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Our company does a fair amount of work with law firms, and reading an article that one of our clients sent us to post to its website really got me thinking about something. The article was about how insurance companies have started using social media as a way to investigate people who have made disability claims. They will devote a LOT of time to looking at your social media activity, going so far as to make up fake accounts that they use to befriend the subject of investigation to get a better look at their updates. In other words, if a guy who says he is down in his back posts pictures of himself on Facebook lifting something heavy, then that is damaging evidence to his disability claim.

What does this have to do with you? Beyond the obvious (if you file a disability claim, stay off the social media sites!), I think the lesson is that your social media image needs to be congruent with the image you present to prospective clients and referral sources. If you represent yourself one way, but then a prospective client sees you another way online, then you create the impression of dishonesty.

Example: let’s say your public image is one of a church-attending, God-fearing Christian, but then you use profanity or post links to obscene material, then your actions belie your image. That is an extreme example, but you get the point.

I am not saying that your social media updates need to sterile and empty of personality. Social media is most successful when you do display a personality and talk about things happening in your world beyond just business affairs. BUT…when you do an update, you need to think: Are the words I am using here contrary to how I present myself to potential clients?

Unless it is related to your business or expected of you based on what you do, avoid heavy use of profanity. Avoid linking to photos containing nudity. Avoid linking to anything spammy. What you link to, and the words you use, are a reflection of who you are. You want that reflection to jive with how you purposely try to portray yourself.

The reason this is so important is that it is highly likely someone considering hiring you or purchasing your product/service will research you online. That is the nature of business these days. There are no secrets, and there is nowhere to hide. Unless you just don’t do any online marketing, but then you’re just cutting off your nose to spite your face, as the old saying goes. Social media is a very important part of your Internet marketing toolbox, so you need to use it. But use it wisely, lest you risk doing more harm than good.

This applies to the real word as well. An associate in our office tells of a dental practice he knows of in which the dentist is an avid gun collector (nothing wrong with that) who often has shady-looking characters coming into his practice during business hours to deliver a gun he has purchased. You don’t want shady characters walking into your business carrying guns, unless you are in the business of dealing guns.

Congruency is the key here. Don’t try to be someone you’re not, and if you do, make sure you pretend to be that same person when you get online. If you could use some assistance in your online marketing, Work Media is here to help. We are a full-service firm offering an array of services to help companies engage in online commerce, including SEO, paid search, and yes, social media management.