Appropriateness When Using Social Media for Business

This is probably not the business persona you want to project.

This is probably not the business persona you want to project.

As direct sellers begin to use social media for business, sometimes some mind shift needs to happen.  If you’ve been using social media for personal conversations up until now, you probably haven’t had to have much of a self-edit button.  After all, you know what your friends enjoy, what they think is funny, what they’ll console you over, etc.  It’s been easy to upload those photos of the last beer bash, complain about your deepest woes, and comment on that idiot who cut you off as you were driving home.  After all this is personal, and your friends love you no matter what, right?

As direct sales companies and leaders in various companies, we have to be very aware that our new generation of recruits is coming from a demographic that is used to doing just that.  And that means some education right from day one is going to be necessary.  After all, using social media for business is very different from using it for personal communication.  Just like a sales associate in a store wouldn’t start talking to a customer the way he might talk to his friends, the independent sales consultant  needs to learn that changes must be made as well.

The challenge of course is finding the line between a business endeavor and a personal communication tool.  A new recruit might resent the fact that a tool she’s used to using to communicate with her friends now has to be somewhat regulated and “cleaned up.”  And if that new recruit does not intend to use the tool for business at all, that might not be a requirement.  However, if a consultant DOES plan to use social media to build his business, then I think it’s important for a company to provide some guidelines as to what is appropriate, and what is not, when the brand is to be represented online.

If you’re a consultant, here are some things to keep in mind when you represent your company through social media:

  • Keep the content G-rated – Make sure people would be OK with their kids and their mom seeing what you post.
  • Keep it positive – Business contacts aren’t there to make your day and don’t want to be dragged down either. They might tolerate it once, but not over and over.
  • Keep it clean – It’s never OK to use foul language when you’re representing a company. Period.
  • Avoid TMI – People really don’t want to hear gross stuff.  Keep your rashes and your bowel movements to yourself.
  • Avoid spam – I’ll say it again…this is not the place to pitch your products and opportunity. Social media is for building relationships.

Don’t rely on privacy settings to protect things the general public shouldn’t consume.  Mistakes happen and they can reflect poorly on your business, your company, and every other consultant trying to do business through social media.  Don’t make it harder for everybody.  If you’re a direct seller, clean up your social media profiles, reflect a professional persona, and have your personal conversations on the phone or in person…a place they don’t live forever!

What do you think? Have you seen examples of “bad” behavior by direct sellers?  What changes did you make when you began using social media for your business?  Looking forward to reading your comments below.

Photo Credit: CometStarMoon

16 Responses to Appropriateness When Using Social Media for Business
  1. Dr. George
    October 16, 2009 | 3:10 pm

    You have gave excellent advice. It is amazing to me something I have seen posted on business profiles. I would think twice before dealing with them that is for sure. I think social media sites should allow more than one profile per person. Or they could make business profiles. I know Facebook has fan pages, but it is not the same. You cannot interact as much.

  2. Brooke Taylor
    October 5, 2009 | 2:12 pm

    I agree with not pitching products and/or opportunity to friends on our facebook pages, myspace etc., how do you feel about having such information on blogs and fan pages? My blog and fan page is primarily for tips, facts, fashion ideas, and when we are given the new promotion I would like to add that, is this too much?

    • Jennifer
      October 5, 2009 | 3:25 pm

      On your fan page you might get away with SOME of that (you’d better provide value too…I like your tips, facts, etc. ideas better). I wouldn’t do it on a blog, personally. People subscribe for CONTENT. They can get ads anywhere. You’re better off not trying to recreate your company’s website or catalog. Instead, focus on building relationships and providing value. You can provide more specific marketing once people opt in.

      Jennifer

  3. Cheryl
    October 5, 2009 | 1:53 pm

    I agree totally! It’s like people aren’t thinking! Thanks for helping them think 🙂

    • Jennifer
      October 5, 2009 | 3:26 pm

      🙂

  4. Karen Clark
    October 5, 2009 | 12:27 pm

    I love this. I think a good rule of thumb is to just ask yourself is this something I would say or do if I were at a party “in real life” with mixed company and potential customers, then act accordingly.

