An effective social media strategy requires you to share your personality and authentic voice. But for many people, coached to separate their personal identities from their professional identities, this can be a scary proposition.

Here are four steps to consider in order to help you blend the personal and professional online, in a way that is comfortable for you.

  1. Set goals. If you don’t know why you’re using social media, then how can you know what to do on social media? Think about what you’re trying to accomplish: are you looking to make new contacts, want to establish yourself as a thought leader, are you gathering ideas, or do you want to promote something. You need to identify the What and the Why before you begin. This step will also help you identify which platforms make sense for you.
  2. Avoid analysis paralysis. Yes you need goals, but you don’t need to figure everything out before you start. What and Why are critical. How is not. So often I hear, “I need to learn more about Twitter,” or “I’m not sure I have time for Pinterest.” The best way to figure those things out is to start. Avoid making any wild or inflammatory statements online and what’s the worst that can happen? You’re not going to break the Internet.
  3. Check your company’s social media policy. Of course before you start you need to make sure you understand what your employer or industry allows and will tolerate with regards to your social media activity. Some companies don’t allow anonymity on the web (a very good policy by the way), some forbid you from mentioning the company you work for, its clients or competitors. If you’re in a highly regulated industry, make sure you know the ground rules. And even if you’re not, check before you chat.
  4. Follow the 80/20 rule. Many people wonder how to blend the different facets of their personality on social media. Are you mostly tweeting to build your professional network? It’s still okay to share your love of surfing with your followers. Remember, people do business with other people. So let your human side show. Just keep 80 percent of your posts related to your primary goal, and let the other 20 percent reflect the whole you.