We all know that relative at Thanksgiving: The one who drinks a little too much wine and awkwardly starts telling you about their live-in girlfriend (and that time they made out on the Ferris wheel … or you know). So you excuse yourself to “use the restroom” and hide out by the counter where all the food is until it’s time for dessert and coffee. But in the end, they are family so you put up with their shenanigans and invite them next year.
This scenario happens on social media all of the time. We all have that friend who holds nothing back on Facebook or says whatever they want on Twitter. BUT that’s easier to accept than someone who runs a business and shares everything from his or her business account. This feels much more like when your sibling brings their significant other (who they have been dating for two weeks) to Thanksgiving and they tell you too much. He or she shows no restraint and tells you all about his or her drunken college days. I mean, really? Shouldn’t you at least be trying to impress the family?
Believe it or not, this is what some business owners do from their business accounts! They show little restraint and, therefore, make it very hard to attract and keep professional client relationships.
Now, I am not getting all high and mighty and saying that you should never say anything about your personal life through your business accounts, but having no regard for the people you are speaking to is going to put you in a position where people are going to avoid you and go find the pumpkin pie instead of buying what you are selling.
It’s really important to keep your public persona professional. You can certainly have a personality, share certain experiences and have a sense of humor. When I say professional, I don’t mean buttoned up tight all of the time. But staying professional on social media is critical for a few reasons:
You want to gain respect from both your peers and your clients.
You want to have set boundaries, or your clients won’t have boundaries with you.
Being your client’s bestie is a quick way to turn perfectly good clients into difficult clients. It might be fun at first to talk about everything, but later down the road it can be troublesome. When a deadline is missed or they ask for something you can’t deliver, it becomes personal and resentment builds up.
So why do we do it? How do we avoid doing it?
We are longing for a connection.
We want to share our personal life in the hopes that people will relate to us. We have a constant need for a deeper, stronger connection with our clients.
But when we own a business, we need to keep in mind that we are trying to connect with people who we can serve and create a professional relationship with. Of course we make friends and deeper connections on the way, but this should come from a mutual perspective and understanding of the problem that your business is solving. It’s not about connecting over your wild night on the town.
We can avoid this by going out and making connections elsewhere. If we are longing for connections based around our business, we can gather people for a mastermind group or get a business coach to talk things through. In order to keep a professional persona up, it’s really not a good idea to find that casual connection with clients.
Separate your business persona from who you are in real life.
You are not your brand. There are attributes that overlap, but if your brand equals you - it’s going to be really hard to keep things professional. The lines get too blurred, and everything is a free-for-all. Come up with brand guidelines. What’s your brand’s persona and what problem are you solving? Set boundaries around what you will talk about and which topics you will address.
For instance, does it make sense for you to share pictures of your children? Is your dinner relevant to your brand? If you are going to share your struggles, can your clients/followers learn from it? Is it going to position you as a leader? If it doesn’t, it might be something to save for your personal account. Every time you post something, ask yourself what value you are offering and if the topic is relevant to your audience.
There are some industries that lend themselves to sharing more than others. If you are a coach, it makes much more sense to share more of your personal experiences. If you sell a product, it doesn’t make as much sense.
It’s up to you what you post on your personal and business accounts, but I do think it’s important to keep in mind what is public and how much crossover there is.
We overshare because we don’t know what to say.
It’s like that feeling you get when there is an awkward silence. You fill it in with noise to avoid the discomfort. That noise is very rarely thoughtful, and a lot of the time you say something that’s not relevant or useful.
This goes back to creating brand guidelines and taking time in the beginning to figure out what you’re going to say and how you are going to say it. What are you offering and is it worth your followers/clients time? Do they care? If you don’t have something valuable to offer, don’t fill in the silence. It’s okay to have times where you are quiet on social media. It is likely that nobody will notice, but they will notice if you are posting just to post.
Five common things we overlook
Attaching our Facebook page to our Pinterest accounts. A lot of people don’t think about this when they do it. Yes, it’s an option, but you don’t want people going and looking at your personal Facebook page.
Accepting clients as friends on Facebook. I am definitely guilty of this because I thought they would feel bad if I didn’t add them. If you can avoid it, I would. I do write down the clients and potential clients that I have accepted as friends. I make sure to exclude them in the posts that I only want friends and family members to read.
Keep ALL personal accounts private, so when people search for you on the internet they don’t stumble upon your private accounts and see those pictures from the bachelor party last weekend.
Double check your profile pictures. Whether or not your accounts are private, people will see your profile picture. Keep these extremely clear and professional. Double check what you are wearing, holding and what’s going on in the background. It might not seem fair that people hold the things that you share on your personal account against you, but they do.
Create guidelines for yourself. Having boundaries online can be difficult to manage, but creating guidelines that you can refer back to will help a lot.
You can laugh about oversharing at the Thanksgiving table with your family and friends, but social media is no place to do it.