Saturday, December 19, 2015

Social Media Marketing 101: How to Use Facebook Like a Grownup

(or "Developing an Effective Online Business Persona")

(Next in Think Janusian's ongoing series on social media marketing.)

Just how important is it to keep your professional and personal profiles separate online? Should you (or ***must***you) revise your personal profile on Facebook to make it match your professional one on LinkedIn? I've been thinking a lot about these and other questions recently. While I have no definitive answers,* here's what I think after reviewing a number of personal Facebook profiles of people I respect both personally and professionally.

header art for social media marketing article on using Facebook

Everyone has a personal brand (regardless of whether they wanted or intended to create one).
So spend some time thinking about what kind of online personal reputation you want to have and whether that reputation is at odds with your professional persona. While clients understand that the professionals with whom they interact have lives and interests outside the office, you still want to come across to them as someone who is reliable, trustworthy, and competent. (And don't underestimate how many people Google their associates, vendors, employees, potential hires, and clients!)

If you take only one thing away from this article, it should be this: stop what you're doing right now and immediately categorize all your Facebook contacts into lists. Take all your acquaintances, clients, and pure business associates and put them into a pure "restricted" category. Anyone who is not in your new this restricted category is a full Facebook "friend" by default.

Next, review your past posts for anything that discusses sex, politics, religion, or drugs, as well as anything that might embarrass your professionally or is purely very personal. Change the settings to those posts to "friends" or "friends, except restricted" as well. Anyone in the "restricted" category can no longer see those posts. (Alternatively, you could delete the posts: I "prune" my Facebook posts regularly.)

After that, adjust the settings for all future posts to "friends" or "friends, except restricted." If you want a particular future posts to include your entire Facebook network, you can manually adjust the new post distribution accordingly. Otherwise, your new posts will have a more narrow , "safer" distribution.

Write a description of how you want people to see you online.
My own list includes adjectives such as "clever", "bright", "funny, "creative", "talented", "competent", "knowledgeable", "interesting", "generous", and "caring." This list creates the framework for the personal brand I want for myself. Before I hit the "post" button, I try to think about how the post fits my description. Sometimes it doesn't, but I post it anyways. But at least I've done so intentionally.

And while we're talking about post content, you may want to consider posting more original thought and fewer memes /shares (especially if your job involves analysis, research, and/or fact-checking). Gandhi, Jesus, and Buddha likely only said a few, at most, of the statements attributed to them online. Also, check before forwarding that "you'll never believe..." news item. (Most of them aren't true.) If you want to share a pre-existing news item, take the time to add a brief note on your share about why why you like the news item or why your friends would be interested in it. Remember, you're a thought leader, not a follower.

Also, we don't really need to see your "fun test" results: all it tells us is that you give away your personally-identifiable information and/or e-mail address to any app that asks for it. If your job involves the prudent exercise of discretion, this indiscriminate sharing could work against you.

Your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles do NOT have to be "matchy-matchy".
This is a controversial position. But I give people enought credit to know that I don't wear a skirt suit to garden, volunteer, camp, or attend a baseball game. (Go, Giants!) Even though Facebook is attempting to close the gap between personal and professional personae by putting more emphasis on their members' present and past jobs, most people still use LinkedIn as their professional social network and Facebook as their personal one. I enjoy seeing on Facebook pictures of lawyers hiking and artists at black-tie dinners. Activities and events that may not be appropriate to post as LinkedIn updates are perfect for Facebook and make great conversation starters the next time I see someone. The two sites can and should be different.

And on a similar note, respect the differences between various types of social networks.
Not every LinkedIn update is appropriate for Facebook, just as every Twitter tweet isn't appropriate for LinkedIn. Don' t tie your multiple social network accounts together. (While some prominent social media marketers advise otherwise, let common sense and "the sniff test" be your guide.) Learn the appropriate posting frequency and content type for each network and observe the local culture. Every friend or follower decided to "friend" or "follow" you for a reason. Respect that decision and make it worth their while to continue their online relationship with you.

Finally, your "friends" are your friends, not your sales prospects.
(Especially if you organized your Facebook contacts the way we discussed earlier.) Several hard-core marketers will vehemently disagree with me on this, but here's why they're wrong. Imagine sitting across the table at dinner with one of your good friends. She is telling you about her family and other things important to her. When it's your turn to talk, you say something like this: "Sorry about your dead grandmother. Do you have enough life insurance to protect your family in case it's something genetic?" Every time your friend tries to change the subject, you start the sales pitch again. You're not engaged in a conversation at this point: all you're doing is hard-selling.

This is exactly what you do when you use your Facebook personal page as a business page. If you have a business, create a business page on Facebook and promote your offerings there. Or broadly promote your business expertise on any of a number of other social networks designed for business, including LinkedIn. There's nothing wrong with occasionally sharing your business posts to your personal Facebook page: your true friends are interested in your professional life, too. But act in a way that reminds them that you see them as more than a wallet.

What are your best tips for expressing yourself online without compromising your professional reputation? We'd love it if you shared them below.

- Lynne Guimond Sabean

* and you shouldn't believe anyone who claims to have a definitive answer on online personae, because there is no "one size fits all" solution

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