Balancing Business and Personal Social Media Voices

A digest of recent web posts and trends related to business and personal social posting

We see examples on a daily basis of a leader’s personal social media decisions impacting their business. Tesla’s stock price recently plummeted—not for the first time—following Elon Musk’s tweet in which he asked followers if he should sell 10% of his Tesla stock. Gordon Ramsay, the polarizing celebrity chef known for violent outbursts on TV, has improved his public image over the last couple years by showing a gentler side in TikTok videos he shares of himself dancing and cooking with his young daughter. Politicians across the political spectrum attract ire and criticism on a regular basis for getting caught disobeying their own quarantine mandates via social media, accidentally sharing their porn preferences from their official accounts, or any other number of embarrassing, humorous, or troubling blunders. 

It’s clear that social media gives leaders in any industry the opportunity to interact with followers in innovative ways, and to establish their own voice in a personal and approachable manner. The lines between personal and professional can become blurred in harmful ways without a strategic or intentional approach, but knowing how to be authentic and relatable can be incredibly beneficial for your business and career.  

Social Media Presence is Good for Business… 

Writing for Forbes, Heather Kelly argues that social media is an essential tool for benefiting from the well-established fact that customers prefer doing business with companies they feel trust and personal connection with.  

Your social presence has a direct impact on your company’s bottom line. According to LinkedIn, over half of professionals say that a business executive’s presence on social media influences their purchase decision. Even more importantly, two-thirds say they’d be more likely to recommend a company or brand whose executive(s) they follow on social media. 

Amy Houston writing for The Drum further draws the connection between strong relationships with customers, and participating in honest, open, and interesting discussions on social media: 

We know that many consumers trust information from a person they know when it comes to purchasing decisions, so leveraging personal connections on social media is a brilliant way to elevate brand confidence with your audience. There are many effective ways to do this, from posting in LinkedIn or Facebook groups to sparking conversations on Twitter with thought-provoking questions, to participating in other people’s discussions to make yourself visible if you have something of value to add. My belief around being more personable online is simple: behave in the same way you would offline. 

…But Keep Some Personal Business Private 
Some business leaders blend their personal and professional content quite effectively, but understanding the different purposes for both kinds of content is important before attempting to mix the two in a professional setting. As Professor Elaine Garcia of the London School for Business and Finance emphasizes, your social media activity follows you from job to job, and should be carefully controlled for that reason.  

Deciding on the clear differences between your use of social media in different contexts can then help you to manage your online image and be clear about your use of different platforms. The earlier this is done within your working life the less likely that unwanted posts and images may be available to others to see across the web in the long-term future… 

As social media becomes more and more ubiquitous, it’s increasingly common to have a private account that is completely separate from your working one. Srivatasa KR for Entrepreneur argues that it’s okay to be transparent with friends about having two accounts, and about making sure that personal content is not posted to your business account. Setting and keeping boundaries around what you share is further beneficial for embracing the persona that you want to convey in both places, allowing your personality to shine through in ways that benefit your business rather than distracting from it.   

You should never post anything on any of your social media profiles that you would not want the whole world to see. Even if you keep some accounts private, there is no guarantee other people will. Remember, if it’s online, it lives forever. 

Concrete Tips for Managing Your Accounts 
Crafting your social media persona requires intentional thought, and Kelly suggests some basic concepts for starting that process: 

  • Pick your platform: Every social media platform has a different purpose. LinkedIn is good for B2B connection and in-depth conversations about your industry. Facebook is better for B2C conversations, while Instagram is best for personalized, quick soundbites for your B2C customers and followers.  
  • Hone your niche: Kelly recommends narrowing your focus down to three topics in which you can develop your place as a thought leader. Share content that’s useful and relevant to your followers, optimized for the platform you’re on—use hashtags and different kinds of posts, and understand how sharing at different times and in different formats improves your results.  
  • Monitor and measure impact: For the best reach and conversation, pay attention to your content that performs well, and learn why. Track your follower count, your engagement levels, and website traffic for insight into how to give your followers content that they want and need. 
  • Prioritize authenticity, consistency, and candidness: Establish a human connection with your followers. According to Kelly: 

Even for B2B brands, your followers crave connection and authenticity. To establish that connection, you’ll want to drop the cringy sales jargon. While social media can drive sales, it won’t be effective if it feels overt and forced. Instead, use language that shows you know your target audience — and that you’re one of them — including the right acronyms, shorthand and emojis. Don’t be afraid to share your own stories and experiences. Be honest about your challenges, both business-related and personal, and generous with the solutions that work for you. 

Houston builds on this point further: 

Consistency is key in the personal versus professional balancing act. If you feel like you can contribute in a positive way to a trending topic then do so, but stay true to your beliefs across all platforms. Decide on what you want to be known for because social media users have no issue in scrutinizing people for wavering sentiments or performative behavior, and it’s not a good look personally or professionally. The internet has a long memory. 

There is an art to bringing your personal voice into your business conversations. When done well, it provides unique perspective that is memorable, engaging, and authentic in a world that’s increasingly jaded and suspicious of anonymous social media interaction. In a world where it’s harder to separate home from work when your dog or your roommate walks into the Zoom frame, we have an opportunity to acknowledge that work is a part of the larger picture that makes up our lives and our businesses. 

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