How to separate personal from professional on social media? It’s not something that occurs to most entrepreneurs early on, but having a strategy for how to manage your online persona is essential to a small business owner. And helping your staff manage their time and online personas is also essential.
How do you create boundaries in a world where lack of boundaries are rewarded? And how do you create a boundary between personal and business on social media when you are your small business?
Covering the social media policy and employee expectations as well as owner expectations. What if an employee posts something inappropriate? How deep is the representation for your business?
With ideas and experiences, Michelle and JoyGenea share their thoughts on the boundaries between personal and business online.
M: Good Morning everybody! I’m Michelle owner of BadCat Digital.
J: And I’m JoyGenea. I own Solutions by JoyGenea and welcome to If These Heels Could Talk!
M: Today on our show we’re talking in detail about social media. What is the line between personal and business?
M: Take it away JoyGenea.
J: Where is your line? What is your line for employees and do you realize that you can change the rules at any time?
M: The biggest thing that I think of here is kind of when I was starting the business and the shift that I made and what I was doing on my own social media.
J: What was that?
M: Well I realized that when I started networking in this fabulous town of ours that…
J: In a small town.
M: Yes, and instead of people following my business pages after they met me or liking my business pages they would just friend me.
M: And so I was, all of sudden, I went from having, you know I don’t know 150 or 200 friends who most of whom were family and some of whom were you know college roommates and stuff. I went from that to having, I don’t know, 700 friends, all of whom are business contacts and so it just shifted my perspective on what to post and the frequency of posting because I didn’t feel like I could be as free, as open, as myself on my social media networks as had before.
J: Yeah. So right there you pointed out a really good thing. So we’re gonna focus mostly on Facebook. We’ll wander into some of the other social networks but mostly we will talk about Facebook right now.
M: Facebook becomes almost the word that means social media.
J: Yeah. So I just want to clarify that and the other thing that you pointed out that was really good is just there is a difference when you become a business owner.
J: There is. And this is just something you should know and you’ve run into it if you own the business, if you’re thinking about starting your business, male or female this is what’s going to happen.
M: Or anywhere in between.
J: Yes. Or however you identify
J: You’re going to wind up all of sudden you cross over. You meet somebody at a business meeting and the next thing you know they’ve sent you a friend request. And it’s really a very different… it’s just different.
M: It’s just different. Because when they’re your clients, when they’re your competitors, when they’re your prospective clients, former clients like it’s just a completely different world.
J: So one of the things I wanted, why I’ve chosen to do things the way that I do between my private Facebook and my business Facebook and so forth is really early on in the internet prior to Facebook.
M: Holy cat there was an internet before Facebook?!?
J: Ok so back in the late 90’s.
M: We’re both old enough to remember. Let’s not pretend that we don’t.
J: So back in the late 90’s there was a website where you could put your goals.
J: Not a big deal. Didn’t think anything of this. Right.
M: There probably still is.
J: Oh god right. But here’s the beauty of this like so I go out I use my full name everything, create this account blah blah,
M: Oh no.
J: Oh yeah. And I list like really what my goals are. I want to have a better relationship with my husband. I want to have more intimacy in my marriage.
M: For real.
J: For reals because it’s early internet.
M: Yeah you don’t even know.
J: You don’t even know. And then…
M: You found it.
J: I found it because a couple years later I googled my own name and here there the first thing that comes up is this list. And this list. It’s a perfect example, I mean I was 20-something or early 30’s anyways so I mean it was just super harmless. I flung it out there like oh no big deal.
M: Ok so is this like a drunk shopping thing?
M: Like when I have too much to drink and go to Amazon and like the things show up 3 days later but I’m like crap what did I buy.
J: Well and then I’m like how do I get it off. How do I get back into this account? I don’t have that email anymore. Like this is super common.
M: Oh it’s very, very common. You and I both know. We’re cleaning this stuff up for people all the time.
J: Exactly. But so this was in 1999 people. Like this is not a new problem. This is an old problem. But so in that moment I realized…
M: We’ll say the early days of Google.
J: Right. So in that moment I realized the power of whatever you truly put on the internet could…
M: Could be found. You know people talk about how the internet is forever and it is and it isn’t.
M: Because there are things that we do that are transitory. It could be found but somebody would have to be looking for it.
