The Perfect Blend

Leveraging social media to straddle the line between personal and professional

When I launched my Twitter account @adamreinebach back in 2009, my plan was to use it primarily for business reasons. And for the past few years, that's been the case: I share insights, I let people know what events I'm attending and, more times than not, I post links to SourceMedia content. On the rare day when I have the time, I check the stats on those messages to see how many clicks they produced.

But every once in a while, I can't resist tweeting about what's going on in my non-work life. Typically, this type of urge comes during a sporting event, a TV show, or while I'm impatiently waiting for yet another back-to-school night to mercifully end (with three kids ages five to 12, I've probably spent 20 hours of my life at these obligations). And while those tweets don't typically get re-tweeted and don't lead to any web traffic, it's usually those comments that people respond to

While posting a link about private equity may be more relevant on paper than my analysis of the NBA Finals, the fact is that those personal tweets give people a glimpse of who we are, our preferences, what makes us tick, what gets us upset. That information-more than what news we like-makes followers feel like they know us and, perhaps, can trust us.

Good marketers will tell you that transparency and authenticity are necessary elements for any good public relations or marketing campaign. It's why Mitt Romney often wears jeans while campaigning, and why Domino's Pizza in 2010 did a TV ad campaign admitting their pizza didn't taste that great and then showing you what they did to fix it. Frankly, I'm not sure you can get away without some level of transparency in a culture where the web allows you to research products and people before committing to them.

But the real question is not whether to be transparent, or even to use social media, it's about how much to reveal within the context of your professional marketing efforts. Here are a few tips based on my own experience and from others:

1. Weave your personal into the professional, not vice versa. Don't lead with how much you love the Olympics when writing a blog about due diligence. Instead, inject bits and pieces of your preferences into the business-focused commentary. Perhaps there's a comment on global competition, and you tie it back to a quick story about your favorite Olympics.

2. Play it safe. I just revealed in this column that I have three children, I probably eat pizza and I don't enjoy attending Back to School night. Those are all relatively safe admissions, because they're not the types of things you'll like me or dislike me for. I also didn't tell you whether I'm pro-Romney (I just noticed his jeans), because that's not what this column is about, and I don't want to alienate either side of the political landscape while trying to make a point about social media marketing.

3. Be strategic. If you're attending a conference in New York during Fleet Week, it could be relevant to tweet about the ships you just saw. If a fellow attendee is following you on Twitter, the comment could be a conversation starter. Conversely, if you're posting on social media for business purposes, don't tell us about your diet or your ingrown toenails. That probably won't lead to deal flow.

Blending the personal with the professional is never easy, and even playing it safe doesn't always work. But in this market, full of mid-sized private equity firms and boutique investment banks, it's all about the people. If your idea of having an online presence is posting an executive biography or being a passive member of a social media network, you're missing a great opportunity for connections.






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