How social should your business be?It

By Laura Haight

Originally published in the Upstate Business Journal on March 8 

Can your business self and your personal self peacefully co-exist on social media?

Maybe. But it requires diligence, attention to detail and a balancing act worthy of Karl Wallenda.

First to be clear, I’m not talking about your employees having personal profiles and where they draw the line between personal and professional. Because for the most part, your staff does not have rights to post as your business.

When I set up my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/portfoliiosc), I did it - as you have - under my own personal Facebook account. Everything on Facebook is connected to an individual - even when you create company pages.

Keeping the two things separate and distinct can be difficult and, at times, impossible.

Here are some tips, but it does not by any means cover all the possibilities. Facebook's settings, security procedures and algorithms change all the time. Bookmark this page from Lifehacker - a site that tends to stay updated as Facebook changes things: (http://goo.gl/ACUzw).

  • Do unto others... If you met a restaurant owner at a networking event, you wouldn’t say “Oh, yes, I’ve been to your place. Wow, it was AWFUL!” And yet that is what we do all the time on social media. Some would argue that that’s what social media is for - to share the good and the bad with your friends. And that’s great if you don’t have your own business. 
  • When you post negative comments about other businesses - especially in your local area - you aren’t just telling your friends, you are telling their friends and their friends’ friends. In other words, everyone. Someday when that restaurant owner needs a website, or new menus designed, or a new accountant or HR assistance, you don’t want to be remembered as the person “who posted that really nasty review.”
  • No matter how big or small your market is, people do business with people they feel comfortable with. And they will check you out on social media. So if a friend of theirs hasn’t already flagged that post to them, they’ll see it eventually. Why risk it?
  • Spread the love .. When you get good service, have a great meal, meet an impressive person and the like, DO share that - so long as it stays away from hot-button controversies. You want people who have a great experience with you and your business to do that too. So set that example in your online life.
  • Call a friend a friend.. Most of us do not take the time to organize our facebook contacts into lists. If you get a new client - or meet a potential new client - you may try to connect with them on Facebook. They accept and now they are in the giant bucket known as friends. If you take the time to set it up and - more importantly - to continue to manage it, you can establish groupings. Find out how on Facebook’s blog: http://goo.gl/7gAtu
  • For example, as most of us do, you might have Really Close Friends who you can share anything with. You probably have Work Friends, maybe acquaintances or Client Friends. And most likely you have friends who fall into a particular interest group like Moms From School or Dog People. When you post as an individual you can direct your post to the specific group of people, but you have to make that choice before you hit POST, by clicking on the audience button to the left of the post button. If you have set up lists, they will be accessible there. 
  • The Mom Rule.. Even if you do that, you can only control what you do, not what other people do. So I follow the “mom rule”. If I wouldn’t want my mother to see it, I don’t post it.
  • Managing your personal vs business pages. A lot of times, I am reading a story online and I want to share it on my Portfolio page. Depending upon the interface, you may or may not have the option to post it on anything other than your personal page. If you have a business that has more than one business page or you manage pages for other businesses, as I do, make sure you are posting on the RIGHT page.

My husband and I rescued a border collie puppy last summer. In reading up about the breed, I was struck by the comment that you should never teach a border collie something you don’t want it to do for the rest of its life. Boy, is that true. And it is equally true on Facebook. Things may fall off your screen, but they are never gone. Facebook posts are part of the massive digital media library and they come up in searches on Bing and Google and who knows where in the future. A picture you posted five years ago of yourself with a margarita on the beach may come up today in a Google image search for “Margarita, Beach”.

And if that’s not what you want potential clients to see when they search for you online, you might want to think twice about sharing it.