Melanie, a good friend of mine, has multiple personalities. At least, it might appear this way if all you knew about her was what you found online. Even though I?ve known her for years, a simple online search yielded results which surprised me. Several of the sites listed in the search engine results included information about Melanie, but each gave a vastly different picture of who she is. It made me want to ask, ?Will the real Melanie please stand up??
First, I headed over to her company?s website, where Melanie is listed as one of the top executives. Her photo is professionally done; listed are details such as her job title, key areas of responsibility and where she received her two college degrees. The information on the company website is well written and crisp; leaving no doubt that she is a highly qualified and well respected executive.
Next, I took a peek at Melanie?s profile on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) gives a more complete picture of her professional background including where she?s worked in the past, her areas of expertise and interest. In addition, in viewing her LinkedIn profile, I am able to see other professionals with whom Melanie has a connection, which gives me a more complete picture of who she is. Included in her connections are current and prior bosses, coworkers, clients and vendors.
While there were other sites listed as having information about Melanie, I selected Facebook (www.facebook.com) as my last stop in the ?Discover Melanie Online? tour. On her Facebook page, I found all sorts of photos ? Melanie on vacation with her husband (including some where she was showing off her new swimsuit), Melanie engaged in various sports competitions, Melanie having drinks and acting silly with her college friends, etc. Visible were personal notes she and her friends had written to each other, links to her favorite bands? latest videos and a place to rate how ?hot? she is as compared to her friends.
Which one represents the ?real? Melanie? Could they all be an accurate portrayal of who she is? I can tell you that, yes, they all represent her accurately. The more important question is whether all of this information represents her well? With so much information on the internet today, much of it user generated (meaning that we put it there ourselves), which approach is best ? to take on different ?personalities? given the nature of the particular website (some professional, some social) or to be more consistent across all user generated content? Experts in personal branding tell us to decide what we want the world to know about us and then set out to reinforce a consistent and image in all that we do online. One should no longer ask IF someone is looking up information about us online, because they are ? our current and potential employees, business partners, customers, employers, college admissions officers and so on. The only question is whether or not what they find online presents the ?personality? we?d like them to see.
My advice to Melanie was to reconsider how she feels having the content of her Facebook page visible to business associates. Not surprisingly, she has since toned down her page so that it represents her professional personality with a touch of the social side without any over-the-top content or photos. In truth, we all have multiple personalities. In the ?real? world, we can easily choose how much of ourselves we reveal and to whom. In the virtual world, things are much more complicated.