We all know those people on social media who are incredibly proud of their small business, startup, or work ethic. And of course we know those Facebook friends who share every intimate detail of their day and their life. The question that interests me is which is a better use of social media and which is more appropriate. Even as I type that last sentence I struggle with such a harsh and complete distinction of a right vs wrong use of social media. Let's look at the pros and cons for these two approaches and then see if we can draw a conclusion about the right approach to a social media strategy.
There are many different types of social users and I still vaguely recall reading a humorous post at some point in the past about the top 10 different social profiles. Although that post was shared with light-hearted joking there was value in the labels. And so even though I am only drawing attention to a couple of those profiles I want to focus on them for the sake of comparing and contrasting them.
The Eternal Professional
This is the person who is forever posting business advice, their tips for success, or re-sharing the latest Simon Sinek video with the cliche comment, ‘this is how we do it at my company”. The eternal professional is constantly seeking new ways to say the same thing. "Here’s my business, you should be interested.” The problem with this approach I believe is the failure to understand their audience. How many people truly want to see what you’re doing in your business on a daily basis. At what point does sharing your business dealings become a cold and impersonal advertisement? The risk of the eternal professional is a lack of interest from their friends and followers. Gradually you’ll lose their attention, they will scroll past your posts faster than you can say, “business brag”. But there has to be some upside to this approach to social media right? I believe there is. Just like the old adage says, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”, there is certainly some value in being the loudest proponent for your own startup. You’re actively putting your brand in front of the eyes of your fans. Whether they read your post or quickly continue their phalangeal flicking their eyes and their brain have been imprinted with your business brand. Congratulations you’re becoming a master of subliminal marketing.
The Exasperating Personal
This social sharer is the friend or family member who believes the world is fascinated with their every mundane life detail. No personal problem is too big or too small to be broadcast to the universe. Their posts show you how much they love their coffee, their breakfast, their kids, their wall color, their animals, their…well, you get the idea. Everything is shared. The problem with this is similar to the professional’s problem we looked at first. There comes a point when a little filtering and self-moderation becomes a good thing. Do your friends really need to know about the color of your toenails this week? Do you believe their lives are better as a result of seeing your breakfast burrito? The risk of the exasperating personal is alienation from your followers. When everything is shared, nothing is special. You don’t want to be labeled as the self-interested, self-obsessed social sharer. But there’s a positive here too. Connection and endearment are the two biggest benefits of sharing personal stories. You have the opportunity to connect with people. They see your life details and feel as though they know you and can relate to you. You may bring a smile to a face, share a laugh, or even possibly begin to build a relationship.
As I look at these two personas I realize I’ve oversimplified things to an extent. As I shared previously there are more than two profiles and variations on those as well. But there’s value in a quick introspection of your social persona as it relates specifically to these two types. I too struggle with this dilemma. After writing the above descriptions I believe I fall more solidly in the Eternal Professional category. And I see the pitfalls of that approach. I am also strongly against the overtly personal approach as well. But as any good, self-respecting writer must do, I must draw a conclusion.
There is no decision that we can make that doesn't come with some sort of balance or sacrifice.
- Simon Sinek
The truth of the matter lies in a familiar and frequently shared topic on my blog: balance. Once again, as with so many other areas of life;
balance is key. Being able to identify your tendencies will allow you to focus your time and attention on improving your balance. In this case don’t be so focused on the professional that you lose touch with your personal side; or contrary to that, don’t be so passionately personal that you neglect to share things of worth or value to others. There is nothing wrong with building a brand, sharing business advice, and growing your followers for your startup; but be moderate. Think of your audience. Write your posts with your followers in mind instead of yourself.
Therein lies the second observation: focus. Focus on your friends and followers instead of yourself. By shifting that focus you will be mindful about what you share and even when you share it. Be relevant, be interesting, be inspiring, and be entertaining.
I know being able to identify my own tendencies is the first step in improving myself and so I expect in the very near future you’ll see a better balance in my posts. I trust this post will help you evaluate and improve your social profile in the future as well. What kind of social sharer are you? Do you think you should change? Find your focus and be more balanced? I look forward to hearing what you think.