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Professionalism is Priceless. Lack of Professionalism? Costly.

In my last post, regarding virtual assistants on Twitter I used the term professionalism as something that those searching for a VA should look for when scrutinizing the many choices available to them.  But in this day and age of social media, just how important is professionalism.  I mean, don’t the masses of home office warriors brag about their ability to work in their p.j.’s  or other comfy clothes?  Isn’t social media all about being ‘real’?
Although it is important to be yourself to a certain extent, it is also important to remember that if you’re in business, there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed.  A certain amount of dignity and yes, privacy, must be maintained or you risk losing all credibility as a business professional.
Sadly, I see many virtual assistants and other home-based professionals make the mistake of sharing too much of themselves.  They forget that the words they tweet or post online all contribute to creating a picture of not just who they are personally, but reflects upon their businesses as well. For example, regardless of your penchant for using curse words in the privacy of your own home, they are probably better left out of your Twitter stream. Pretty obvious right?  Another example might be your need to go take a nap in the middle of the work day. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t go take that nap, after all if you’re running your business, you might do your best work from midnight to 3 am and a mid-day nap is a neccessity. Just don’t tweet about it. Why? Because clients, potential clients and other people that might end up being important to your business aren’t going to know that. Family fights, sexual exploits and the fact that you forgot to take your Xanax are also things that are on the ‘don’t need to know’ list. Honestly, I’ve literally cringed when reading some tweets and blog posts due to the over share factor.
Another social media faux-pas I see happening often is ranting or complaining about a client, client work or client related matters. Nothing will lower your professionalism standing faster. There are ways of not only sharing your frustration, but getting some positive feedback on the situation without ranting. But if you can’t be sure of how to do that, then simply keep from sharing it.
There is such a thing as being too open and transparent. I understand the need for self expression, but if you’re a business person, don’t do it on blogs or social media connected to your business or business website.  Sure, have a personal blog, but for professionalism’s sake, don’t link to it from your business website.
If you want to see examples of how to be real without losing your credibility read and watch Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk.  I follow both of these business men on Twitter.  Chris Brogan gives us just enough of his personal side through his tweets that often speak of his family or current activities to make us feel like we know a bit about him. He’s human. Yet he doesn’t share so much that we ever lose sight of the fact that he’s a brilliant business man and marketer.  And watching Gary V. do his videos for Wine Library, garyvaynerchuk.com or his guest appearances on places like the Today show might give you the impression that he’s ‘out there’.  His high energy is infectious and his ability to connect to his audience makes us all feel like he’s a regular guy, just like us. Ok, so he probably has way more energy than us, but you know what I mean.  However, I don’t know about you, but I never, ever lose sight of the fact that he has brilliantly used the web to his marketing advantage in business . The fact that these two men are professionals is never questioned.

The following is the definition of professionalism:

pro?fes?sion?al?ism  [pruh-fesh-uh-nl-iz-uhm]- noun

1.     professional character, spirit, or methods.
2.     the standing, practice, or methods of a professional, as distinguished from an amateur.
(from dictionary.com)

When I first read this definition, the words that seemed to hit me like a baseball bat to the head were “as distinguished from an amateur”.  And perhaps for the virtual assistant or other small business this is the single most important thing they should take away from this post.  You project professionalism to distinguish your business from the amateurs. Never forget that your words, whether tweeted, blogged or simply shared in an online forum are available not just to those people you specifically write them to, but to clients, potential clients and others who may be instrumental to the success of your business.

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