When it comes to social media, most of us know there is a distinct defining line between our personal and professional profiles. While it may be perfectly acceptable to post a funny “face swap” video of you and your toddler, putting that same video on your LinkedIn profile might lead people to question your professionalism. But to help you keep your business (and sometimes personal) profiles on-brand professionally, here are some essential rules to follow:
Separating the personal from professional: Learn how to separate your personal and professional lives online. For most business professionals, LinkedIn is the social media account of choice and you may want to only use that platform for things related to your professional career, your resume or making new business contacts. However, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram do allow you to have business pages or accounts, but as we advised above, just make sure the content you put on the business page is not the same as you might post on your personal account. Also consider that just as in life, it’s wise to avoid hot topics like politics or religion on both your business and personal pages. Many a small business owner has been taken to task by customers or colleagues for posting content on their personal pages that do not align with the beliefs of their customers. It’s a tricky thing, but bottom line, unless you’re a political commentator or don’t need new customers, we advise people to carefully consider posting anything online that could offend or tarnish either your personal or professional reputation.
Respecting electronic boundaries: Just like good fences make good neighbors, respecting electronic boundaries on social media is very important in the business world. For instance, you should always respect someone’s privacy and try to refrain from sending an unsolicited sales message to a business prospect or colleague on a social media channel. It’s rude and it’s unprofessional to do so—especially if you are not previously connected to that person. Always use decorum in your business communications and play it safe by making an appointment over the phone for a real time talk or query the contact via a professionally written letter or email. One exception might be LinkedIn—but only if you are already professionally linked to that person.
Share and share alike: Sharing is caring especially when it comes to good social media business etiquette. When your client or colleague posts a “Five Ideas to Save More Money by Christmas” blog, be kind and share the post on your social channels. It not only promotes good will with your connections, it opens the door for people to share your content as well.
Rules of Order: Just as a business owner must be careful about what type of content to share on their social media accounts, try to have a social media policy in place for your staff members. No one wants to be Big Brother and tell people what to do in their personal lives. However, if a member of your team posts something on their personal page that is sexually or racially offensive, malicious or just in bad taste, it can definitely have a ripple effect on your company or brand (especially since most social channels give the option of stating your place of employment). Again, we advise people to use common sense here. Posting something offensive can have ramifications both on a personal and professional basis so put much thought into that rant before you make a final post. One rule that employers can easily put in place is that an employee should never be allowed to post company business (good or bad) or negative things about the company on their personal page.
Finding Your Voice: Work on establishing a consistent tone and voice for your business postings. Avoid typos, slang language, and anything that could be deemed offensive. Social posts should have the same brand identity as all of your other marketing materials, so think of your business posts as a direct line of dialogue to potential colleagues and customers.