Personal relationships have always played a role in winning new business.
The way in which people interact, especially via social media, has had a profound impact on the quality and depth of business relationships. More and more people are realising that the extra interaction now possible online can help reinforce and build relationships. It keeps you in touch and keeps you top of mind.
But there is still a level of uncertainty as to how much you should share online. Should you allow people who you know in business to be friends with you on Facebook? Should you lock your Instagram account? When does a good business relationship become a friendship, and how do social media platforms such as Facebook affect this?
The question for many business owners today is: how personal should you be? Keren Lerner, Managing Director, Top Left Design, outlines the importance of sharing personality when it comes to marketing.
Presenting a business to the world has become more complex and nuanced over recent years. From webpages to social media, the old rules no longer apply. Prospects and customers expect to gain a true feel of a business, its owner and employees, online – and they will be deterred by anything generic or even overly professional. So if you hear the words “it looks corporate!”, it might not be meant in a positive manner!
Many individuals – especially solopreneurs and microbusiness owners have embraced the opportunity to present the company’s voice and vision via their website and regularly share their quirks, passions and expertise online.
By naturally being themselves, they are reinforcing the feelings and reasons that prompted the business’s creation in the first place. They’re doing it well, and it’s not an issue for them.
However, an even greater number are uncertain where to draw the line. They realise that social media is becoming standard, and they don’t want to miss out, but they aren’t sure how to behave, what to share, how often.
They worry about over sharing, posting too much, and people finding embarrassing photos of them. Some might even setup multiple social media accounts – separate for friends and for business contacts!
This is not only complicated but also fraught with risk – a good business contact discovering that she is only a personal business Facebook friend, rather than a personal personal friend is likely to be a tad put out. And for busy business owners, running multiple separate channels for diverse audiences is time consuming. This approach misses the point of social media and it goes against the grain of a more personal business environment.
So, what rules should you follow?
Social media is all about personal branding – about showing yourself in a positive light to both friends and business contacts.
- Prune: Is there really anything on your personal page you wouldn’t want contacts to see? A bit of pruning will steady your nerves. Ask yourself – “what would my mum think? What would that one client I’d love to sign on think? What would my most profitable client think?” The falling down drunk or locked out of a hotel room naked kind of shots can be kept for the private collection. Even if someone else posted it, you can untag yourself, and if possible, ask for it to be removed.
- Be one person: If you’re representing yourself on social media – on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, you can use it to interact with friends and business contacts. Crossovers happen often, a contact will start as one and become another. Consider the impression you want to give to everyone in your life.
- You’re allowed to have fun: Most of the time, your business contacts are open to seeing your holiday pictures and funny quotes. The phrase “let’s go make stories” is being shared before each weekend. We’re all people!
- It goes beyond just you – in business, social media is a great way to introduce customers to the entire team – something that can be tricky in “real life” with today’s remote and flexible workforce. Even if individuals are not on social media, or want to share personal life with business contacts, with their permission sharing pictures on the company’s Instagram account, for example, can demonstrate that the entire team is contributing to the business and reinforce the culture of the company.
- Log out and search for yourself – just to see how it appears: In a Google world, it’s easy for people to seek you out and quickly find profiles and pictures on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook. Try this on yourself and amend profile pictures, recent posts, etc as they form part of the first impressions people have about you.
Of course, blending the personal and professional is a choice – and one you can only impose on yourself after considering these different angles.
Individuals in their twenties who have been on social media since their teens may well have old posts and pictures on their personal Facebook page that they would not want to share with a business contact now they are part of the adult working world.
We all have multiple social media accounts – and it is important for everyone in the business to consider how a social media account might represent them or the company in a professional light. But remember – this is about creating a personal profile; about bringing clients into your world. Being overly salesy, preaching business messages or only sharing super slick, staged professional photographs doesn’t go down that well.
Personal can be professional
It has never been more important to explore friendship within business relationships and social media provides an excellent platform to share your personality and let people in. The fact is that business has been lost by those individuals who are perceived to be too closed off. People like having good relationships with suppliers and clients – and a business friendship is increasingly key to retaining clients in the long term.
From commenting on your last holiday to a recent concert or festival, non-business social media postings provide a connection, a way to break the ice in the next meeting and an excellent platform for the next stage of a business relationship.