by guest blogger, Megan Totka
Small business owners know the importance of utilizing social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and even Pinterest. The relatively small investment of time and money can really pay off. Crowdspring reports that 50 percent of small business owners say they have gained new customers through social media, with LinkedIn and Facebook leading the way. That’s a statistic worth pursuing.
The great thing about social media is the interactive, personal atmosphere it fosters between businesses and consumers. This can be a challenging characteristic for small business owners that are unsure how much personal information really should be part of their professional identity and don’t want to commit one of the 7 deadly online sins. Every industry and business differs, but here are a few ground rules when striking a balance between a business and personal social media presence:
Know your audience. You may have a strong sense of personal identity that you associate with your brand but what about your clients and prospective customers? You may be proud of the fact that you once worked on an election campaign or that you have several kids, but do personal facets like these really matter in your business life? In some cases, the answer will be “yes” but be wary of intertwining too much unrelated information about your life into your business social media accounts. Consider your audience; what does your client base want from you? Once you determine that answer, give them just that.
Consider your loved ones. The boundaries drawn between public and private lives have all but faded because of social media. St. Louis Post-Dispatch Columnist Aisha Sultan believes the Internet has single-handedly led to a devaluation of privacy, especially where children are concerned. She argues that while online sharing intentions are good, particularly where parents are concerned, the ramifications on relationships can be devastating. Parents are an obvious example of people that share personal details in a public way, but the use of social media makes this a reality for women who own businesses of all types. Maybe you think an offhand comment about your husband breaking the dishwasher is funny social media fodder, but he may not feel the same way. The same goes for talking about kids, friends and colleagues. Even if you do have their permission, your audience may find personal posts off-putting or irrelevant.
Stay safe. Never reveal details on your web pages that could endanger you or your family. Most people know not to include a home address on public profiles but there are other subtle things that can put you in danger too. Think twice before posting the route of an upcoming run you plan to take alone, or the fact that you are working solo in your office. The people that are fans of your small business on Facebook or follow you on Twitter are not equal to the ones associated with your personal profiles (and really, how many of those people do you actually know?). Your intentions may be harmless, but not everyone in the cyber world is on the side of the good guys. If a post can definitively identify where you are at any given point in time, you should avoid publishing it on a business social media account.
The rules of social media etiquette are still being written and it is too soon to tell what the lasting ramifications of the digital networking age will have on small businesses. In the meantime, it is up to small business owners to walk the social media tightrope, balancing the human side of running a business with a professional persona.
Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.