“If you build it, he will come.” – Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams
Many of us remember this quote from the Field of Dreams and have probably used it in conversation before. This quote reminds me of the many things small businesses do for me on a regular basis. For example, amidst the fast food restaurants and marginally tasteful sit down diners in town is a small shop always serving up healthy salads, fresh sandwiches, and cookies (for the kids, right?). What I love most about this sandwich shop is the owner. He’s in his 30’s and purchased the shop five years ago when the previous owner was having trouble with the bills. He’s now debt free and open 6 days a week. Business is good.
I’ve never walked into this shop and noticed the owner was absent. He’s a fixture and there is a subconscious comfort that comes with seeing him there, behind the counter, serving up delicious, healthy food. It feels right because, for me, the owner and the business are the same thing. Without the owner I’m not sure the business would be the same. The food could be the same, the lighting could be the same but the FEEL would be different.
So what does any of this have to do with social media? Indulge me for a moment.
I often get asked by small business owners (and individuals trying to build a personal brand) if they should separate their personal life from their professional life in the social media space. With few exceptions my answer is an emphatic, “No.” Of course, there are some obvious things you should be concerned about (respecting the privacy wishes of your family for example) but the advantages of the personal/professional mix online greatly outweigh the disadvantages. Just ask Jeff Jarvis, professor of entrepreneurial journalism at CUNY. He wrote an entire book about it.
You see, just like the owner of the local sandwich shop you (the business owner/manager) represent your establishment both in the real world and online. Your personality and sweat built the business you have and it is very much a part of your culture. Use this to your advantage because, whether you like it or not, customers already consider your brand and you personally to be the same thing.
Here are a few simple things to do which take advantage of a fully intertwined personal and professional life online.
- Hop on Twitter and make sure your business profile page mentions you by name as the person maintaining it. Don’t be overly cautious about posting pictures of things you do on the weekend/evenings. Showing your personality will only make customers relate to you on a personal level even more (Customer: “Hey, I saw on Twitter that you were at the amphitheater this weekend. Me too!”).
- Likewise, Hop on Facebook and make sure that you identify yourself as the business owner. Also (and this is true for Twitter as well) be sure to use the first person when writing status updates. Something like, “I just earned customer number 1,000!” as opposed to “we” goes a long way in bringing out your personality and better connecting with customers.
People identify with people and business owners drive the personality of a business. This is true no matter how big the business gets. Who is Mark Zuckerberg without Facebook, Howard Schultz without Starbucks, or Jeff Bezos without Amazon?
I’ve listed just a few small examples of the business benefits you can gain from mixing your personal and professional life online. I’m sure there are more and probably lots of questions since each situation can be subjective. Feel free to leave a comment. I’m happy to continue the conversation here.