Social Media for Small Business: The Rules of Business vs. Personal Profiles

images-1Social has created incredible opportunities for small business. It’s opened doors, and given people all over the world a voice. But it’s also causing a huge problem.  Business colleagues are becoming “friends,” and “friends” are turning into sales people, pitching their products and services in the wrong environments.

Business and Personal profiles need to be kept separate.

I’ve read many blogs and articles to the contrary. And you probably have, as well. Listen, I fully understand where that advice is coming from. I get that the idea of social is to create loyalty, to develop relationships and to allow for one-on-one conversations between brand and consumer. But I promise you… there is a fine line.

I’ll say it again. A Fine. Line.

Because there is a time and a place for mixing. Just like in real life. You take a client to the ball game, perhaps, and have a few beers. It’s interesting to me how people will behave a certain way in the social space, that would be absolutely unacceptable in real life. But I digress.

If you’re going to hop on the social media bandwagon with your small business, here are some ground rules:

Rule #1 Create a Business Profile

If Facebook is the social platform where you can reach the greatest percentage of potential customers, great… Create a business page! Do not use your business profile to tell us about your grandchild’s baptism. If we truly want to know about your family, we’ll friend your personal profile.

There is a way to be friendly and still stay business-appropriate.  I don’t care that you slammed beer bongs together back in college. Business is business.

Rule #2  Leave the Calls to Action on Your Company Page

If you want to post pitches about your fantastic company, the latest products and why I should be taking your vitamin supplement, do so on your company page. Set up a LinkedIn account. Join Twitter.  You don’t know this and a lot of your friends are afraid to tell you this, but if you’re using your personal Facebook profile to sell insurance, for example, you are annoying us. There, I said it.

If we are friends on your personal profile, then I fully expect to hear about your weekend, your grandchildren, even your latest accomplishments – certainly in a face-to-face conversation these are things we’d expect to share. But, please don’t post “Want to make $10k this month like me? Click here!” with a link to your latest pyramid scheme.

It reeks of desperation.

Rule #3  Extend an Invitation. Then Back Off.

It’s perfectly acceptable to invite your Facebook friends to like, follow or join your company page. Once. Please, don’t do it incessantly. We heard you the first time! We didn’t forget. We’re ignoring you. No offense.

Rule #4   “86” the Bait & Switch

While it’s nice to show your personality, even on business profiles, there is a line to be drawn. It’s certainly acceptable to mention your family, or your favorite baseball team (GO CARDS!). But, if we follow your company on LinkedIn, if you set up as a company and tout your company, and then post blogs about your trip to Italy, and the wonderful dinner you made for friends last weekend, well… no. Just no. We didn’t sign up for that. And it’s quite possible that… We. Just. Don’t. Care.  What you can do is create a second blog, give it a more fitting, personal title and invite your friends, family and anyone else to read about your weekend getaways. But herein lies the point. Don’t pull the old bait and switch on us, okay? If your blog’s title is your company name, and your description centers around business, then we fully expect – and rightly so – to read about… wait for it… business. 

Rule #5   Stay Organized

Many small business owners have mentioned to me that they just don’t have time to keep up with multiple social profiles. If you have trouble being consistent with your social media marketing, you have choices:

  1. Hire Someone Freelance social marketers can keep you seen and heard via social channels on a consistent basis. They can also deliver weekly or monthly recaps that show you how effective your social marketing is. It’s less expensive than you think, and may be worth the time you’ll save.
  2. Use a Social Dashboard. I like Sprout Social for its ease of use, clean design and easy-to-create reports. These programs truly do save quite a bit of time, as they allow you to schedule all of your tweets for the day, month, etc. at one time. They can also help you track your followers, and follow conversations happening around your industry.

Rule #6  Rules are Made to Be Broken

Look at the English language… there’s an exception to almost every rule. So, here it is: If you do sell insurance for a living, and you have a company page, and you do play by the rules, then it’s not the end of the world if you post a note on your personal profile. But if you do, remember to:

  1. Keep it Light “Hey friends, just wanted you to know we’re offering really low rates if you’re in need of insurance. Happy to answer any questions!”
  2. Keep it to a Minimum. More than a few times a year (once a quarter, perhaps), and you risk overdoing it. Especially on Facebook, it’s hard to miss a post, so don’t assume that no one saw it  just because you got a low response rate. Twitter is a bit different, and you may need to schedule the same tweet a few different times and days throughout the month to reach all of your followers.

What do you think of these 6 Rules? Does the crossover from personal to business (and vice versa) in social bother you? Or have you come to expect it? Do you do it yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!


About Beth M. Wood

Beth M. Wood is a marketing and writing professional. She's been working in the marketing industry since the early 90s, and feeding her shopping habit with copywriting gigs since 2004. On August 1, 2013, she made the jump to full-time freelance writer, marketer, and social media manager. Beth is highly adept at creating and managing integrated marketing programs that get brands noticed. She's also well known for creating and maintaing a strong brand voice across all channels. She is a word geek, a grammar snob and a boot camp junkie. Which means she believes in giving 100% to every project she takes on - large or small. She earned her BA in writing from Webster University and serves as Senior Content Strategist at Scorch.
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