One of the overarching themes of our Newhouse graduate school education in public relations seems to be the power of social media. In nearly every course thus far it has had applications, and in many ways this contributes to our value as future employees of organizations in need of some social media expertise. Our generation (the Millennials) has grown up with the internet as an everyday reality of life. We've been taught for years about online etiquette, what to post, what not to post, and that nothing is ever truly private online. But an interesting question has arisen recently, over the idea of shifting every one of our personal social networks to a professional social network. For most of us, shifting our posts on Twitter from pictures of our dinner to content relevant to our careers has been a no-brainer. Google + and LinkedIn are the same; we see clearly the value of using these social platforms for professional networking and personal branding. Facebook, however, presents an interesting dilemma.
While us graduate students are certainly not advocating posting about binge drinking or inappropriate behavior, Facebook is our final connection to our personal lives. We post about our interests, our friends, our fun adventures in Syracuse and Central New York. We connect with family and friends who live across the U.S., or even across the globe. We are so busy building our professional lives here at Newhouse, that Facebook often seems the only communications platform upon which we can be ourselves.
Must Facebook too be a platform for solely 'professional' posts? I'd like to think not. Our personal brand that we work so hard to build is just that ̶ our personal brand. Posting about going to the Syracuse football game, going apple-picking, or on wine-tasting trips in the Finger Lakes is part of that personal brand. We are students, and we are serious about our professional ambitions, but we are also multi-dimensional. We have personal lives. We have loved ones, and passions and hobbies. Facebook is the final frontier, the last untouched platform. We certainly won't be posting anything inappropriate, but allow us to post about what matters most to us as people. I'd like to think employers want to hire people, not simply robots.
Additionally, I believe the value (both economic and intangible) of Facebook lies with its promise of personal connections. If all the users of Facebook were to suddenly transform into exclusively-professional-posters, I don't think I (or many people) would access the site as regularly as we do now. The social media platform would certainly not hold as much value to marketers or public relations professionals. I once heard a public relations pro say that social media is all about meeting people where they are. If Facebook becomes impersonal, solely a source of artificial, manufactured professional postings, it no longer is 'where people are'. It loses its value to marketers, public relations pros and the everyday consumer.
For these reasons, I will not be transitioning my Facebook to a solely professional platform. My connections with friends and family will be most valuable to me in the long run if I keep these connections personal. One of the most powerful pieces of advice for social media etiquette is to be authentic, and I intend to keep my personal brand authentic in every social platform on which I post.