M: But we pay more attention than other people do to ourselves.
M: We will find things that other people won’t find. The point is that we don’t know what the future brings.
M: And so we don’t know if you know somebody’s going to get sued and now all of a sudden somebody’s digging around in the back. I mean it’s one of those things like I’m soooooooo interested to see what all happened when the people running for president have had social media all their lives instead of for the last fifteen years. Because I mean we’re all idiots. And if you look hard enough in anybody’s background you’re going to find things that they’re not proud of.
M: You’ll find things in mine. There’s a lot in my background I’m not proud of and I’m sure there is in everybody’s.
J: Exactly. I am so thankful for that experience because it really quickly went oh whatever I place here I need to be comfortable seeing for the rest of my life.
J: I just have to be ok. And so that sets – that’s the parameter that I use when I’m personally posting anything for social media. Making any comments, even leaving a google review. I’m like I am leaving this is an authentic, you know piece of me and so I’m very kind of clear about that and it was like I said I’m thankful for the experience but it was sure like it’s moment of oh hell.
M: Well and part of my thing is that personally I’m actually very political. I’m very politically-minded. I like to debate, some people would call it debate, some people would call it argue. I like to do those things in my personal life but it’s not necessarily something that I feel like my point of view is well represented or well understood, frankly locally. And you know the challenge that I’ve had is of course that I grew up in a vacuum of that point of view because just and you know social media becomes that echo chamber that reinforces that and so what I have shifted in my own social media is the frequency and tone of my political posting and that’s because partially because of my husband actually. He’s done a really good job of helping me understand the difference between an argument and a sound byte. Helping me understand and see the valid feelings in a variety of ways and how somebody’s personal life can lead to different kinds of thought processes and I see it. And I value it so much more than I did before and none of it, it’s too complicated for a 280 character post. 280 character post or even just something on Facebook. Although I do post political things on Facebook once in awhile. I make sure that things that I post are things that align with my business’s goals and mission so when I post political things it’s about female empowerment, it’s about the conversation around gender and the conversation around equality. It’s not – I watch my sources. I watch my tone. I am careful.
J: And this is even on your personal page.
M: This is on my personal page. I don’t post these things on the business page because I don’t feel like it’s an appropriate place for it. I don’t feel like people want that. But I will post it on my personal page because I do still hold these beliefs and that’s authentic to who I am. But at the same time I have reduced the baiting. I have reduced the sound bytes and the emotional arguments and it’s kind of just like in a networking ground. The other week I posted a thing about – we’re kind of right in the middle of the NBC report about the migrant children in Texas – and last week I said something in a networking group about that and where people can give money were they to choose to do so. And I thought really hard about that and whether or not I wanted to do that because I know that there’s people in the group who would find that political. Now I personally don’t feel like it should be political, which is why I said it, but my opinion that it’s not political is unfortunately a political opinion.
M: And that and while that personally saddens me and I don’t feel like politicizing children like that makes it is something that BadCat would embrace. I had to think about it and I did think about it.
J: Absolutely. Because it’s your business.
M: Because it’s my business.
J: And you represent the business.
M: And I represent the business and so what I need to do is make sure that when I’m doing that I’m doing it in, it doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion but it means that I have to think how I’m representing that opinion.
M: And it needs to be much more thoughtful than it was before and it has only made me better. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong or different, it’s made me more thoughtful and I’m posting less but what I post is better.
M: Yeah. Well and I also post you know fart jokes and cat memes so it’s not like it’s all heavy and political. If you’re my friend on Facebook.
J: You will definitely see all of that. I’ll agree. So this question actually came to us from our audience, somebody emailed that in.
M: So we have an audience.
J: We have an audience. And this was kind of their question. They’re like ok as you become a business owner what is the line between –
M: Personal and business.
J: Personal and business. And how do you respond to things? Do you get to be as authentic if somebody says something? Do you let everybody in? How much do you have as private and how much do you have as public?
M: Well and I think that’s a completely personal decision.
M: I think everybody has to because I mean there are large corporations that allow their personal politics to dictate their corporate policy.
M: And so I mean there are and my thing is I need to be able to stand personally myself and look somebody in the eye and say this is why I did that. And if my business folds because I posted something on my Facebook page, I wanna be proud of what I did and not upset about it.
