In the course of several conversations with business associates, and friends, I have been reminded of one of the often unrecognized differences in social media usage. There are two different cultures when it comes to business pages and personal pages. But many people are unaware of these cultures. While we were discussing her unused facebook business page an acquaintance said, "Well, we won't be pursuing social media. I have known too many friends and family who get really upset when trying to decide to "unfriend" someone. It just takes up time."
And amongst friends, particularly when I have commented on part of a post on my personal page, I am asked, "Haven't you been following the discussion?" Usually the answer is, "no." Not because I don't care about what is happening with my friends, but because my main social media time is for my business.
Now I will grant that the line can blur in social media, particularly if business associates are following your personal page. And friends are following your business. Yet, there are still differences in the cultures. And I compare it to the difference between a business lunch, and a cookout.
The first difference obviously are the topics. At a business lunch the discussion is more focused. At a leisurely cookout the topics could flow all over the board.
Behavior is another. Professionalism normally holds sway over a business luncheon with the associates behaving with a certain level of decorum. At a cookout you might kick back, and relax. Or show your true feelings.
Transparency is one of the keywords of social media. So business people do need to be more aware of what they put on their personal pages, and to whom the post goes to when you write something.
There are ways to post to only close friends, and to avoid seeing postings from "friends" that annoy you, even if you don't want to "unfriend" them.
With business pages you are focusing on the story, and brand, you want to present to the public, and that is with the full understanding that what is posted is public. If personally a business owner doesn't want to be involved with social media there are ways to make personal pages fairly private.
So there is no reason to consider social media just an exercise in a high school mindset of "they don't like me anymore." You can go to the business lunch, but if you want, you can turn down the invitation to the cookout.
Keeping the story consistent is vital for any business pursuing social media as a marketing tool.
In many ways, strange as this sounds, it is often easier for the larger businesses. There they can meticulously study how to tell their brand's story; decide who will implement it; and monitor the responses. This even holds true when several departments are involved. There are guidelines and common structure.
So what do they have that smaller companies don't? People.
Smaller companies need social media, and a consistent message, as much as the bigger companies. Yet, when they are working on social media themselves it is often a case of "just put something out there." And where this comes from is, "We have to deal with business, and as long as we keep our media active we are good."
Yes, activity is a necessity, but here is where the real challenge comes in - "What is going to make the effort worthwhile?"
Even if you have managed to have a variety of material - text, links, photos, and videos - the question needs to be, "Are they relevant to your story? Or is it too random?"
These are the best questions to ask.
And are the best criteria to give yourself, your employee, or your hired specialist.
Cathy Mosley brings her 26 years of storytelling and writing experience to the realm of Social Media. To help small businesses.