We are living in the “Me, Me, Me, Look at Me” era (the media talks about the “Me Generation” as well) on social media (and/or because of social media). Posting selfies (those self-portraits taken with a cell phone in front of the bathroom mirror, in front of a plate of spaghetti, at the hairdresser or wherever) on Twitter, Facebook or even worse, via Instagram, (and then posting them all over the Web) is a screaming example of this. We all have at least one contact who does this many times each day, and let’s face it, it is very annoying. Equally annoying are status updates, posts or tweets about stuff the world really does not care about. “I just had breakfast, yay (even better with an Instagram selfie in front of said breakfast).” Good for you. Also annoying: workout stats posted to Facebook. Irritating and useless: Foursquare check-ins posted to Twitter or Facebook when you’re at your gynecologist or at the grocery store, and so forth and so on (the list could go on for ages).
However, as far as I’m concerned, people can share what they want with their personal contacts. After all, a real-life friend is a real-life friend and maybe they do care that you just had breakfast or that you just checked in to the grocery store. As is the case most of the time, I am not talking about private accounts. Do what you want there.
But when it comes to business accounts, I’m seriously growing tired of opening my Facebook and seeing these types of posts from people who are…well, business contacts. Seriously, we have never met, I’m a potential client or a colleague, and if we have met, it was briefly at a conference once or twice – do I really need to know you just checked-in at the gym? Do I really want to see a “Yay, look at how well-plucked my eyebrows are!” A bathroom picture of you? Is this something you would show me/tell me about if we were to meet in a professional setting (at a conference for example) and had just a few minutes to network?
This is one thing: oversharing. Oversharing selfie items that might not even be well-received on a completely private account, only among your real-life friends and family. So imagine the effect in a professional setting.
The second thing: it’s getting exhausting to keep opening my Facebook news feed only to find it clogged with constant self-congratulatory, self-back-patting, “look how awesome I am” status updates and posts. These are translation-related, work-related. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of self-promotion here and there when we really reach a milestone, it’s natural to want to share one’s prides and joys. But every day, and about small, insignificant events or achievements these can hardly be considered milestones? Posting even the slightest client feedback, each time we get some? Doing this on Facebook adding that “Feeling XXX” silly, beaming smiley? I can’t help but wonder whether this is actually counterproductive and ultimately harmful to one’s credibility.
Not to mention sharing blog comment spam posts that are just bursting with pride at the feedback received, when in fact this is actually not feedback. It’s just some obscure online spam company trying to flatter bloggers’ egos by posting spam comments like “OMG your article is so amazing, thank you for this valuable information” in order to get backlinks and traffic. How much can one hurt their credibility and online image by reposting this all over their LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter profiles with a “Look at the feedback my last article just received” along with a “glowing with pride” smiley?
The point is, my eyes have somehow trained themselves to “zap” and filter all these. Well, at least the ones I still follow, because I started unfollowing many who post daily selfie stuff. When I follow or add a colleague as contact on a social network – if they are not an actual friend – I do so because I’m interested in what they have to say, in the expertise they have and I follow them expecting to find something interesting and useful: information, valuable insights and opinions, interesting resources, fun resources too, why not (like the Translators Anonymous blog, or those kinds of resources) – and if I establish a friendly professional relationship along the way, why not? This is after all also what social networks are about.
However, I am not following you so you can throw it in my face 36 times a day how awesome you are because a client told you “Thanks for the great job you did on this translation”, 36 self-congratulatory posts, always about you, what you do, what you did and how AMAZING you are.
I am also not interested in the fact that you are at the grocery store nor do I want to see a picture of your lunch, or a selfie you took in the bathroom mirror, or the fact that you ran six kilometers this morning and that it was sunny and that you felt great but tired afterwards. If your private contacts and family do, that’s great. But I’m not a private contact, I’m not a buddy, I’m not your best elementary school friend, or your sister, so do I really need to be included in an oversharing spree?
The danger is clear: it harms your professional credibility. First of all, you may come across as being arrogant, narcissic and self-centered – and nobody likes that kind of person. Secondly, you come across as being unprofessional, and lastly, you also project the image of being someone who really doesn’t have anything better to do with their time than hit the refresh button on Twitter and Facebook all day long and post about how wonderful you are, thus causing your followers to wonder, “Does he/she actually have any translation jobs?” Plus, you are clogging their news feed with useless and annoying information – in other words, they get irritated, and will associate your name with this source of irritation. As far as this goes, best-case scenario: they unfollow you. Worst-case: you will never land any client recommendations, jobs or any other form of collaboration from these people because you will have lost all credibility with them, regardless of how good and professional you actually and truly are. Oversharing and oversharing selfies put you at risk of being perceived as being unprofessional. It doesn’t matter how good you are. It’s an online image problem. When we are perceived as being “arrogant,” for example, we get the label “arrogant” and it takes a long time and a lot of hard work to change this label people give us. It’s how society and psychology work, and it applies just as much to online image/online marketing matters.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to prevent this from happening.
First: use your common sense. Be yourself – be yourself! But be sure to draw a line to define what is private and/or inappropriate in a business context.
Second: create two Twitter accounts, a public one for business purposes under your real name (or company name) and another locked account with a pseudonym, to connect with actual friends and family, for example. Locked. because the tweets won’t be visible to the entire world, but only to the followers you approve, and under a pseudonym so that this private account doesn’t get associated with your brand/company in a Google search. It’s your private space, period, and you can share all the lunch photos or bathroom selfies you want there, if you really must. Anything to avoid having to post these to your business account.
Third: a Facebook profile is a very nice networking tool. There are hundreds of translator groups and lists there with lively discussions and plenty of useful resources and input. I have met great colleagues though this network. But this is also the network where people tend to overshare the most. Why not use the “Friends Lists” tool, to separate your business contacts from your private ones? That way you can keep posting bathroom mirror selfies but instead, you can make them visible only to a given list. And you always have the option of creating a second Facebook profile: one “public” for translator interaction and networking, and one private profile for real friends, buddies and family. I’m no big fan of business Pages for freelance translator for a variety of reasons, but if you choose that option, the “more or less” also applies – because there are many Pages out there just oversharing and bragging all day long.
“Google + circles allow you to keep a user-friendly and clean line of separation between your contacts.
As for LinkedIn, it’s a high-quality business network, so private stuff such as hairdresser or spaghetti plate pictures, workout stats or check-ins at the gym have no business being there. Self-congratulatory and self-flattering updates are not welcome at all according to LinkedIn etiquette. Your LinkedIn profile is the only place you can really “brag” with abandon, so to speak. This is the only place in the social network world where it really is all about you. But everywhere else – updates, groups, etc. it’s a big no-no.
“Less is more”, the saying goes. I love that saying; it’s so true in my opinion. Refraining from oversharing and from posting “self-congratulatory” and “me, myself and I” content all day long, and when we do actually really have something to be proud of or have reached an actual milestone and post about it, well, this makes the message that much more visible and impactful. And then, not only will your followers actually see it, but they will truly feel happy for you and will take the time to share your pride and joy with this achievement with you.
One thing we should all keep in mind, at all times. “Social networks” contains the word “SOCIAL”. It’s not about “Me, Myself and I”. It’s about other people. That’s the whole point. And like everything in life, it’s important to find the balance between too much and not enough. When in doubt, I think that remaining behind the line on the “not enough” side sounds like a healthy compromise. No?