M: I mean I would still be upset about it because really if my business folds because of something I posted on my personal page, ughhh then I would be upset at the whole world but I would still I don’t want to regret the post.
J: Yeah. So for me I had to go with the why.
J: The why really sits up there and I ask a lot of clients that when we start to like I want a business page I’m like let’s start to have the conversation about what the difference is between your business page and your personal page. And what should be posted on one over the other and do you understand once you wander into this section there’s a difference.
M: There’s a difference here.
J: And you need to kind of put a line.
M: And there functionally different too from Facebook to?
J: Oh absolutely.
M: Yeah absolutely.
J: So then my why gets in there and for me I have to re-ask about Facebook almost every 2 years.
J: Why am I posting on here? Who am I having conversations with from a personal and private perspective? And I know my why is mostly to stay in communication with family and friends. So I don’t have a – when people want to friend me that are business associates I actually just…
M: I just don’t.
J: Well I Facebook message them my link to my LinkedIn page. And I would love to connect on this level. I want to be able to post a picture that I’m on a vacation and not have people start sending me things like wow it seems like you go on vacation a lot. No, I just don’t post a lot of things.
M: The last thing you need is your clients leering at you in a bathing suit.
M: Like that’s just not…
J: And I don’t want to think about it.
J: If I want to show my mom and my senior friends and so forth that we’re here and we’re doing this, which they love, when I post this stuff that to me is like that’s my why and that’s what I’m utilizing personal Facebook for and so I just. And I’m honest with people. Like that’s kind of like you don’t really want to hear about most of that.
J: It’s true.
M: Yeah its absolutely true cuz we see it all the time. Businesses will set themselves up as a profile because Facebook treats profiles differently than pages and that’s a violation of their terms so it’s gonna get shut down eventually. You’re going to get caught eventually or they’ll be like I don’t want the line between my personal and my business blurred so I don’t want my personal profile to manage the page. Doesn’t matter, it still has to be a person. So, you still have to make it. You can make yourself the second profile with a second email address but it has to be a real profile. A real person that has a real drivers licenses and a real name because if they catch you the way that you get your page back is to send them a scan of the driver’s license of the person who owns the Facebook page.
J: Yeah and that’s not easy.
M: And that’s not easy. It’s not an easy process. So follow the rules people. Ok moving on.
J: Well no another thing I’m pointing out in the personal side of things and the profile page thing I’m seeing couples now.
M: Oh, oh that happens all the time.
J: Oh I’m not used to that.
M: People will share that. Especially older couples.
M: In their fifties and sixties.
J: Yeah that’s exactly where I’m seeing it. They have a shared profile page.
M: They have a shared Facebook profile.
M: Yeah because they’re using it to keep up their grandkids or to this or that and so the profile’s got a name on it or the name would be John and Louise like that’s the first name. That’s actually against the rules too.
J: I wondered about that.
M: Yeah, but it’s a personal profile, so it’s going to be – as you know the thing that businesses really struggle with and understanding because we are used to businesses who advertise and who pay to be a part of a platform to have some sort of power in that platform, but Facebook isn’t like that. It’s not like a magazine where, or a print piece where, you know you’re not supposed to have any of sort of influence on the journalistic integrity of the piece and you’re not…
M: There’s a big, big, big, line there for a lot of traditional advertising but that line gets blurred sometimes because they know that the only reason they exist is because of the advertisers.
M: But Facebook doesn’t exist because of the advertisers. Advertisers advertise on Facebook because of the user base and Facebook understands that it shifts the power dynamic.
M: Facebook is a little less conservative about the rules on private profiles than it is on business pages.
J: But it definitely makes it from on a flip business side of it. You can’t be marketing to the team profile page that’s not a section.
M: Well, it’s the reason that I tell people to you know be looking at behavioral targeting when they’re advertising on social media instead of demographic because people lie. People lie about their birth date. People lie with their gender. People lie or don’t fit into the box and so really, if you’re selling boats and you’re like well I’m selling boats and my customers are 50 year old guys who make this much money, that’s not how you do it on Facebook. On Facebook you sell boats to people who like pages about boats.
M: Because then it doesn’t matter. Anyway back to the original. So how do we deal with this with other people in your work station. How do you deal with this with employees because we as business owners represent the business.
