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The Difference Between Using Social Media for Yourself vs. For A Brand

Social media…as a profession.

Ahh, yes. It really is the best job in the world.

But what IS a career in social? As my mom likes to describe it, “All that time we were yelling at Ashley to get off MySpace, and now she sits on Facebook all day and gets paid for it.”

Really good try, mom.

If you’re interested in a social media career or are just wondering what using social media on behalf of a brand is like, then consider this my tell-all blog (sort of).

Here are a few differences between using social media for yourself vs. using it for a brand.

1. Posting content

Personal user: “I’m going to say whatever I want, to whomever I want, whenever I want.”

This is the beauty (and tragedy) of social media. Personal users can really say whatever they want on social media with minimal ramifications. If someone posts a nasty comment on an Instagram photo, the poster can say whatever they want in response.

Personal users can also post two pictures, a status update, and go live on Facebook in one day, if they want. On the flip side, they can also skip a day or week from posting anything at all.

Anything goes for personal users on social media. There aren’t any rules, except for the one we create for ourselves.

Brand user: “I’m going to carefully and thoughtfully consider every post, comment and reply I write and have at least two colleagues review it before it goes live.”

Being the voice of a brand means using judgment and never letting emotions get in the way of our jobs.

If there’s one thing I don’t need to tell you, it’s that people can be downright mean on social media. It’s even easier for people to take out frustrations with a brand on social media because there’s really no face to a brand. They don’t always consider who’s behind the account. It can be hard not to take the comments personal, of course, but we don’t ever let it show.

Our team often jokes that Chase is the best at handling customer service on Twitter. Kimberly says, “It’s like he gives everyone a big virtual hug.” And it’s so true. Is it Chase’s fault CSU isn’t closed on a snowy day, or that the wifi is slow in the library? No, obviously. But our CSU community takes their complaints straight to Twitter, and Chase responds with a big virtual hug.

Everything we post requires much more thought than most people might assume. We want to get it right every time.

2. Taking breaks from social media

Personal user: “I’m taking a break from social media for the next month.”

Social media can be exhausting. We live in a world where we’re constantly sharing our lives on apps, and are expected to be available at all times to keep up with our own social media and not miss out on a moment of the life of that one girl, Kristen, who you sat next to in biology for a semester two years ago.

I have so many friends who take periodic breaks from social media (sometimes even permanent breaks). I think a lot of social media professionals actually share far less to their social media accounts than others (unless you’re Jen. Somehow she manages to keep up with all of the things and I’m quite jealous). I know I personally try to keep up with Twitter the best I can for personal branding reasons, but as far as Facebook and Instagram go, it’s a rare day (probably vacation) when I actually post anything. But as far as taking a real break, well, keep reading.

Brand user: “I’m taking a break from social media for dinner.”

There are no hiatuses from social media when it’s your job. There’s no deleting Snapchat or Facebook from your phone for a mental cleanse, and not only because it would be physically impossible to do my job without being on social media, but because I need to stay up-to-date on all of the recent trends and new platform features. We have to consume social media constantly to be successful in this role.

3. Hang up and hang out

Personal user: “Ahh, family time. Putting my phone away.”

That one friend who is always on their phone is so annoying. We can all agree on that. My boyfriend relentlessly tells everyone to “hang up and hang out” (even though he’s on his phone more than anyone I know 😉).

It’s so important to unplug and live in the moment. Being able to put the phone down and not give it second thought is a treat for yourself and everyone around you.

Brand user: “I’m not being rude, it’s just my job.”

We all have those friends who, when we go to dinner, want everyone to put their phones face down in a pile. The first person to reach for their phone pays the bill. I’m all for fun and games, but this isn’t realistic for social media professionals.

It’s important to engage with users in real time. Not to mention if we need to put out a fire at all hours of the day. Notifications are unexplainably important in this career, so having your phone on you at all times is essential.

4. Grammar

Personal user: “Who cares? It’s just an Instagram post.”

Being loose with grammar and spelling isn’t that big of a deal when you’re posting to your 150 Instagram followers. So what if I left out a few commas and made up a few of my own words?

Brand user: “WHAT’S THE AP STYLE FOR COLLEGE DEGREES?”

In social media, we’re the voice for Colorado State, yes. But more specifically, we’re the written voice for the university. If we make a mistake, people will call us out. If you don’t have a strong writing background and want to get into social media, my advice to you is to buy the most recent AP Style book. Making mistakes, whether it’s through visual content or text, makes a brand look bad. We try to keep those mistakes few and far between.

Of course we fudge the rules sometimes. Were “yaaaas” and “fleek” real words when we used them? Absolutely not. Sometimes we bend the grammar rules to make our text look and feel more social, but it’s always intentional.

5. Content quality

Personal user: “Here’s a blurry picture of me and my friends.”

The best part about social media is we can share our lives in as high or low quality as we want.

My personal Instagram photos are zero percent artistic. They’re mostly pictures of the people in my world that I post with little thought. I also have friends who put a lot of time into their Instagram brands and post incredible photos. The best part is, neither of us are doing it wrong.

Brand user: “Here’s a picture I spent 20 minutes strategizing, 30 minutes taking on my camera, 20 minutes editing, and 15 minutes thinking of a clever caption.”

Creating content for a brand means creating higher quality content. Personally, this is why I love Snapchat so much, because the nature of the app requires gritty and authentic photos and videos. However, even snapping on behalf of a brand takes a lot of time and creativity to distribute content an audience actually wants to spend the time viewing.

More advice for someone pursuing a career in social: Learn how to do it all. Whether it’s filming and editing a video, taking a beautiful photo in awful lighting, or designing a graphic, you need to know how to do them all at some level.

6. Likes, shares, and retweets, oh my!

Personal user: “Woohoo! 100 likes!”

There’s nothing better than getting some love on social media. It’s a small win every time we post something others like. But for most of us, it’s just that. Brief satisfaction and we move on with our lives.

Brand user: “But, why did this post get 100 likes?”

For social media professionals, social media is all about the analytics. If one of our posts gets crazy engagement, that’s great. But we want to know why.

We record weekly and monthly analytics for all our platforms. For CSU’s accounts, Chase turns those analytics into visual reports that help inform our strategy. Posts about events consistently bomb on Facebook. Why? Well, the majority of our fans on Facebook don’t live in Fort Collins anymore, so they aren’t interested in events they can’t attend. Instead of promoting events on Facebook, we now cover them live so our Facebook fans feel like they’re part of the experience. We bring the event to them, and get much better engagement.

Knowing our audience is one of the most important parts of our jobs. Without intensive analytics tracking and interpreting, our strategy is incomplete.

But they aren’t that different, after all

If there’s one thing I can promise that are the exact same between personal social media use vs. brand use, it’s that the job is always fun. If you’re interested in going into social media professionally, you will never hate going into work.