How often do you interact either in person or on the phone with everyone you know at the same time?
Think about it for a minute… If you are like most people, your answer is “not often” or “never”. But regardless of frequency, you think about who you are calling and what you will say before making a phone call. You plan a face-to-face meeting from topics to locations to attendees to what you will wear all ahead of time. You know exactly how you “show up” in the real world of face to face meetings and phone calls.
But what about the virtual world? Where and how do you show up? Do you know? Can you describe the Virtual You? People who may not yet know you in person will form full opinions about you – who you are, what you can do, if they want to have any connection with you – all from what they see about you online. To them the Virtual You is the Real You.
Give it a try. Google, Bing or Yahoo! your name. What comes up? This is what people will see and know about your first… before they ever meet you in person. Is this the virtual you that you want people to know? Maybe the answer is yes or no, but either way you owe it to yourself to guide this virtual you in the direction you want. You are the only person who has to live your life so give yourself the best opportunity and marketing plan possible. Make the Virtual You an accurate and good reflection of the Real You.
Now you are thinking “Great, so how exactly does one do this? How do I make the virtual me the best reflection of the in-person, real me possible?” The good news is with some simple steps you can make major progress whether you are a seasoned online guru or a novice.
Remember that your virtual world includes all the same facets of you as your real world. We all have professional, social and hobby or special interest parts of us. Every day you directly interact with people in the real world as part of your professional life, social life and hobbies. Professional communities and company websites are all online. Social media is everywhere. Each of us has hobbies or other interests that appear in blogs, organization websites and so on. Your church, photography club, coupon clipping group, etc. will all have either an online presence of their own or a group of people who gravitate toward each other as like-minded people online.
Most people’s lives spread across these three areas – professional, social, interests – so you need to decide if you want the virtual you to balance across them or focus in one particular area.
Here are a few simple steps to get you going:
- Make a list – 3 columns with Professional, Social, Interests at the top.
- Write a quick sentence or two as to what you want the virtual you to represent in these categories.
- List the organizations the real you belongs to or participates in
- List the online organizations you participate in
This exercise will give you a view into your goals, the audiences you want to reach and how you are reaching them today. Here’s an example exert from my list:
|Professional||Social / Personal||Interests|
|The Virtual Me Will…||
|Organizations||American Marketing Assoc||Bunko group||University Alumni Org|
|IABC||High School Alumni group||PTA|
|Company Mentor Program||Girls Night Out Group||Women in Technology|
|Online||LinkedIn (profile, groups)||Alumni community|
|Personal Blog||Kids school websites|
|IABC||Education activist sites|
Thinking through the people or audiences you want to reach is the most critical step in this process. Do the people you want to connect with fall in to the professional, social or interests part of your life? Do any them belong in more than one category? A long time colleague from work who has become a close friend over time or a great friend from college that you now work with are a good examples.
Why is this so important? Well think about the real world for a moment. You would not invite your mother, your high school BFF, your boss, a prospective employer, your girlfriends / guy friends and your child’s teacher all to your house for dinner at the same time would you? Of course not. So why would you mix all those audiences in the virtual world?
Not thinking through audiences early is what gets most people in to trouble in the virtual world and in social media in particular. We have all read the stories of people fired for Facebook comments and there are likely countless other missed opportunities or missed promotions because of bad audience mixing that never make the news. Do not leave it to chance. Having a plan for the virtual you improves your chances of success dramatically.
Now that you have your list, you can sort through your connections in each of the online communities where you are active. Sort people into the appropriate part of your life and if needed, reconnect with them in the new and more appropriate way. Do not worry about ruffling anyone’s feathers. If someone asks, for example, why you un-friended them on Facebook but sent them an invite from LinkedIn simply say you value the professional connection with them and wanted to make sure the way you stay in touch best supports that connection.
Then you can add some humor if people push back. Humor always makes people back off. Here’s one I’ve used: “I so much enjoy talking to you about channel marketing opportunities, but I thought I’d spare you the Facebook pictures and commentary of my gourmet cooking escapades. So I moved our connection to a better venue for dialogue that helps both of us and cuts down on the noise for you.” Trust me, it works. I have used exactly that reply myself with a corporate recruiter who wanted to friend me on Facebook after a couple phone calls. We now connect regularly on LinkedIn and I have sent several referrals his way and vice versa. Maybe if over time, I get to know him much better I will add him as a friend on Facebook, but for now, this is a much more productive arrangement.
This approach is logical, fits with the real you and lets the virtual you be the best reflection you can create. Putting the people from your life in to the virtual connection that makes the most sense for how you know them will help you enjoy the virtual you more. And it will give others who do not know you a more accurate reflection of what they can expect from you and wonderful reasons for them to get to know you.
I hope you find this helpful and that the Virtual You is a positive mirror image of the Real You.