M: We’re both in marketing which means our businesses are online you know when we do our own social media were advertising our services through that.
M: And so our employees are part of that.
M: So they become representatives of our business as well publicly. So how do you handle your employees and their private profiles? Their personal profiles?
J: One you have social media policy that is signed and reviewed.
M: And part of your handbook.
J: And part of your handbook. Yes. That your employees everybody is aware of the fact that if you have gripes social media’s not gonna want to be your first approach.
M: Gripes about your job?
J: Yup. If you’ve got gripes about your job or about a client.
M: Oh god.
J: Yeah, yeah social media. Its ok, breathe. Social media is not where you first voice that experience. But I also think like if I worked for a really big company and they handed me a social media policy but nobody in leadership ever really talked to me…
M: I would be pissed about it.
J: I would be torqued about it and I could see where a person might wander off into social media to express that because there’s not communication. We have small businesses.
J: We have open door policies.
J: And so I’m-
M: We both work really hard to maintain the culture of that.
J: Exactly. So-
M: And we support each other in that.
M: Because I’m comfortable with my employees going to you and your comfortable people coming to me. And we don’t violate their –
M: But there’s a point at which we understand what each other has to know.
M: And what each other’s is just a sounding board for whining.
M: And that’s fine. Everybody needs to complain. Everybody needs to whine.
J: That’s just it. But social media-
M: Is not the platform.
J: -about your business or about clients is not the platform.
M: What about things that don’t have anything to do with your business but might reflect poorly on it anyway.
M: Oh, like jokes that are maybe a little too, maybe you would consider too edgy or far or maybe in poor taste. Maybe making fun of a somebody or kind of violating the business’s mission and values and goals but it’s on their personal profile. See this is hard one. Where does the line go?
J: I personally would not probably address that from a business perspective. I don’t think I would. I wouldn’t have the right to cross over that boundary.
J: And that would be the reality of it. It would I would be interested to continue following that employee’s thought patterns along that line as it progressed and they might not be a right fit for the organization. That’s how I would interpret that.
M: So that particular action isn’t necessarily…
J: I don’t think its actionable as a business owner.
M: It’s actionable as a business but it is indicative of a pattern or behavior that you could find other things that were actionable.
M: If they were happening.
J: Right. If they were happening or if it was just a one-off comment in a drunken bender. You know it’s like it’s amazing how alcohol can influence a person’s perspective.
M: Well and this is really interesting because it kind of gets into, and I think we’ve talked about this another post as well and if we didn’t, we need carve a whole topic about this because I think it really gets into the line between personal and business for employees because that line has blurred so much with the ability to call people. I mean I had a situation where I had a question on a Friday afternoon after this employee was gone. How urgent is it? Do I take their time and call them and ask the question but I didn’t even think about it I reached for the phone and then I stopped and I said wait do I really, really, really, need this right now? This is not my time for them.
M: This is their time.
M: And so is this an emergency. Is this something I have to know right now. But I’ve had bosses that didn’t do that and now we get into this situation where people.
J: People theft.
M: Yeah and I think everybody has…
M: And now we get into this situation where that line is still blurred because of the devices. And there’s other things too like do you require people to use their device for work? But are you paying for it?
M: I mean there’s all…
J: or are you reimbursing them and that line. I was gonna say that’s an additional portion of it.
M: Right. And so if they’re using and then if you are paying for it what on that device is theirs and what on that device is yours?
J: Oh if you’re paying for it, it’s all yours.
M: So then.
J: I’ll help you out on that contract.
M: So then that means if they log into their personal social media at work then what they do on that device when you are paying for it represents you and represents so I think this is one those things that really has to be a conversation that businesses have and unfortunately you and I both know…
J: They don’t.
M: That they don’t.
J: They don’t. Until crisis.
M: Until crisis.
J: And then they’re like oh my gosh they posted this.
J: And they’re attached to our page.
M: I mean if you take pictures of a business do you have to ask your employees permission before you post to your business page a picture of them?
M: What about their kids?
J: Its part of the contract when they signed up.
M: What about their kids? What if they have like a family event and their kids are in the picture? So this is all stuff that I really think that people really need to kind of like hammer out in advance. There’s a lot here.
J: Oh yeah.
M: And I will tell you that as a small business owner it can be really, really difficult. I am not an HR specialist.
