How Social Media Can Ruin Your Small Business

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social mediaA better title for this post might be “How you can ruin your small business on social media.” Sure, social media is the best thing since pre-sliced bread when it comes to marketing your small business. However, it is a HUGE mistake for small business owners to blur the lines so much between personal and business posts to the point where their prospects and customers can’t tell the difference between the two.

While it is definitely true that people like to do business with people they know, like, and trust – the key words here are “business” and “trust.” The “you” people want to know and like is the “business self” you. They want to know and like the person who is running a business they can trust has their customer’s best interests as their primary driver. While you can certainly share aspects of your “personal self” – you need to very careful that what you’re sharing resonates and is meaningful to your prospects and customers.

Here’s the Golden Rule of Social Media for small business – every post, every piece of content, every comment needs to be written from the perspective of what is important to your customer. Social media is about your customer. Even the information you share about yourself to assist your customers in getting to know and like you and your business must be presented in ways that match the profile of your customers.

This is because of a very simple fact: Your business is about your customers. No customers, no business. So the last thing you want to do is in any way alienate, insult, or incite your prospects or existing, loyal customer base.

Be careful about politics and social agendas. Unless your customer profile targets consumers with specific political views or social concerns, your best bet is to refrain from making political or social commentary. This doesn’t mean you cannot express your personal views, nor should go against your personal morality or religion – but you must be very aware that sharing on subjects your customers may not only disagree with, your views may actually cause prospects or customers who don’t agree with you to take their business elsewhere.

If it is important enough to you that you’re willing to risk losing business that is certainly your personal prerogative. On the other hand, “political venting or social agenda rants” per se on your business social media platforms can be very damaging.

On the other hand, providing your customers with political information may indeed be meaningful and useful. It is possible to provide that information from a truly objective, even neutral, manner. For instance, you can use reliable resources to present two local political candidates (the most reliable resource would be the candidates themselves.) The key to presenting objective political or social information is balance.

Don’t give too much information. It is very possible that your prospects and customers would find it interesting to learn more about what “makes you tick” personally. For instance, if you love hiking there’s nothing wrong with posting a picture of yourself on the trail. This can actually help establish common ground with your customers. For example, a nutritionist posting about their hike and including what foods they took along as well as how they kept hydrated is promoting a healthy lifestyle – which will certainly resonate with prospects and customers as well as assist in building credibility relating to the nutritionist’s knowledge base and expertise.

But you need to be careful not to go too far. There is such a thing as “too much information.” Be very careful about how much, and in what depth, you share your personal history. Again, keep in mind you are sharing using your customer profile as your guide. If something in your personal history relates to that profile, it can be very appropriate to share that information. For example, if you’re targeting Baby Boomers, posting videos of favorite songs from that era that you enjoyed is a personal, yet not too personal, share that your Boomer prospects and customers can relate to.

Or perhaps you’re a dog lover and you volunteer at your local animal rescue shelter. Many people in the general population are dog lovers and have dogs in their home – so it is likely that many of your prospects and customers do as well. However, if your motivation for volunteering to work with rescue dogs is because you witnessed one of your relatives beat their dog when you were a child, you’d probably want to keep that information private. A lot can be lost in translation and customers may come to question whether your personal background represents someone they can trust with their business.

Be selective posting about your day. If you just contracted the worst flu imaginable yet need to meet a deadline, DON’T post something along the lines of “Sick as a dog, I can barely sit up straight, but I’ve got to meet this deadline. Hope this Nyquil kicks in quick.” You might think such a post would demonstrate a strong work ethic to prospects and customers, but it can also cause them to question the quality of work you are producing. Ask yourself, “Would I want my accountant doing my taxes when he’s so sick he can barely sit up straight?”

Many small business owners also work from home. If that’s you refrain from sharing how your home life is distracting you from taking care of business. For instance, if you’re sitting at your computer working on an Excel spreadsheet while holding a screaming, colicky baby you definitely don’t want to share that online; don’t complain about how your spouse keeps interrupting you; don’t post about waiting for the plumber to arrive. When posting about your day the kind of comments and stories you want to share should relate to how you are meeting your customers’ needs and/or helping them find solutions to their problems and challenges.

You definitely need to be using social media to help prospects and customers get to know, like, and trust you (and your employees.) A person of strong character who can be trusted will project those characteristics onto their small business in the eyes of their prospects and customers.

Last modified: May 9, 2013
Annie Kile


This story is part of our Small Business Corner, a peek into the life and trials of small business owners.

Category: MPR Authored, seo, Small Business, Small Business Corner, small business owners, social media, tips

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