“Personal Space” or “In Your Face” – Choose Wisely

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Facebook, Linked-In, Twitter – these and a seemingly endless list of social networking sites have invaded our spheres of communication, and influence even. While some of us are using them with a targeted approach and strategy, others are simply jumping onto the bandwagon or being swept along by the popular tide. So how do you ensure you stay in charge and on top of what’s happening to your image and profile on cyberspace?

Professor Quek Ser Aik, Vice Dean of Graduate Studies at NUS Business School is fondly known as the School’s Social Media evangelist due to his extensive involvement in Facebook Not only that, he has taken the lead and initiative to drive and set up various NUS Business School accounts for social media networking. He has found this to be an effective means “to rally for some causes, like the Gobi Challenge and some BBA groups“. The Gobi Challenge is an annual event into its fifth year, bringing together NUS EMBA students, alumni and Business School staff on an exciting trip along sectors of the old Silk Route and the Gobi Desert in China. They are joined by international participants linked to NUS Business School. It stands to reason that a project of such scale requires a platform to reach out to a large audience, and the internet would be the best bet.

Eugene Sim (BBA Hons 2006), Consultant with Conversion Hub, an internet marketing company, confirms that “social media has opened a whole new ballgame. The traditional online presence, the website, was a one-way street, telling people something. Now, people are conducting conversations online, talking to each other, and just relaying information“. That is exactly what Facebook has done for Professor Quek’s projects. “The Facebook page is a conduit for students and others to keep in touch, more like a rallying point,” Eugene says.

Focus for Success

Like most who have found success in using one channel, however, he has begun to access other network media, to be more focused in how he reaches out. “I did set up a Linked-In account, so I guess I am branding myself in the corporate sense,” he reveals. Focus, according to Eugene, is important when you venture on the internet with a specific purpose. It is especially relevant for professionals who wish to project the right image in cyberspace and who truly want to harness the power of such viral media. “You can join relevant groups specific to your industry, make a contribution to a discussion, make yourself available for comments and link up with other professionals in your area of expertise“. This, Eugene says, “can help you become a thought-leader, contribute intelligently and be noticed“.

Professor Albert Teo, Associate Professor in NUS Business School’s Department of Management and Organization, who is passionate about social entrepreneurship, agrees that “Facebook allows like-minded people to meet in the virtual world, even if you have never met face-to-face. It opens doors to opportunities and is helpful for advancing my work“.

But what if those contacts from your professional world encroach on your personal space and discover your personal quirks and hang-ups that you’ve posted? How will that affect your image or professional “branding“?

One and the Same

Professor Quek reveals that even though he actively joins several discussion groups on Linked-In, he says that he “didn’t think much about whether business and pleasure mix.” He is able to take that approach due to his profession and position as a University don where he doesn’t have to “regard anyone particularly as a corporate contact“.

Professor Teo enjoys the same luxury of not having to worry about whether his personal and professional personas are interchangeable on cyberspace. “My social and work areas are blurred,” Professor Teo reveals, He administers both the University’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Philanthropy and the University Scholars Program, and explains that “I see my administration of these causes as a personal calling to touch lives so it’s perfectly alright if there is a blurring of my personal and professional space, even on the internet“.

Privacy Preferred

Not everyone can afford to take the same view as their work may place different demands on their personal and professional spheres. And even if people project different personas on different accounts, such as Facebook or Linked-In, there is nothing to stop others from checking up on one across various media. Eugene cautions “the social sphere is so open that whatever you place online will be viewable by all – family and employers, and it is common knowledge that employers will use these tools to screen applicants“. Eugene suggests devices, such as using your pet name for a personal account, one that others outside your circle will not know of. “There are boundaries online, so it’s up to you to demarcate them,” advises Eugene.

He also adds that one cannot afford to be careless, “Information is never lost on the internet. There are tools online which allow anyone to scan all social media, and you can buy them for as little as $5. They track all your accounts and all your profiles. So people who leave a trail of ‘breadcrumbs’ of their past run the risk of someone checking up on them,” he elaborates. “ So clean up your online trail, at least,” he advises.

Nugget of Wisdom

At the end of the day, there is only merit in behaving with decorum on any site. As Eugene says in a nutshell, “Treat LinkedIn like your office and Facebook like a coffee-joint“. He didn’t say “treat it like your own home“, which speak volumes for discretion online.

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