M: It can be really difficult to understand what the issues are. Lawyers have one perspective, accountants have another. HR people have a third and its really difficult to sort it all out. I actually use the SHRM website a lot. S H R M, human resource manager. Something like that. SHRM they have a ton of fantastic stuff about this.
J: Oh nice.
M: Including handbook language for a variety of scenarios and a lot of good articles and things about different experiences that could happen or different things that could come up and whether a policy is flexible enough to handle those things.
J: Nice. And those are all things you should, as a small business owner, those are all things you should at least familiarize yourself with particularly if you are taking on staff.
J: Because it’s not their job to be aware of all of that. It’s your job I feel to help educate them on what the company has for an expectation. And how just how they can be part of that culture and that feel.
M: So do you have an employee handbook?
M: Cuz you have…
M: Contractors see. So I had 4 employees before I took the time to write an employee handbook and I really wish I had done it sooner.
J: But that’s normal.
M: Oh, I think so. I think I was actually early a lot of people my size just don’t have one.
J: And that’s one of the reasons I’ve, you know, my default kind of belief is when you start to get employees you use a temp agency.
J: That is. That’s just been my overall belief because they have all of those things. They have the handbook. And they literally pull it all out and they’re like do you need this as part of your business. Yes, I need that social media plan and I need that. So when people are first getting employees and I’m coaching them in business I’m like let’s just go over here and yes you’re going to pay a little bit more but you don’t have an HR department. You don’t have payroll. You don’t have all these things set up so, let’s just…
M: From the employee perspective, who does somebody turn to if they have a problem with the owner and there’s not an HR person?
J: Yes. And when you’re a small business, it’s…
M: Your lines get so blurred. So blurred
J: So that’s always kind of my like start there and then you know when you want to rock it off you actually have a foundation somebody else has kind of laid some ground work.
M: So, what I did when I wrote the employee handbook, cuz I wrote it based on what was out there online. I tweaked a few things. I changed things here and there and then I sent it to a lawyer and a lawyer who specializes in employee law and I said what am I saying here? Is that wrong? And what am I saying here that is illegal? And there were things. There were things missing. There were things that I had policies that I had laid out and plans that I had put forward that were actively illegal.
M: The he caught.
J: Hey yeah, ah no.
M: Hey no you can’t do this. Law requires that if somebody leaves you, pay them in this amount of time, not this amount of time. Or you know this family medical leave. This is what this is and so I had them look at it and I also do have a friend who’s an HR professional and I sent it to her. What did I miss? What else is not here and so use your network use your resources cuz I will tell you that legal review cost me like $250.
J: Oh, that’s just it small investment and huge payoff.
M: Cuz if I pay somebody to write it, it’s going to be massive amount of time and energy on their part but if I do it myself and then pay somebody to review it, it’s going to be a lot less.
M: A lot less of a thing. And it was something that enabled me to do it earlier I think.
M: Yeah so I got it done. But I will tell you as a marketing company it doesn’t have a social media policy in it. I missed that. So that’s something that you know I’m going to have to go back and address and get that added in and redo that with the staff that I have and all of that kind of stuff.
J: And that will be a good thing.
M: A good exercise.
J: It will be a good exercise. And something we can continue. Again, a lot of times when we’re doing things for ourselves it just also leads to the fact that our clients benefit from it because know we make it available or encourage them or help them to make that part of their process.
M: Well what happened with a joint client of ours what happened is, we planned a marketing initiative that included staff and we started developing the assets for all of that and then after we developed the assets for that including video and pictures and things.
J: And the campaign.
M: And the campaign. And everything was ready to go and done and we put a lot of time and energy into it and money. A lot of the client’s money. Then staff started pushing back on us. Massively, and we realized we didn’t have any cloud cover for it.
M: Cuz there had not been any discussion with them in advance.
J: Yes. The company had not handled the discussion with the employees. Had not gotten confirmation. Hadn’t gotten buy in with them
M: And they just pushed forward with this idea that we had without understanding that there were actual people involved who would have opinions and thoughts and maybe be uncomfortable with it. And you and I moved forward without understanding the dynamics of what was happening. I mean it was just a disaster. The whole thing was a disaster.
