blog mentions) and Twilerts (for Twitter mentions). You might even use these terms to find groups of like-minded folks on LinkedIn or a niche network on Ning. The goal here is to get a sense of the conversation before jumping in as well as responding when your name/topic is mentioned.

6. Be yourself–and let your personality shine.

If we surveyed your partner, your family, your co-workers, and others, what words would they use to describe you? Are you snarky and feisty or serious and academic? Are you helpful and responsive or deliberate and reserved? Love or hate her, I’m sure a number of adjectives come to mind when you think of Madonna–revolutionary, adaptive, controversial, awesome, etc. Knowing the flavor you want to leave in people’s mouths when they hear your name can help guide the content you write and how frequently you post in various channels.

7. Determine how much time can you spend on social media.

Sure you can block out time to update your status on various networks, write some copy for a blog, record a podcast, etc. but the more active you get, the more responsive you’ll need to be. How much time can you spend and add on to your already busy day? If you are not sure, enter into new tools lightly. Better to do one or two things well then spread yourself out too thin and let your profile or presence lapse. Outdated content can have a negative impact on your reputation and do more harm than if you weren’t there at all.

8. Be honest about your affiliations and connections.

If you are the social media strategist for your nonprofit (a growing profession) or even a vocal supporter, know that others will consider you a representative of the organization. If you are worried about this association, make a disclaimer in your profile or posts. You should also review your organization’s social media guidelines or help create them.

9. Follow people you can learn from and be a good sharer.

There’s a good chance that someone (or several people) are competing for the same positioning as you. The thing that makes you unique is… well… you–your personality, your content, and your perspective. But learn from your competitors. Follow/friend them and share their content. Your audience will judge you by the company you keep, so this is certainly a good practice to get into.

10. Measure your impact overall and per channel.

There’s much ado about measuring ROI in social media. In short, coming up with a metric that will make you feel validated for all the time you are putting is hard. Here are a few things you can track:

  • Followers, friends, and subscriber counts
  • Retweets, clicks, and shares
  • Comments, favorites, discussions
  • Key contacts, referrals, recommendations, and testimonials

But impact isn’t just a numbers game. Take time to reflect on your brand every few months, ask these questions again, and see how you might change or evolve your approach.

Do you separate or blend your person and professional brand in social media? Share how what guides your online presence in the comments here.