    For the hot button topics, I get that too, and if you are OK with only attracting business from people who share the same views and values as you then certainly you will want to share more, but when you’re a direct seller you aren’t only representing you, but your company (and therefore other consultants as well) so being subtle is probably a good idea.

    If there were a consultant in your company who had polar opposite beliefs than you and was out on all the social media sites professing those, people might get the impression that “those ABC Company ladies are all —–” and you’d find yourself being lumped into that group along with her. The same happens if you are very vocal about your own.

    If people consider the whole, it makes it more obvious that expressing yourself but tempering it with some retraint may be a better compromise.
    Karen

    • Jennifer
      October 5, 2009 | 1:13 pm

      VERY good points Karen. I always appreciate your views!

      Jennifer

  5. Stephanie Nivinskus
    October 5, 2009 | 11:39 am

    This is tough one for me. I get the idea of not posting your party girl pics up there but here’s one thing that really gets my goat: I hear social media experts over and over again saying to avoid talking about the “big ones” like politics and religion. Here’s the deal tho–my faith is a huge part of my life and I do not believe it should be censored…EVER. The whole idea of keeping your personal and professional life separate is a big joke to me…especially when it comes to social media where we’re “building relationships.” My personal life is who I am. And when I talk about it, I am authentically being “me.” How would I ever build a meaningful relationship, if I don’t talk about anything meaningful? I know, I know…I’m going way against the grain in saying that. Seems our culture wants to censor people talking about ANYTHING meaningful in the work place. Talk about the game, the weather, or anything else that is meaningless and you’re just fine but “don’t cross that line!!” I just don’t buy into it. If this is indeed social media, I believe it’s a place to be me–all of me–and if I don’t want my customers to see it, I won’t be-friend them. I know most will probably disagree with me on this one…but that’s ok. This is my conviction and I stand by it proudly.

    • Jennifer
      October 5, 2009 | 11:53 am

      Stephanie,
      I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here, and if your faith is part of your business model and strategy, then by all means share it. I am one of those “social media experts” who counsel against wading into hot button issues such as politics and religion because it has the possibility of alienating business. But at the end of the day it’s YOUR business, and if you are open to the fact that some people may choose not to do business with you because of your personal beliefs, then that’s your choice. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that choice, and some people choose to do business in exactly that way.

      Obviously this post was more about the “party girl pics.” 🙂

      Jennifer

      • Steph
        October 5, 2009 | 12:17 pm

        Thanks Jen! Ya…I’m okay with that. If people are going to choose not to do biz with me because of my faith…oh well! God provides the customers that I need to grow the biz that I should have! It’s all good! 🙂

  6. Mark Bosworth
    October 5, 2009 | 11:22 am

    Great post Jen.

    I really think the issue is that we are trying to use Social Media to accomplish a number of conflicting goals. On one hand, you’re trying to use it to build your business. On the other hand, you’re using it for the social purpose of keeping in touch with your friends. The blend is a nice “social business” mix, which may not be as satisfying as a pure social posting site.

    I have heard of people who keep two facebook profiles: One for their business relationships and one for their close friends. Anyone here do that? (It would be way too much work for me!)

    • Jennifer
      October 5, 2009 | 11:38 am

      Thanks for chiming in Mark! As one of my first readers/commenters, I always love it when you check in! 🙂

      It’s important to note that according to Facebook TOS, you’re not allowed to have more than one Facebook profile. You CAN set up a separate business PAGE, but not a profile. In my thinking, though, that kind of defeats some of the purpose, if you’re using social media to help people know, like and trust you. The personal is part of that, and harder to do with a strictly business page.

      At the end of the day, I think that if you want to use social media even partially for business, you need to employ a “self edit” button. We do it in other social situations. Why not here?

      Jen

      • Mark Bosworth
        October 5, 2009 | 12:17 pm

        So I guess there won’t be too many people who admit to having two pages!!!!

        • Steph
          October 5, 2009 | 12:18 pm

          Mark you are funny!! 🙂

        • Jennifer
          October 5, 2009 | 12:20 pm

          LOL

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