J: And it never went live. We made it really clear once we understood. And then we needed to inform all of the employees and literally it took them off of alert. Like a couple of them had said they might even leave Facebook, like they were so concerned that their parent might see it. And truly again this was an interview with them at their job about why they liked where they were.
M: This was not anything intrusive or weird.
J: But for them we had crossed a personal boundary and because it hadn’t been addressed earlier.
M: And then the other thing that you don’t know there are things that we don’t know about our employees.
M: We don’t necessarily know that our employees have say a violent partner in their past or a negative relationship with their parents or in some sort of contentious relationship with somebody from so and so or are in a legal battle for custody or in the witness protection program. We don’t know these things.
M: And so I mean that seems like a far-fetched idea but they have got to work somewhere so it might as well work for you. So the thing is that I just I think this something that can be handled in variety of ways that will help everybody in this situation.
M: And had we gotten by in early that campaign would have been awesome.
J: It would have been.
M: And we would have said to people you will sign up for this if you don’t want to do it.
J: It’s volunteer.
M: It’s completely voluntary. And if you say no then, you’re not a part of it. And then the 5 people out of 18 that had a problem with it would not have changed the direction that the company wanted to go and the company would have retained the power in those conversations and situations instead of the employees having all of the power by threatening.
M: I mean it was just a bad scenario.
J: We diffused it quickly.
M: I’m really proud of all of us did that but at the same time.
J: It was too bad that it got to that level.
M: And it was too bad it got to that level because now I walk in, you walk in with one assumption. We handled the situation like it’s been addressed already prior. It was just. And then we have relational things to fix with our client. I mean it was just negative in all kinds of ways.
J: High lesson learned.
M: A very high lesson learned and really as one person who is a former boss of a friend of mine, and I absolutely love this saying so I will give her credit, Stephanie is the head of accounts right now at Leighton Broadcasting and a former employees of hers has told me that one of her favorite things to say is every mistake you make, if it costs something, that’s the tuition that you’ve paid to life’s university.
J: Oh absolutely.
M: And I love that. So this was actually a fairly cheap lesson for as much as we learned.
J: I was like the same we I enrolled in a class I forgot to sign for. Like oh I forgot to sign up for that class and I like I’m getting it firsthand.
M: Yes and it looks like I’m paying the tuition.
J: Yup exactly. But I am determined to learn something from it.
M: Yes, because otherwise it’s just a waste.
J: That’s my mental note on it. It’s like oh I’m paying. Dave Ramsey loves to say oh I’m paying stupid tax. Every once in awhile I just have to chalk it up to that. There’s not even a learning curve on it. There’s just a oh don’t do that again.
M: Just stop. And one of those things would be not having a social media policy.
M: Clearly deliberate and not thinking in advance about how you’re going to handle your own social media when it crosses the line in to your business.
M: She said to wrap it up.
J: Perfect. One of these times were going to have to talk about we need to talk about what the fact because we are business owners and we are putting a lot more out there on a couple of levels does that make us a little more vulnerable. And are we aware of that. And how does that skew what we are doing.
M: Well and I don’t necessarily want to introduce a whole new thing but I think we need to go there at some point because I have a troll.
J: Yeah. And I’ve been stalked.
M: Yeah. And so my business has a troll who shares what we do on Facebook on his personal page and makes negative comments about it and we have been official kind of no touch, and now you know, new privacy settings on Facebook have meant that we can’t even see what he’s saying anymore which is making everybody really nervous and uncomfortable because even being able to read it and have some feelings about it gave people a sense of ok well.
J: You were at least aware of what the conversation was.
M: We were aware of what the conversation was and now we’re not aware of what the conversation is anymore and so it’s just been that’s been difficult. It’s been difficult for everybody. So I think maybe in one of these future things we should talk about how do you handle that emotionally and it would go into negative reviews online and like how do you handle that emotionall?. How do handle that as a business? How do you manage your staff’s emotions about that because they feel a sense of pride about where they work and they want to continue to feel that way. And honey you know your own.
J: Yeah. All good lessons. So something to look forward to a little later on.
M: Trolls and stalkers.
J: And negative reviews. You can survive all of them. We promise. Well that’s it for today’s episode of If These Heels Could Talk. We hope that we have brought you some new ideas, encouraged you in some new directions and inspired you just a bit.
M: Thanks for listening.