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5 Ways Your Personal Social Media Accounts Can Damage Your Business Reputation

Business

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Social media is a powerful driver for small business professionals. Social media marketing is one of the best ways to increase website traffic, generate leads, and shorten your sales cycle. Unfortunately, what makes social media so powerful also makes is potentially dangerous for your professional reputation and your business brand.

We spend quite a bit of time focusing on managing commentary on our business pages. However, it is important to note that the dangers of social media activity are not exclusive to your business profiles.

As small business owners, we often proudly display our businesses on our personal profiles as well. Even if you don’t, managing a small business makes you a public personality of sorts, and you need to be aware of the fact that you are easy to find.

What are the most common pitfalls to brand reputation from personal social media profiles, and what can you do to mitigate the risk? Let’s break it down.

1. Getting Too Personal

You are allowed to have a personal life, personal opinions, and – you know – generally be human. However, remember that everything that pops into your head does not need to be shared online.

If you maintain a personal profile, and you don’t care for censoring yourself – be very diligent about who you accept as a “friend”. If you must share commentary on politics, or a snide remark about something in your community – keep it private on your personal profile. Alternatively, you can keep a professional profile, and another personal profile.

Regardless of your choice, what you say on your personal profile will have an impact on your business at some point down the road. After fourteen years in public relations, I can absolutely guarantee it.

Think before you post: Is this really worth posting? Will people understand this comment out of context? If the answer is no, don’t post.

2. Forgetting that Nothing Ever Really Goes Away on Social Media

Social media posts can be deleted, but screenshots live forever.

While you may have posted something questionable, then reconsidered and removed it – there is a possibility that someone took a picture of that post, and they aren’t afraid to use it.

Just ask Donald Trump. Or Kenneth Cole. Or Kenneth Cole Part Deux. Or Paula Deen. Or…you get the idea.

This is true of both personal and business pages. You can avoid the screenshot “sneak attack” by carefully considering your social media content before you post. Be yourself, but also be truthful and professional. Are your comments bringing any value to the conversation? If not, pass on posting.

3. Attacking Your Competitors

You’re in business, not the schoolyard. We all have competitors that get under our skin from time to time. However, allowing yourself to be dragged into a “he said, she said” situation can only end badly and may confuse your followers (some of whom may be current or prospective clients).

This kind of activity makes you look petty and downright unprofessional. Also, it pollutes your personal brand with negativity.

You should be so busy taking amazing care of those customers and running a business that you don’t have the time to get into a tussle with your competitors. Be awesome, be honest, and your fans will take care of the rest. Don’t pick a fight.

4. The Puffer Fish Effect

Have you ever heard of a pygmy puffer fish? These little genetic marvels have a unique skill. They are itty-bitty most of the time – about 1-inch-long – until a food chain competitor (ahem, a predator) comes along. In these cases, the puffer fish will use its highly elastic stomach, water, and air to turn itself into a big ball – several times larger than its actual deflated size.

So, what does this have to do with your social media accounts? When you set up a social media account, you have the opportunity to share a little bit about yourself. Avoid the temptation to overinflate yourself into something that you aren’t in order to fit in with the “big boys”.

For example, avoid ambiguous terms like “CEO of Company A.” If you really are a CEO, then great – use that as your title. If you are a solopreneur (or a group of solopreneurs), you’re not a CEO – and you’re not fooling anybody.

The reality is, you actually lose credibility when you ‘puff’ yourself up by overinflating your current situation, education, or credentials. Say what you are, and be proud of it. If you are a solopreneur, name yourself by what you do: Coach, Web Designer, Editor, Social Media Consultant, and so on.

5. Too Much Self-Promotion

As a small business owner or a freelancer, it is absolutely natural to want to promote your work or business. However, remember that your personal profiles are an opportunity to show the human side of your business. If you overwhelm your followers with all business all the time, you risk being marked as a spammer.

Limit the number of times you post about your business on your personal profiles. Focus on being social – and social means variety of content and conversations!

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