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Seneca Media Unscripted : Professionalism and Identity on Social Media with Martin Waxman

In a world that’s dominated by social media, we as the ‘millennial generation’ tend to get swept up in it. It’s rare to find one among us that does not have at least one platform that we favour. Generally, we can trace the existence of our accounts all the way back to the time they were first created. We all have a Facebook account from back when it was the brand-new craze. Our Twitter probably dates back to at least 2010, when the platform began to rise to popularity. There may have been those who chose not to jump the social media bandwagon as well. Irrespective of whether you were a social media maven or recluse growing up, its mere existence continues to shape our lives as well as our careers today. If you’ve had your account for a long time, you struggle with managing your image (there’s always that one inappropriate pic that we are all tagged in). If you have never been on social media, you struggle meeting the growing demand and expectation companies have of young professionals to be digitally ‘savvy’. This continues to be a problem our generation faces when heading into the work-force, especially in media.

Dani Gagnon spoke to us about how to use social media as an artist, creator, or start-up business, to promote yourself. This week, however, we focus on a more professional side of social media, with Professor Martin Waxman, who teaches social media at Seneca College. He also owns his own PR firm that began with him simply calling potential clients to see if they needed a publicist – talk about hustle. He has several Lynda.com seminars on the subject as well. With so much experience, especially on the corporate and agency side, he is the perfect guest to advise students on how to navigate the world of social media in the professional landscape.

Can we maintain our own identity on social media, if we represent a company that is more serious? Will our interests clash, and do I have to filter myself more?

Absolutely not! Martin says that in fact, it is more authentic if you do maintain your identity online. If you represent a more serious client, he advises that you make a distinction between what is officially said on their behalf, and what is your personal opinion. You are allowed to voice your views, so long as the audience knows that those views are in no ways tied to the brand you represent professionally. Be authentic and ethical, is Martin’s advice. He does, however, say that if you anticipate professional friction, you should probably consider whether or not tweeting/posting about it is really worth it. That being said, if you do have something negative to say, support it with research. If you show that you are capable of making an informed opinion, employers will notice you more for it. It’s a tricky balance, but not one that cannot be achieved by putting just a little thought into your content.

Is it okay for individuals or corporations to use social media as a ‘box to check’?

No! Social media is used to reach out to the audience, which is important to any brand’s success. Gone are the old days of control-and-command PR. Today, it is crucial that if you represent a company, you are aware of how to engage its audience. You cannot simply create a profile and never use it, or just use it at the bare minimum. It is an opportunity for the company to set itself apart from the others and engage their customers, which has proven to be successful for several other companies. So, use social media as a tool to reach the people who make or break your brand instead of considering it a mere box to check off.

Should we keep our personal accounts private?

That depends. I would definitely keep my privacy as tight as possible on Facebook. On other platforms, I would use judgment. Ask yourself why you’re on there. If you want to share who you are and what you do with like-minded, or want to network, having a private account might be counterintuitive. Especially on a platform like LinkedIn, where being private makes no sense. At the end of the day, you want to take stock of your content and see if it’s okay to share.

What advice would you give to individuals who are either starting a business of their own, or representing someone who is new – a mom & pop shop maybe?

It’s all about your content and engagement. If you’re just starting out, you want to do an audit. You want to generate a personal brand based on the product or services you offer. You can look into the 12 Jungian archetypes to help build your brand. But it’s important that it reflects your personality accurately. Being authentic is very important.

You should then survey your competition and engage groups in your community. Reach out to that local spa and see if you can cross promote. If you have a coffee shop, engage in some friendly banter with a competitor. You want to show personality through your content.

Martin shares a lot more information about professionalism and communication in the world of social media in this episode of Unscripted. Our takeaway – be authentic, be yourself, and be mindful when developing a social media presence. Give it a listen, it is certainly helpful.