One of the many challenges a virtual assistant faces is to maintain a professional online presence, but at the same time appear “human” – with personality, thoughts, opinions, feelings and ideas. For those in the real world this comes much easier, you can spend the day at work talking “shop” then, after work and at the weekend you can meet in social situations, whereas VA’s rarely have this opportunity. So how do we separate our business and professional profile, from our human and ‘real person’ profile…
Do We Have To?
First we need to ask the question, is this even necessary, why would we need to reveal the real life person behind the virtual assistant? Well in some cases you don’t, but if your aim in your business is to work with like minded clients, who can relate to you as a human being and work together with you in a mutually respectful business relationship, then it’s surely a good idea to reveal the kind of person you are in order to ensure you can work well with another person – people can interpret respect very differently. Working online as a VA is a challenge in itself, but working with someone who sees you more like a robot than a human being is beyond a challenge, in fact, I would consider that a pretty miserable situation.
The fact is, you are human, you have a personality, characteristics and a mind of your own. It’s important for the client to see the real you, otherwise you could be setting yourself up for a very fake and misguided client/VA relationship.
Your Professional Profile
When the Internet consisted of just websites it was very difficult to reveal the real you, now we have a way to clearly separate our public profiles. First I would always advise that you keep your main website strictly business, don’t delve into your personal life when people literally just want to focus on how you are able to support them in their business. If you’re considering placing something on your main website, ask yourself first, “Is this directly related to my business and the service I provide?” If it’s not, then it shouldn’t be there. This is a golden rule of thumb, you need to establish that boundary of professional and personal, this will allow you to define a professional profile for yourself, as well as a personal one.
On your main website you should keep it primarily a static, consistent, business oriented display. Then in a visible spot put a couple of links and icons in. Place a blog link in your navigation menu, or list of recent posts in a sidebar, and Twitter, Facebook and RSS feed (I recommend feedburner) icons into your pages, linking to the corresponding social media sites, this will give your readers direct access to your humanity profile. You can also include LinkedIn, which is a popular networking site, but I would also keep that strictly business, as it’s used for interaction of a more social nature which can provide that professional balance between your static site and your business persona.
Your Human Profile
On my main website, http://www.virtualmissfriday.com I don’t mention my family, where I live, my favourite food, my opinions on the news or my experiences on a daily basis, but on my blog and my social media, I like to simply be me, of course I have restrictions on what I am prepared to post about, but not many, I am pretty much an open book. I very rarely sit their ‘strategising’ my social media, don’t get me wrong, social media strategies have their place in certain types of business, but I don’t think virtual assistance is really one of them in the same sense, I think too many people get hung up on trying to create the right impression, and then their own personality is then diluted into the professional profile again. There is a very important word in social media which some folk tend to overlook – “Social”.
Think of your blog, Facebook and Twitter as places where you can make connections, offer help and advice, learn other people’s perspectives, update people on what you’re up to.
For example, mention the book you’re reading at the moment, there is a chance that a potential client out there is reading the same book and may feel you have a connection on a more personal level, they respond with a message saying how much they’re enjoying the book, and then you have a window of opportunity to make another connection, and build on another relationship.
We tend to struggle with social media when we over analyse things, and we try to mix business with personal, when you remove that mix, and you define a clear boundary in your own mind as to your professional profile and your human profile, then you will find that social media is actually fun and a great way to meet business connections, who are attracted to you as a person, which can often times work out to be the best type of relationships. Humanity in this industry is an essential element to success, without it, we’ll all be classified as virtual robots, but finding the balance between both is also essential. Too much emphasis on your human profile can lead to folk not taking you seriously as an industry professional, and too much emphasis on your professional profile will make you seem very nondescript, and without a personality at all, and when the balance isn’t there, it can seriously attract the wrong type of clients.
Start defining and developing your professional and human profiles in order to find balance in your online business and attract the clients which are right for you.