The Pitfalls of Mixing Social Media Business and Pleasure – Part 2

In Part 1 we looked at some of the main questions concerning people it comes to mixing business with pleasure on social media sites, such as: how much personal information should you share?

Next we will look at some pros and cons.

The fact is, our personal lives often open doors to doing business with others. Shared hobbies, shared interests and understanding on a human level have always been fundamental to building business relationships and doing business. People want to do business with people – that means they want some connection on a deeper level than just business.

20081204110858PM thumb The Pitfalls of Mixing Social Media Business and Pleasure – Part 2 People usually arrive at that stage after meeting face to face or connecting by telephone or similar. It’s hard to achieve the same level of personal interaction via a social media site.  Yet one of the basic fundamentals of social media is building relationships without necessarily first meeting. So personal touches, depending on your type of business, can be important.

The question you must ask yourself is – how much of your personal life should be enough and what’s too much. Should you share every intimate detail of your life with others? What’s the impact? What will the impact be months down the road? You are the only one who can decide what you’re comfortable with. It isn’t up to the social media “gurus” or anyone else. What works for one person’s business may not work for another. Here are some points to consider.

Sharing some of your personal life can help you connect on a deeper level

You put a human face to your business if you share some aspects of your personality and sometimes aspects of your personal life. A lot depends on your comfort level and how you think it will affect your business and your audience.

For SouthWest Airlines and Zappos and even to an extent Comcast, it works because of the personalities of the CEOs involved which influence the entire company in each case. It may or may not work for you.

Sharing can help you build a following more quickly

People want to connect with people – social media has shown that much. Blogging can give you a platform to share common interests as can Twitter if you use them in the way you want – you don’t necessarily have to share every aspect of your personal life. For example I run another blog where I’ve grown a community of readers over the last 3-4 years. It necessitates some sharing and because of that it’s attracted people with whom that resonates. Again, weigh up the implications and take the necessary actions depending on what works for you.

Cons

Be careful what you say online, especially when sharing information about friends and others. Not everything you hear should be repeated publicly, particularly intimate details of people’s lives, or certain conversations with others you may have overheard. Everything you say personally reflects on you professionally if you’re using social networking for business. Think before you tweet or update.

Change your privacy settings

Social Media profiles are more public than private. If something is private don’t post it on a social networking site. Either change your privacy settings on Facebook (amazingly very few people do this) or bear in mind anyone (including friends of friends whom you don’t know) can easily read your updates.

Context

Without context sometimes the simplest exchange can become an entirely different story. Most online status updates and communication lack the context of face to face conversation making interactions trickier. I have seen quite personal conversations get out of hand with alarming speed over something irrelevant – because the cues we take for granted in face to face interactions are absent. It means we need to think carefully about the context in which we are posting.

My own rule of thumb is, if it has potential to be misconstrued, refrain from saying it, or use email rather than a public forum.

New ways of connecting

I am sure you can think of more potential minefields. And you can avoid them too. The bottom line is that social media has given us new ways of connecting and often involves sharing some of our personal lives. This can be good. It can also carry risks if you are in business. Exactly what and how much you share is very much up to you. Keep everything professional, yet human.

Happily incidents of things going awry are uncommon, but they do exist. So it’s up to you to manage your online presence proactively.

Weigh up the pros and cons of intertwining your personal and professional lives and profiles and decide what works for your business. Then go with whatever makes you comfortable.

When it comes to social networking it is possible to delineate where you network. While Facebook is still a mixture of personal and business (and as such causes the most angst), LinkedIn is clearly a business social networking site.

 The Pitfalls of Mixing Social Media Business and Pleasure – Part 2
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