Personal profile? Business presence? What should I do online?

I get a lot of questions about how to maintain a personal and a business presence within social media.  Many folks like to “be themselves” on social media tools with their friends, yet they also want to establish a business presence in order to promote their businesses.  The solution they come up with, often, is a private profile, and a separate Facebook Page to market the business.

I see a couple of issues with this, though.

  1. Let’s start first with the Gen Y person who has been using his or her profile to share photos of fun nights out with friends.  Can you be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that no business contacts will ever see your photos?  That none of your friends will share it in a way that it could be seen?  Probably not.  Many Gen Y-ers are now in the process of cleaning up their profiles as they begin to think about potential employment.  What wouldn’t you want someone considering hiring you to see?  And the same goes for your business.  You CAN’T be absolutely sure that something you share through your personal profile won’t go further than you expect.  Better not to post it at all.
  2. And since you’re not going to be sharing anything that you don’t want to go any further that your immediate circle, then do you really need a separate business presence?  One of the unique things about direct selling as opposed to other industries is the fact that we do build relationships with our prospects and customers.  We share information about our personal lives (the fact that we have kids, etc.) in order to connect with people.  It makes them more comfortable when they choose to do business with us.  Our profile gives us an ideal opportunity to share that personal side of us.  By strategically posting information about our lives, interacting with personal friends, and talking about our interests, we give people the chance to get to know us as a whole person, instead of just a business entity.  It’s unlikely that customers feel any particular loyalty to the big box store down the street.  But if they feel connected to you, they’re a lot more likely to continue to do business with you.
  3. Social media tools take time.  Now if you want to spend all your downtime in front of the computer, I can’t stop you.  But wouldn’t it be great if you could interact with everyone during some scheduled social media time for your business, and then get on with life?  When you have to maintain a Profile AND a Page, you are doubling your workload online.  You have to interact with people in 2 places.  (Not to mention the fact that anyone can raid your customer list on a Page.)  Get it all done through a profile.  Since you’re not blasting business messages there anyway, but instead are building relationships, you don’t NEED a separate business presence.

We need to rethink “personal” when it comes to social media tools.  I don’t believe we can just share anything online, because what we post lasts forever.  We always have to think about the long-term effects of everything we post.  Because of this, balancing personal and business through the same profile can bring you good results, while maximizing the time you spend on your social media tools.  After all, in person you would mention your business when hanging out with friends, wouldn’t you?  If you saw a need, I sure hope you would.  You can do the same thing as part of a content marketing strategy through your profile.

What’s your take on this?  Looking forward to reading your comments below.

10 Responses to Personal profile? Business presence? What should I do online?
  1. Fiona Prince
    June 17, 2010 | 11:16 am

    Jennifer,

    Thank you so much for putting in writing what I have been trying to articulate verbally to Roaring Women members and other people I’m helping with business.

    I’ve had an fb profile for years but I didn’t do a lot with it until that last year. That’s when I started using Twitter (thanks to Cathrine Novak-www.wordspring.ca and Terri Davies-www.sunstarcreative.ca) to promote my business, Roaring Women and the non-profits I’m involved with.

    Using Hootsuite, I often send tweets to fb and my fb-friends sometimes comment on them. At first, I just sent tweets about my newsletters, upcoming events in the community, and interesting articles. Recently, I started to do more personal posts: a request for a recipe; congratulations to folks for achievements; encouragement to people expressing anxiety over projects; and most recently a picture on twitpic of me making flower baskets in my garden.

    All of these personal posts are the type of thing I might talk about at a networking event, a party or lunch out with business acquaintances. I’m getting more comfortable with what I share and even my business fan pages have a blend of personal and business on them now.

    Thanks again. Looking forward to reading more of your articles.

  2. Melissa H. Dery
    June 16, 2010 | 7:56 pm

    Jen,

    I’m so glad to see you tackling this topic, as it can be a tricky thing to manage especially in Direct Sales, where the consultant not only needs to represent their company but also themselves.

    Aside from what product you sell or company you represent, what is going to make the difference for many is how you market yourself. There are many consultants available to consumers, but there is only one you. Making a personal connection with your customers will help you stand apart. People do business with people they know and trust, and one way they get to know you is through your online profiles.

    I agree Direct Sales is about building personal relationships, and connecting through social media is one great way to accomplish this. In Direct Sales business and personal are intertwined…you determine the appropriate level to share.

  3. Teresa Romain
    June 16, 2010 | 4:23 pm

    Hey Jen!

    Great post… and raised some questions since I’m just in the beginning stages of have a FB business page and my personal profile. The argument that was made to me for have a business page was that FB pages are picked up by the search engines. How important do you think that is?

    Teresa

    • Jennifer Fong
      June 16, 2010 | 4:27 pm

      Teresa, this advice is for independent direct sellers specifically. For other businesses that rely on SEO, you might need a Page. But companies are the ones with Pages in the DS industry, that need them for SEO. Individual direct sellers rely more on word of mouth and networking.

  4. Alyssa Cleland
    June 16, 2010 | 3:34 pm

    This topic is wonderful….thanks for the info Jennifer and everyone!

    I have a few questions though….I heard in your training (Effective Facebook Stratgies) that as Direct Sellers, we’re supposed to only direct business messages to people who want and choose to hear them so they’re not considered spam. To me, if you have both a personal profile on fb and a Page for your business, keeping these messages separate is much easier so you’re only directing messages to people who want them.

    I’m a little confused about this message and would love some clarity on whether it’s acceptable to use a personal fb page AND a business page.

    How would you send messages only to people who want to hear them when you are friends with many more on your profile? And how would you get approval from the people who want messages if you only have one profile and not a page and a personal profile?

    Thanks for the clarification!

  5. Pascale
    June 16, 2010 | 3:16 pm

    I see many people with two profiles and I assume they don’t know that it’s against FB terms to have two profiles. I’ve had a team member have one profile deleted (her “biz” one) then a few weeks later her “regular” profile (along with fan pages). Ouch. Luckily she got it back along with the fan pages, but it makes you really cautious. I know if my profile were deleted I’d go CRAAAZY.

  6. Mark Bosworth
    June 16, 2010 | 11:18 am

    Great subject! I don’t know that I have a point of view other than I’m too busy to keep up with multiple profiles.

    I can say that I’ve seen more and more of our Consultants with a specialized company profile. They have “business name” + personal name on their new facebook profile. (I know this is against the rules!) I’ll ask a few of them how this is working out.

    Others in our salesforce try to manage the situation via managing different groups in their facebook profile. I’m more of a fan of this type of management. I think many people just don’t understand how to put people into different groups and then manage what the groups see from you.

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